Dates And Olive Roast Chicken

I’m not a big fan of chicken to start with but like you may know from here, I do love roast chicken and am always looking for ways to have more fun with it. Perhaps its the childhood fascination from readings books that entailed castles and tables laden with all kinds of huuuuge (in my imagination) roasts being served to kings or just that a gorgeous roast chicken that’s juicy and flavourful brings out the best in an otherwise rather lacklustre bird. Either ways, this is my favourite way of eating chicken. (Unless you are serving me chicken from one of the dhabas in Punjab. Sigh!)
The Moroccon Chicken Marbella from is one of my very favorite recipes and one that I turn to when I need to create a brilliant dish with less fuss. The combination of flavours is unique and absolutely delicious with its sweet and sour savouryness and consequently, the resulting sauce is magical. However, given my partiality to fairy tales and whole roasted chicken, I’ve been thinking of ways to adapt this into a beautiful looking roast. So,  this time, when we got a whole chicken with the skin on from the supermarket in Andheri, I decided it maybe fun to try a Morocco inspired twist on the regular roast chicken. And I am happy to say that the results were gorgeous.

Brining, as I mentioned in my previous post on roasting chicken secrets, is one of my favourite tricks to keep the meat exceptionally moist and delicious and since chicken that we buy nowdays tastes too much like dried out chewy nothingness, I decided to let the chicken soak in a brine so that the flesh is lovely and luscious when roasted. But the highlight of this recipe is definitely the marinade. The sweetness of the dates, the piquancy of the capers and olives, the tang from the balsamic, the punch and heat from the garlic all come together to make this a really really special marinade that is so yummy I could eat it on toast. Every single time I make this, I find myself licking the marinade bowls and skipping around my little kitchen with joy. (Just the other day Atul and I were talking of how eating good makes us starting dancing involuntarily. Ever happen to you?)
Marbella Style Roast Chicken

Serves: 4

Succulent Roast chicken with sweet-sour-piquant flavours from a luscious marinade of dates, olives, capers and herbs.
  • A whole chicken with the skin on
  • 2 liter water
  • 4-5 sprigs thyme
  • 4-6 T salt
  • 2T sugar
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 whole pod of garlic - crushed
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • capers - 1.5T
  • caper juice - 1t
  • garic cloves - 5
  • dates - 21
  • green olives - 10
  • balsamic or wine vinegar- 2 + 1.5 T
  • jaggery or brown sugar - 1.5 + 1.5 T
  • fresh oregano - 2 sprigs
  • extra virgin olive oil - 2 + 3 tablespoons
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • baby potatoes - About 20-25
  • Red and Yellow Bell peppers - 1 each. Sliced
  • Onions - 2, peeled and quartered
  • 1 whole pod of garlic - peeled
  • Button Mushrooms - 6-8, large ones quartered and small ones halved
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chilli flakes
  1. Mix all the ingredients for the brine (water to onions) and stir till salt and sugar are dissolved. Soak the chicken in brine, cover and refrigerate for 18- 24 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken from the brine. Pat dry and keep in the refrigerator, uncovered for another 4-6 hours.
  3. minutes before baking, preheat oven to 220 c.
  4. In a mixer/food processer, grind together the olives, capers, garlic cloves, pitted dates, 2T vinegar, oregano and 1.5T jaggery/brown sugar. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with just a little bit of salt.
  5. Spatchcock the chicken by laying it breast side facing down and cutting down the spine till its open. Cut out the spine and remove. Flip the chicken over and lay it flat so the entire skin side faces up.
  6. Now loosed the skin from the flesh by slipping your fingers gently under the skin between the legs and insert a few bay leafs under the skin. Stuff in the marinade under the skin, and apply the rest all over the bird. You will be left over with around 2-3 tablespoons of the marinade. Reserve this for the vegetables. Drizzle one tablespoon of oil over the bird.
  7. Prep the vegetables and toss them together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and throw in bruised sprigs of oregano. Drizzle with the remaining 1.5 T vinegar, 3T extra virgin olive oil and add in the1.5 T jaggery and the remaining marinade. Toss well so each vegetable is coated with at least some of the flavorings. Season with salt, pepper and chill flakes.
  8. In a roasting pan or even better, a cast iron skillet if you have one, lay the chicken, skin side up. Spoon the vegetables all around.
  9. Roast the chicken and vegetables for 30 minutes at 220C. Reduce the temperature to 200 and roast for another 15 minutes. Test the chicken by poking it with a skewer and checking if the juices run clear. Another way of checking is that a thermometer in the thigh area will read 160 when done and the legs will easily get disjointed from the body. Remove the chicken from the pan and let rest for 20 minutes.
  10. Let the vegetables roast for another 15 minutes before you serve up a beautiful, browned moist chicken with delicious roast veggies. Enjoy.


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