Chicken fat is wonderful stuff – I’m sure you know this already. I bought some beautiful, plump thighs from Flock and Herd yesterday with the express intention of roasting them on top of the slightly stale sourdough sitting on the kitchen counter. You may have already tried roasting a whole chicken on top of bread; the fat soaks through and creates an incredible, schmaltzy bedrock which you will find yourself uncontrollably drawn towards. I’d take it over a roast potato any day.

The zippy salsa verde with all its herbs, mustard and vinegar offsets the richness and brings its own pickle-y punch to the party. Do I like a Sunday roast? Kind of. I’d much rather have this, to be honest – more fun and around 10 x simpler.

Chicken Thighs with Chicken Fat Sourdough and Salsa Verde Recipe

6 good quality, free-range chicken thighs
200g stale-ish sourdough (mine was 2 days old) torn into large chunks
2 heads of garlic
1 onion, peeled and roughly sliced

For the salsa verde

1 large handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 slightly smaller handful each mint and basil leaves, finely chopped
Handful capers, finely chopped
Handful cornichons, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6-8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200C (fan).

Heat a large, heavy-based frying pan such as a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the thighs skin side down and cook until the skin is browned – around 6-8 minutes depending on size. Set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

Add the onions, garlic and sourdough and season lightly. Place the chicken thighs on top, skin side up and season again. Put in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, make the salsa verde by mixing all the ingredients together. Add a little salt if you think it needs it.

Serve the chicken thighs with some of the sourdough, garlic and onions and the salsa verde.

I want to quickly share a recipe D cooked which made another dent in our bulging bin bag of wild garlic – a boned shoulder of lamb stuffed with the neverending leaves, crushed seaweed, lemon zest and pine nuts.

I’ve become more interested in cooking with seaweed since I wrote an article for Great British Food magazine about it recently. It adds a lovely umami seasoning to lamb in particular and this recipe is a stunner – soft roast meat with a powerful filling which works well with potatoes, flatbreads or a grain like bulgur wheat on the side.

Shoulder of Lamb Stuffed with Wild Garlic, Seaweed and Pine Nuts Recipe

1.8kg shoulder of lamb (or thereabouts) – this is the weight with bone-in. Ask your butcher to bone it so it will lay flat on a surface and be rolled up again once stuffed.

For the stuffing 

20g dried seaweed (we used wakame stems)
100g pine nuts
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
1 tablespoon Urfa chilli flakes
Zest of 1 lemon
200g wild garlic washed and checked thoroughly for critters
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Pulse all the stuffing ingredients together in a blender until you have a rough paste.

Place the lamb skin side down and smear the filling liberally across the meat. Roll it and tie it up with string, for roasting. There are proper methods for tieing it but we just made it work.

Put the lamb into a roasting tray, rub the skin with a bit of olive oil then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast for one and a half hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of around 60C. If you want to crisp the skin further, finish under a hot grill for around 3-4 minutes (watching carefully).

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb with Pomegranate Molasses

Yes I did say I was going to eat less meat in January but I had this on New Year’s Eve so ha! It’s allowed. We decided to stay in this year; basically I’ve had it with NYE, we’re through. Done. Kaput. What I mean to say is that I’m done with going out on NYE – there’s literally no worse way to start a fresh year than waking up in The World of Pain. I still managed to consume a fair amount of cava, but at least I didn’t pay silly money for each glass, or wake up on someone else’s floor after a house party with a crick in my neck and a stranger breathing stale boozy morning breath in my face.

This year my boyfriend and I got steadily sozzled in our own home while this lamb shoulder roasted slowly until the meat was falling away from the bone. I found the recipe on Becky’s blog. Pom molasses has to be the perfect marinade for lamb, all sweet and sour; the edge bits get sticky and the onions and garlic break down into the gravy. It’s almost obscene, it’s so tasty.

We stuffed it into pitta breads with some very finely shredded cabbage and a salsa I made with tomatoes, onion and my mum’s incredible pickled chillies which are packed with coriander seeds. It was basically a really posh kebab and way better than anything I could have picked up around these parts as I staggered my way home after midnight.

Slow roast shoulder of lamb with pomegranate molasses

100ml pomegranate molasses
100ml water
3 large onions, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

Leave the lamb to marinade for a few hours in the pomegranate molasses. I made a few slits in the meat to allow the molasses to penetrate the meat and shoved a few slices of garlic into each slit.

Allow the meat to come up to room temperature before cooking. Preheat the oven to 150C.

Place the onions and garlic in the bottom of a large, oven proof lidded dish (or just cover your dish with foil, as I did). Place the lamb on top and pour over the pomegranate molasses, rubbing it into the lamb. Add the water, cover and place in the oven 3 hours for a 1kg joint (adding 20 minutes extra per 500g).

After this time, remove the lamb joint from the juices, pour the juices into a bowl and leave for half an hour to allow the fat to move to the top. Skim off the fat and discard it. Turn the oven up to 190C. Return the lamb and skimmed juice to the oven in a roasting tray. You can drizzle over some extra pomegranate molasses at this point. Cook for 30 minutes until the juices are bubbling and lamb is browned.

When cooked, pull the lamb apart and stuff into pitta breads, or whatever else you fancy. Make sure to get a good helping of that sticky sauce, too.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I’ll admit from the off that I was slightly scared. Not by the quantity of garlic you understand – it mellows considerably with roasting – but by the oil; 250ml of olive oil settled into a deep golden pool in the bottom of my battle-scarred roasting dish.

This dish comes from Provence, land of olive oil and garlic. A full forty cloves stew gently in the fruity elixir, and by the time the chicken is cooked, they are transformed to a soft savoury paste which can be squidged from its papery home and smeared onto the chicken, or good bread, or into mashed potato. A sprig or two of thyme and a couple of bay leaves add their own perfume and the whole heady medley gets right into that chicken – and your soft furnishings – beautifully. Febreeze, eat your heart out.

If you are thinking of making this dish – and I cannot encourage you enough to do so – then this article and this one, are definitely worth a read. There are a few controversial points to consider, such as whether to peel or not to peel when it comes to the garlic (don’t) and whether or not one should brown the chicken before roasting. I just turn the heat up at the end of cooking to crisp up the skin.

When it comes to resting, I recommend positioning her with her legs (mine spectacularly yellow, from corn feeding) sticking up in the air. This means that all the juices seep down towards the breast, leaving you with juicy meat. To serve, most recommend mashed potato but I just didn’t fancy it in the face of all that richness and made a salad of bitter curly endive dressed liberally with a lemony dressing. Juices were mopped with hunks of good bread.

The leftover oil has been a source of much excitement over the past couple of days. I can’t wait to tell you what I did with the leftovers. The carcass went into the stock pot too so that one decent chicken has been the base for three meals each for two people. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

1 chicken (mine was 1.5kg)
250ml olive oil
40 cloves of garlic or thereabouts (that’s four whole bulbs), papery bits removed but not peeled
A sprig of thyme (plus a bit extra for the cavity)
A sprig of rosemary (I didn’t use this, but it can’t be a bad thing)
2 bay leaves
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper and lots of it

Preheat the oven to 180C

Un-truss the chicken drizzle a little oil over the skin, rubbing it in. Surround it with the garlic cloves, herbs and bay, then stick the other herbs and lemon inside the cavity. Pour the oil around. Season the chicken very generously, then cover with foil and seal tightly.

Roast it for 1 hour then remove from the oven and turn the oven up to 220C.  Carefully pour out the oil into a dish (along with the garlic) then set aside and return the chicken to the tray. Roast for a further 10 minutes then rest in a bowl with legs in the air for 15.

Use this time to make a sharply dressed salad and cut some fresh bread for spreading those garlic cloves onto. Enjoy!