The ingredients are crazy – chicken, ten garlic cloves, lemon zest from two lemons, half a cinnamon stick, a handful of sage leaves and a pint of milk. And that is all. I read the recipe and it sounds just weird – the milk softens the chicken flesh but the lemon zest curdles the milk into creating a kind of cheesy sauce. The amount of sage is a little daunting even though I imagine the garlic with skins on will create a lovely sweet softness. Whenever I buy fresh herbs I often don’t need anything like the quantity I get in the packs so I blanche the excess and freeze it.
The initial stage is just to brown the whole chicken in the pot you are going to cook in. Wielding a whole chicken isn’t easy – especially for someone pathetically sensitive to heat – but I was really pleased with my joint forks which not only helped to move the chicken but also helped to stand it on its side to brown the thighs. After that everything goes into the pot and the oven is set at 190 degrees for an hour and a half with occasional basting. Whether the lid is on or off is debatable. I don’t want to end up with just curd at the bottom so I had the lid on for the first half and hour and then took a judgement.
The end result is delicious. Although I don’t think I can feel a difference in texture on the breast of the chicken (I did rotate the chicken as well as baste it), I do think the thighs and wings are noticeable better. The flavours work wonderfully, the garlic is much softer and the sage is blended in with the rest of it. The surprise note is the strength of the lemon zest which cuts through everything beautifully. I assume the half a stick of cinnamon just warms everything through. I really enjoyed this – it creates a wonderfully warming dish with very little effort. My only negative is that the sauce is not attractive; the lemon zest really does curdle the milk and the fatty juices from the chicken don’t add to the appearance. Thankfully other comments on this recipe describe exactly the same process otherwise id be blaming myself right now. I don’t think there is anything you could do to improve this short of straining the lot. The “cheese” is very tasty though and personally I like it. You’ll never see this in a restaurant though.
I served it with steamed kale (rinse, shake, steam, season, squeeze of lemon juice) and half a jacket potato.