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Lemon and garlic chicken, for the end of summer

Wednesday 12 September 2012
Presentation may not be my thing.
It's coming to the end of summer, and that can mean only one thing. It's time to clear out the mangled mess of crap that's in the vegetable patch after a season of neglect.

It always happens. I just kind of... forget it's there. I got a good load of salad leaves this summer, but after it was taken over by earwigs I was too scared to go and get any lettuce. Have you ever seen an earwig? They're horrifying little bastards. I got 17 out of one salad load of leaves a few weeks ago. Shudder. I also found one crawling up my thigh one day, and never quite recovered.

Other things just don't quite work. We got one tiny courgette, and a few peas, but other things just gave up on life.

So when it was time to make my favourite chicken dish today, and I discovered we had no garlic in the house, I went up to salvage what was left in the patch.

I love roasted garlic, which is pure caramelly goodness. I could sit down to a dinner of roasted garlic and good bread no problem. The great thing about this dish is that the boiling of the garlic gives you that sticky, mushy garlic paste, which you get from roasting. That mixed with lemon is a wonder.

I think I first saw this in a Nigella recipe, and it's a gorgeous way to get loads of garlic into you (my main objective in life). You end up with a somewhat sticky, lemonny, garlicky delight, which is great served with spuds, but just as good with a light cous cous dish and earwiggy lettuce.

Lemon and Garlic Summer Chicken

12 pieces of chicken thighs
2 lemons
1 head of garlic
Olive or rapeseed oil

1. Boil a load of garlic bulbs, unpeeled, for ten minutes. I use a whole head of garlic, because I flipping love it.

2. While that's boiling, juice one lemon, keeping another on standby if you need more (depending on how lemonny you want it. Just be careful not to make the marinade too runny)

3. When the garlic is done, strain carefully and then put all the bulbs in a cup of cold water, so they're cool enough to handle (I have delicate hands, like a lady). Snip the end piece off, and then squeeze the inside of the garlic out. This should be soft enough to mush with the back of a spoon. If it isn't, boil them a little longer. You need the garlic good and soft.

4. In a food processor, blend the lemon and garlic with a good slop of olive or rapeseed oil. I like to use a bit of rapeseed because it comes from Donegal, just up the road. But olive oil is just as good. You're aiming for a thick, emulsified liquid that has the consistency of a smoothie.

5. Rub this all over your chicken pieces, until evenly coated.

6. Put in a baking dish, with a few wedges of lemon and a hefty sprinkling of thyme. Don't arrange them squashed up like I have - leave plenty of space in between. Otherwise all the juices will go mad and your chicken will have a soggy bottom. Just like mine right now.

Pictures of raw chicken never look good, do they?

7. You can cook this quickly, on a high heat, or put the oven down low and slow roast it for a couple of hours. Slow roasting will give you a really succulent meat, which falls off the bone, but if you're pushed for time a good grilling will work too. Either way, turn the chicken at some stage, and slop the fallen juices back over it all.

Though the cooked chicken picture is hardly singing...

8. Eat it.

For a bit of craic, I tried to make Poor Man's Potatoes to go with this. Catherine Fulvio was talking about them on the radio, but I only caught the end of it. They're basically a roast potato, cooked in slices with onion and herbs. I googled around a bit and decided to make my own version, one which doesn't involve 400 effing ml of olive oil, which I think is OBSCENE.

Poor Man's Potatoes

1. Dig a load of spuds from the garden, and feel suitably smug about it. Slice them up, quite thickly.

2. Slice one or two onions, again quite thickly.

3. Mix together in a baking tray with a slop of olive oil, and about half a pint of vegetable or chicken stock. You don't want to put too much stock in, as that will probably give you mushy spuds. You just want a bit in there, so they don't dry out.

4. Throw some more thyme and a little rosemary into the mix, and season with salt and pepper.

5. Cook for a good long while, on a medium to high heat. Honestly, my oven doesn't do temperatures. At a guess, I'd say around 180? Who knows. Just cook them, don't burn them, and remember they'll need quite a while because they're sliced thickly. Mine were in for near enough two hours.

Seriously, these were GORGEOUS. I didn't have high hopes, but oh man. The flavour from the stock gives it a bit of a kick, they weren't mushy or undercooked. These would be a great way to do spuds with a roast, if you didn't want to use a lot of fat. There was just the tiniest bit of oil on these, and no need to drown them in butter. See, it's diet food!

This tastes fantastic with a cold glass of white wine. As does all food.

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