Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. It was also the first day in quite a long time that I finally felt free of the lurgy that has been plaguing me for weeks. The Great Early-Winter Cold of 2016™, as it will come to be known, seems to have affected everybody. Colleagues have been dropping like flies from the office, friends have been cancelling nights out and, all across London, the deafening chorus of coughs and sneezes on public transport makes even the healthiest of commuters worry that they may not make it out alive.
I had a well-timed respite during my trip to Poland, which allowed me to enjoy our mini-break in Kraków and the wedding we were attending in Rzeszów. If you’ve never been to a Polish wedding before, do everything in your power to get invited to one, for they have everything that a wedding should have: singing relatives, a never-ending supply of vodka and so much food you think you might never have to eat again.Unfortunately, my energy to enjoy all of these things was short-lived as I flew home with a little more than a duty-free bottle of Zubrowka and the photos of us in oversized glasses and wigs from the wedding photo booth. I had a cold and some pretty terrible asthma.
When I’m ill, I hibernate. I’ve never been much of a believer in soldiering on, especially I always blame those who do so for spreading the germs around. I took a few days to stay at home and cooked one of the only things that makes me feel better: roast chicken. There is, I am told, a study that exists that hypothesises that chicken contains an enzyme that breaks down mucus in the body and fights off the common cold. This may, of course, be true, but I suspect that the real power of chicken lay in the nostalgic association with comfort food.
This particular take on roast chicken is one that I have wanted to try for some time: chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. It’s a little scary to make any dish with 40 cloves of garlic but, as you probably know, raw garlic and roasted garlic are as different as night and day. Instead of adding 40 cloves of garlic to the chicken itself, you let them roast in oil around a chicken, gently perfuming it. I like to then pop a few on the side of my plate, squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and smear them over a forkful of dinner.
The most important thing when making this dish is not to let the garlic burn, for burnt garlic is even less palatable than raw garlic. To do this, leave the garlic cloves unpeeled (some recipes will tell you otherwise, but I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work) and cover the chicken with foil during cooking. Of course, following the latter instruction does mean that you won’t get the crispy skin you would usually find on a roast chicken. I never mind forsaking it occasionally, so just remove it; but if you are determined to have it, you could try browning the chicken first.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
1 whole chicken
300ml olive oil
40 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Preheat the oven to 200°c. Place the chicken in a large roasting tin. Rub a small amount of olive oil into the skin, followed by a pinch of sea salt.
Scatter the garlic cloves around the chicken and pour over the oil.
Cover the tin with foil and roast in the oven until cooked through. I use this Roast Timer to calculate the cooking time according to the chicken’s weight. Check the tin half way through, and if it looks as though the garlic is starting to burn, remove with a slotted spoon and put back in at the end of the cooking time.