Sunday roast chicken from Brawn

It seems to me that chicken is back in fashion. For far too long it was anything but the humble old chuck with steakhouses, hotdogs, fish campaigns et al taking precedence but thankfully things are coming back full circle.

I am not sure if it is the latest press about red and processed meats that has made us revisit the priorities, but I for one am thankful. I honestly think my last meal would be a classic roasted chicken of good origin and simply done. Maybe it is all those memories of Friday night dinner at my Mum’s, but roast chicken and then chicken soup made from the bones are like medicine to me. I roast my chicken simply with lemon juice and soy sauce (!) which makes a wonderful gravy at the end, as long as you don’t let it catch. And don’t forget the roast onions in the base which caramelise wonderfully in this rich umami liquor.

I remember the day that we decided at M&S to advertise roast chicken and give away a bird to anyone spending over £35 on their basket. This was an operation like no other, simply trying to decide how many chickens that would be needed and how we would get them to the right store on time to meet the demand from the TV ad. Even in the face of chocolate puddings, Christmas treats and lots of other enticing dishes, the roast chicken was right up there in the most popular products we ever gave away and I for one am not surprised. Chicken remains in 2 of the top 5 M&S sandwiches, as well as 4 of the top 5 selling salads.

However, it was only when I saw Daniel Clifford’s chicken dish win the main course of Great British Menu this week that I realised the return of the chicken was truly here to stay. He certainly earned his chef credentials in turning this magnificent dish out for the Olympic meal. If you want to re-create this centrepiece, it is a mere 53 stage process to follow the recipe on the BBC website. I for one vote to leave that to the expert.

Slow poached chicken, sweetcorn egg, spinach with bacon & peas from the wonderful Daniel Clifford

The other interesting thing is the prevalence of named varieties of chicken with everyone finding their own preference. At M&S we bred the Oakham chicken which was slow growing and deemed by the majority of customers to be tastier than the average bird. Then, in the restaurants, they too have a their own choice of bird. At Brawn, they serve a Landaise chicken in the centre of the table, although it was a little disconcerting to find they removed one leg because we were a table of three! At the new Mark Hix restaurant, Tramshed, they do the same with a Woolley Park Farm bird complete with feet in tact. In fact, it is either that or steak, so the epitome of limited choice. Good old Mr Hix – he is always so spot on with these things. And now I read that Nick Jones of Soho House and Pizza East fame is opening a new Chicken Shop below the next Pizza East concept opening this August in Kentish Town. Serving only specially marinated rotisserie chicken, this will be a destination for me.

Spit & Roast: simple and tasty (the chicken, not these guys!)

If waiting til August is too much to contemplate, then try Spit & Roast found in Hackney, or through the Eat Street clan. These guys source free range Suffolk birds for their recipes and specialise in buttermilk fried chicken as well as fabby buffalo wings. I am definitely encouraging the teams who work with me to book these guys. And if anyone is required for sampling, they know where to come.

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