I must post about the sublime, succulent, chickeny goodness that is my Polish friend Kasia’s roast chook. She is a great cook and does lots of exotic cooking and fabulous feasts but IMO her signature dish is her roast chicken. I don’t ever bother to do roast chook because when I really feel the need I pester her until she does this one for me (aren’t I lucky?).
Kasia has also agreed to provide the world (assuming there will be readers of this blog one day) with her recipe which is more an idea than an actual recipe according to Kasia. She uses her preserved lemons and the (extremely salty) goo that is produced in the jar after many months of preserving them essentially in loads of rock salt (we started preserving lemons because I have the most prodigious 50 year old lemon tree in my backyard) to rub and stuff the bird along with cloves of garlic, rosemary and bay leaves under the skin. They truly are divine.
Kasia most recently made this for me (and others) this past weekend while we were ‘away’ on a long weekend in our own backyard – down at Semaphore, a little beachside town 25 mins outside of Adelaide. Carly, who is a business woman extraordinaire (check out her native Australian skin care and treatments business Desert Pea for beautiful and covetable products) and a dynamo in all facets of life decided that we (four women friends) all needed some time away from partners, children and life in general and so organised this weekend away for the four of us (everyone needs a friend like that).
The instruction was to do no cooking so we wandered out for breakfast/brunch every day, ate fish and chips from one of the best and most well known chippies in Adelaide (Sotto’s) and went to the Flying Knife for the views (and the food and service was very good too). Despite the instruction not to cook Kasia took her chook making kit with her ‘just in case’ and of course we couldn’t refuse.
A high quality and out of the norm breakfast option in Semaphore is Swedish Tarts. The owners and most of the staff really are Swedish and the food is a reflection of their food culture. Read here for a comprehensive rundown of their menu and setting. My partner Elvin and I come here often for breakfast and I think my women friends all agreed it is the best place for breakfast in Semaphore (and one of the best in the western suburbs). I particularly love the Latte Bowl (or bowl of hot chocolate) and their enormous filled omelettes and breakfast bread (huge warm soft flat bread filled with bacon, tomatoes, eggs and a to-die-for aioli). Having been quite a few times now I would say that their coffee can be good but is inconsistent.
Morning and sunset strolls on the beach, lazing around reading, massages and pedicures (thanks to Carly and the mobile massage and treatments side of Desert Pea) and a considerable amount (OK a hell of a lot) of eating (and some drinking) made for a heavenly weekend.
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Here is Kasia’s ‘recipe’ for her roast chook (sit back with a cuppa – Kasia tells a long story)
Let’s see… it goes something like this.
I get a chook, somewhere between 1.5-2 kg, I never know exactly, or care for it, as I tend to judge it’s readiness by how it looks in the oven.
I wash it, pat it dry etc. If I’m using preserved lemons, I don’t bother salting it. If not using preserved lemons, then I do. Any salt will do.
Around my chook, there are bowls. One has 3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped and 2 broken bay leaves. Another has rosemary, about 3-4 twigs, broken up. Then there’s a bigger bowl which usually has lots of lemon cut into quarters. Another has preserved lemon salt and the actual flesh. I save the skins for later, and take the opportunity here to use bits which I wouldn’t use normally. In yet another bowl, I have things like: chopped parsley, basil, a bit of butter or oil mixed in (content depends if I want it or not, or if I know one of my guests can’t eat butter) and sometimes chopped prosciutto. The prosciutto addition happens rarely these days.
My chopped herbs ends up being between the breast meat and skin. You have to separate this bit as gently and patiently as you can. I divide the content in half and then stuff the pocket with all the herby goodness. Then the cavity…
Usually I start with half of the lemons, followed by the garlic and herbs, and preserved lemon stuff. Then I repeat the process all over again. The trick, I think, is to stuff it as full as possible, and then tie it all up as tight as possible. It is hard to explain how I tie it up, but the instructions Jamie Oliver gives in the first two cookbooks are what I follow.
If I have the preserved lemon salt, then I smear it all over the outside of the chicken, together with that lovely lemon juice or oil which the lemons release over time. Fresh lemon juice is fine too. Of course a bit of cracked black pepper is a must.
I place the chicken in the oven set at 200 Celsius. It needs to be in one of those baking trays with a wire mess to make sure the chook doesn’t touch the bottom. I put it in the tray breast down, and fill the tray with a bit of water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the skin of the chook. This is partly what makes the breast meat tender.
It tends to bake for about 1 – 1.5 hours, depending on size. I turn it around regularly to make sure it colours and crisps evenly. I don’t know how I know when it’s ready other than I do. Of course sometimes I test it with a knife to see if the juices are clear.
There you go!