I candidly remember how our breakfast was always including homemade jam evenly spread on a slice of fresh butter-y bread, next to a cup of tea’s flowers grandpa harvest; the lunch was more about a good warm soup, and dinner, besides the local ingredients, sometimes was debuting with an outstanding pizza, fries and homemade buns for delicious meatballs with homemade tomato sauce.
Grandma was always serving each meal, making sure there is not too much from what we eat today, but more of what land gave to us: fresh, diverse organic ingredients, locally grown and harvest. Therefore, was almost forbidden to miss any of the snacks made out of nuts and dried fruits. The food was truly delicious!
Curiosity and need pushed me years later to start my adventure in the kitchen. Among the pans’ collection, plates, flatware, I still considered the condiments the best of the kitchen. Small and large jars, in a variety of shapes and colors, were the honor of my kitchen—condiments brought from far away countries, kept carefully to enhance with authenticity each dish prepared. Among the sacred recipes—through the love with which their tradition has been kept—was this simple chicken baked with thyme, black pepper and a bit of wine. This is the way my grandma was doing it. I was loving it—the meat was tender and flavorful, and the sauce delightful and colorful.
When Nitin—a friend of mine, brought me a new reserve of condiments all the way back from India, I was enthusiastic to test them immediately, but in something a bit more different then my famous chicken coconut milk curry. Therefore, in one Saturday after-noon, I was spreading Indian charm-full condiments over the chicken: turmeric, chilli, cumin. The lemon, cloves, cardamom, thyme, onion and garlic were dressing the chicken before going to oven. The baked chicken’ smell was seducing me and my boyfriend, preparing us for what was about to be, was tempting us to carve it and share it in two.
*The Romanian version of this story has been featured in Decât o Revistă no.13 next to the chicken photograph. Thank you Decât o Revistă, for this opportunity!
Indian Baked Chicken (makes 4-6 servings):
1 kg free range chicken
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons chilli powder
3 small cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
100 ml red sweet wine (Porto)
3 garlic cloves
few thyme sprigs
180 grade – 50-60 min
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take the chicken out from the fridge 30 minutes before baking it.
2. Spread one tablespoon of butter under the chicken’ skin in order to obtain a crispy skin. Cover the chicken with the remaining butter and the olive oil. Season with salt, turmeric, chilli, cumin and place it onto a big pan.
3. Cut the lemon in half and each half in two. Place the halves of lemon inside the chicken, together with one garlic clove finely slices, half of onion and a thyme sprig.
4. Drizzle the chicken with the remaining lemon and keep it in the pan. Place in the pan also the remaining onion, the garlic cloves finely slices, the pepper, cardamom, cloves and thyme sprigs and then drizzle with wine. Bake the chicken for 60-80 minutes or until the chicken’ skin becomes golden and crispy.
5. After 40 minutes of baking, drizzle the chicken with the sauce resulted in the pan and squeeze the lemon over the chicken. Repeat this step every 10-15 minutes. The lemons once they are baked have a stronger flavor.
6. Take the chicken out from the oven and let it cool down. Serve it warm with the gravy, orange marmalade and baked vegetables.