The Crooked Billet

Roast Maharishi Chicken Curry

Serves 4

Roast Chicken Curry

If pushed to choose my favourite dish it would probably be roast chicken. Here’s my Indian twist on the ever popular roast chicken.

George Harrison would come to the Crooked Billet. I got to know his family & after a while was invited to cook at their sublime home in Henley-on-Thames, Friar Park.

This chicken dish was George & Olivia’s suggestion of flavours. Frankly ‘Chicken George’ doesn’t do the dish justice, I called it ‘Maharishi Chicken’. The Beatles visited Rishikesh to meditate with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Subsequently I discover the Maharishi was vegetarian – so a pretty daft name for a carnivorous dish, but it stuck!

Olivia wasn’t bothered with the pomp & formality of me bringing waiting staff to Friar Park. Extraordinary having a Beatle as your waiter in the kitchen.

George liked his chicken skin crispy, plenty of coriander, chilli and ginger. Most of the flavour in ginger lies just beneath the skin, trick is to scrape off the skin with a teaspoon so you don’t peel away the zing. You’ll be surprised how easy this is to do.

Easiest way to approach a chilli & reduce the chance of stinging your extremities – cut it in half lengthways, run it under a cold tap, scrape the seeds out with a teaspoon.

Coriander shopping – big bunches on the root in oriental stores taste better & cost less than the little plastic packs you find in supermarkets. The stalks are packed with flavour, don’t waste them.

I’m sure, when I was a kid, chicken were bigger – do four of us on a Sunday, plenty left for salads & sandwiches.

1 chicken, approx. 1.5kg

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

4 cardamom pods

1 small cinnamon stick

Zest & juice of 1 lemon

2 whole lemons

1 tsp mild madras powder

1 tsp black mustard seeds

Small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

2 red chilli peppers, deseeded & roughly chopped

12 garlic cloves, peeled

Large thumb ginger, peeled, roughly chopped

100g butter, softened

Salt & pepper

For the presentation:

Zest of 1 lemon

Small bunch coriander, finely chopped

½ red chilli, deseeded, finely chopped

Place cumin & coriander seeds, cardamom & cinnamon into a frying pan, dry fry over moderate heat for 2 minutes until they release their aromas. Place into a pestle & mortar, add the zest, coriander, madras powder, mustard seeds, half the chilli, half the garlic & half the ginger. Pound to a smooth paste. Mix the paste with juice of 1 lemon & butter.

Place the chicken on a board. Starting with the neck of the bird, work your fingers between the flesh & the skin to loosen the skin away from the meat, creating a pocket. Spread the spicy butter into this pocket to create an even layer, ensure the breasts are well covered.

Sit the chicken into a roasting tin, that will fit into your fridge. Place the remaining ginger, chilli, garlic & 1 lemon cut into quarters inside the body cavity of the bird. Cover with cling film & refrigerate for 12 hours.

Remove roasting tin & chicken from the fridge an hour before roasting so it doesn’t hit the oven fridge cold. Preheat the oven to 220°C, season the bird. Place the chicken (still in its roasting tin) into the oven. After 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 180°C, baste the bird & roast for a further 45 minutes. Continue to occasionally baste until the skin is crispy & the bird perfectly cooked.

Remove from oven, allow to rest for 20 minutes, baste again, scatter the presentation chilli, coriander & zest liberally all over the bird. This gives a vibrant burst of flavour & colour. Squeeze the remaining lemon into the pan juices & mix well. spoon over the chicken when serving.