In my small collection of recipe books there are at least four versions of ‘chicken with 40 cloves of garlic’ and I’ve always promised myself that if I ever have a bumper crop of garlic this would be the first thing I would cook.
Finally this year (after over 10 years of having an allotment) I have struck gold with my garlic and I feel as though I can spare 40 cloves for just one dish.
But which recipe should I use? In the end I opted for the most straight forward sounding one – Alistair Little’s in Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’. When I found the original programme from 1998 where they cook this recipe and saw them serve it with nothing more than bread and wine, I knew I was onto a winner.
This dish is certainly delicious, but despite all the fuss (i.e. chefs falling over themselves to bring you ‘their’ version) it is basically roast chicken with garlicky gravy and some roasted garlic on the side. I do love this simplicity but the best bit for me was the bread accompaniment (see recipe below) and the smell filling our kitchen as the garlic and chicken were roasting.
Chicken with forty cloves of garlic
(based on Alistair Little’s in Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’ with some alterations)
Serves a family of four with leftovers for sandwiches and stock
- A good quality free range chicken weighing about 2kg
- A lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Some olive oil
- 40 large cloves of young garlic (this is about 4 bulbs)
- A sprig of fresh rosemary
- A couple of bay leaves
- 250g chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 240oC. Cut the lemon in half and put into the cavity of the chicken. Drizzle some olive oil over the outside of the chicken, season well with salt and pepper, and rub in with your hands. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.
Meanwhile, prepare the garlic. Break up the bulbs into cloves, you don’t need to peel but remove any really dry skin that comes off easily with your fingers. Take the chicken out of the oven, scatter the garlic, rosemary and bay leaves around it, lower the heat to 200oC and return to the oven for another hour.
When the chicken is cooked, tip out the lemon and remove it from the roasting tin onto a serving plate. Then use a slotted spoon to remove nearly all the garlic cloves and put those on the serving plate as well (save 3 or 4 in the tin to mash into the gravy).
Give everything left in the roasting tin a good mash with a fork (including the lemons). Then add the chicken stock and put over the hob stirring well with a wooden spoon to get all the bits off the bottom of the tin. Let it bubble away for a couple of minutes until you have a light gravy. Strain into a serving jug and serve with the chicken.
NOTE: In my books very little is said about how exactly you go about serving/eating this dish. This is what we did and whilst it wasn’t very elegant it was a lot of fun. Carve big chunks of chicken, pour over the gravy, eat with roughly cut baguettes (see recipe below) spreading the garlic onto the bread and dipping it into the gravy. Get stuck in, use your fingers and don’t forget the wine.
This is a simplified version of the recipe handed out to my husband Ben when he attended the French Baking course at the School of Artisan Food. Ben has made these many times and in our view the simplifications don’t affect the finished product at all.
I bought the course as a present for his birthday and without meaning to be selfish it has turned out to be a present for the whole family. Food-wise there are few things better than fresh baguettes for breakfast – especially when they are made by someone else.
Makes 6 small baguettes (about 30cm length), or 4 larger ones (the same length but fatter)
- 640g of strong bread flour
- 415ml of water
- 10g of salt
- 6g of yeast
Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the water and mix with your hands until it comes together.
Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a bowl covered with cling film for at least a couple of hours to rise but you can leave it for up to 4. It should come nearly to the top of a large mixing bowl.
Knock back the dough with your hands, bring into a ball and divide into 4 or 6 equal portions, depending on the size you want.
Shape each portion into a sausage pulling out length-ways at first and then rolling to even out. Don’t worry if they look a bit rough.
Now you’ll need a tea towel which is impregnated with flour (Ben has one of these set aside for this purpose). Lay the tea towel over a high sided baking tray letting it hang over the sides. Put one baguette along one edge of the tray and then make a fold in the tea towel next to the baguette so that it comes up the side. Then lay the next baguette on the other side of the fold. Repeat this for the third and fourth baguettes. The purpose of this is to stop the baguettes touching each other and to avoid having to buy a special baguette tray. It’s a bit tricky to explain so here is a photo.
Use the same technique for the others using another tray. Allow to prove for about an hour.
Transfer the baguettes to some thin baking trays scattered with a little flour or semolina to stop them sticking. I used two with three on each. This is quite a tricky process as the dough is quite floppy. Try not to knock out the air that has been created but don’t worry too much if the shape isn’t perfect.
Slash the tops diagonally across with a very sharp knife and bake at 250oC for 12-15 minutes (for the 6 smaller ones), or 20 mins (for 4).
Allow to cool a little (if you can wait that long) and serve.
NOTE: To reheat cook in the oven at 250oC for 3-5 minutes until crispy.