Spring, for me, is such a hopeful time. Whatever darkness winter has brought starts to feel lighter and more manageable as the brightness of sunshine, the beautiful colours and smells of new flowers blooming and the fresh, almost citron growth on deciduous trees appears. Everything starts to thaw out, the temperature starts to average in the double digits again and things Just. Feel. Better. This is still true in the heart of lockdown, but it’s laced with a sense of loss. Peering out of your window to see a gorgeous sunny day tastes bittersweet in lockdown. You can’t go out and enjoy it in the same way. It teases you with its possibilities.
If you have a balcony, a courtyard, a rooftop, a nature strip, a backyard, a front yard, any space whatsoever where you can be outside, I want you to try and find the motivation to make this meal, or any meal, however you want to do it, to celebrate Spring. Check the weather in advance and pick a day that is scheduled, as confidently as possible, to be sunny and clear. We’re planning a ceremony of sorts, to sit outside basking in the sunshine, smell the flowers on the breeze, hear the insects buzzing around, eating delicious food and drinking a beverage with whoever you may be locked down with: your partner, your housemate, your family, your pet, yourself.
Spend your morning preparing and cooking this meal, and set your table with all of your nicest things. Flowers and your celebratory beverage of choice are essential. When you sit down to eat, allow yourself for a few moments to think about all of the lovely times you’ve done this with the people that you miss and can’t be with right now. And then move on. Focus on this moment. It is special, it’s a celebration, even if it is just for you. This is about celebrating spring, this beautiful season that brings us so much and also about having something to look forward to that will actually Go! To! Plan!
Stay tuned for the rest of the spring feast unfolding on TDF later this week!
1 whole chicken, approximately 1.8kg – 2kg
60g butter, softened
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
A good pinch of flaky salt
6-8 shallots, halved
1 bunch spring onions
2 lemons, cut in half
Green tops from 3-4 spring onions, diced
A small handful of chopped soft green herbs (parsley, chives, coriander, basil are all good here)
Juice and zest from 2 lemons
4-5 anchovies, chopped finely
2/3 cup olive oil, approx
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, grated finely
¼ olive oil
½ cup neutral oil
Juice from 1 lemon
Firstly, preheat your oven to 220 C.
Onto a big rimmed baking tray, place your chicken in the centre. Squish both halves of one of your lemons into the cavity.
Finely chop your anchovies, so they resemble a paste, and combine with your softened butter. Gently separate the skin from the chicken breast by pushing your hands under the skin from the neck of your chicken. Once you’ve separated the skin across as much of the body as you can, spread about a third of the anchovy butter underneath the skin.
Truss the chicken legs tightly using some twine. Now using your hands, again, spread the remaining anchovy butter all over the outside of the chicken. Don’t leave any bit unbuttered.
Peel and slice your shallots in half lengthways, I like to cut a couple into quarters too. Place these around the outside of your chicken. Remove the green ends of your spring onion and place the remaining stalks around the chicken, too, as well as your other halved lemon, cut side down. Drizzle the vegetables with a little bit of olive oil and give a final sprinkle with flaky salt. If you go too hard on the olive oil here, your veg won’t char.
Into the oven now for 40 minutes. Just leave it. After 40 minutes rotate your pan and cook for a further 20-25 minutes. The skin should be nicely browned and crispy, the veg should be nice and charred. If you’re nervous, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh – you want it to read 75° C. Once ready, remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before carving. I like to simply quarter the chicken – two breasts, two legs, and more slicing and dividing can happen once you’re at the table, if necessary.
For the salsa verde, in a bowl combine diced green ends of the spring onion, finely chopped herbs and anchovies. Add the lemon zest and juice from both lemons. Top up with your olive oil – you may require more than I have called for – just add the oil until it’s a nice, liquidy sauce.
Lastly, the aioli. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolk, garlic and Dijon mustard. Slowly drizzle in a very small stream of olive oil, whilst whisking continuously, making sure it’s emulsifying nicely. It should look as though it’s thickening and becoming creamy. Continue streaming in all olive oil, slowly, while whisking. Now move to the vegetable oil, still whisking the whole time. You can let the stream get a bit heavier once you’ve switched to the vegetable oil. At this stage, it should be thick! Squeeze in the juice from your lemon, just do half to begin with, and whisk. You’ll notice the whole thing will quickly become a paler shade of yellow. You don’t want it to be too wet, so if you think it can take it, add the juice from the other half of the lemon and whisk to combine. This is your lemony, garlicky aioli. Yum!
To serve, I like to lay the chicken quarters out on a large place, scatter the shallots, lemon and spring onions on there too and drizzle with a bit of the salsa verde. Serve with the rest of the salsa verde and the lemony aioli in a bowl on the side.