theguardian-Turkey and all the trimmings is all very well, but to turn heads this Christmas, try out this roast spatchcock chicken in chilli butter with a Gruffalo-inspired stuffing cake, sweet potatoes roasted with pecan and lime, and a zingy sprout slaw
Roast spatchcock chicken with chilli and curry leaf butter
If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken, you can now add it to the list of “things I had time for in 2020 that I would never have done otherwise” (or ask the butcher to do it for you). If you want to get ahead, prepare the chicken the day before: refrigerate it all laid out and ready in the tray, but remember to bring it up to room temperature before it goes in the oven.
Prep 35 min
Cook 1 hr 25 min
7 dried mild red chillies (or hot ones, depending on taste), seeds and pith removed if you prefer less heat
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp hot smoked paprika
2 tsp runny honey
20g curry leaves, picked from their stems
1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally, plus 3 extra cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 lemons – 1 zested, to get 1 tsp, and juiced, to get 1½ tbsp, the other cut in half
Salt and black pepper
1 large chicken (about 2kg)
2 onions, peeled and cut into 1cm-thick slices (300g net weight)
2 tbsp plain flour
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Blitz the chillies to a fine powder in a spice grinder (or crush them in a mortar).
In a large food processor, pulse the butter, ground chillies, paprika, honey, curry leaves, the three extra garlic cloves, lemon juice and zest, and a teaspoon of salt.
Lay the chicken breast side down on a board. Use both hands to break the breast bone by pressing down firmly until you hear it crack. Using sharp scissors, cut down along one side of the spine, starting from the parson’s nose and going up to the neck. Cut down along the other side to release the spine, then remove and set aside for the next time you make stock. Flip the chicken over so it’s breast side up, and press down firmly once more with both hands, to crack the joints and flatten out the bird. Pat the chicken dry with kitchen towel, then season with a teaspoon and a half of salt and a good grind of pepper.
With the chicken’s legs pointing away from you, use your fingers to loosen the skin away from the breasts and legs. Spread half the butter mixture under the skin, then smear the rest all over the outside of the legs, breasts and underside.
Put the lemon halves, onion and halved garlic bulb in a large, 26cm x 30cm roasting tray, then put the chicken skin side up on top. Roast for 40 minutes, basting twice with the pan juices, then turn up the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9, and roast for another 25 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
Transfer the cooked chicken to a serving plate, to rest, and leave the oven on. Using a whisk, mash the garlic cloves and lift out and discard the papery skins. Whisk the flour into the juices in the bottom of the tray until fully incorporated, then return to the hot oven for five minutes. Whisk in 500ml hot water and return to the oven for 15 minutes more.
Remove and discard the lemon halves, and give the gravy another good stir. Serve the chicken hot with the gravy alongside.
Roast sweet potato with maple, lime and pecans
Everything you want from roast sweet potatoes but, thanks to the pickled chillies and pecans, without any of that overly cloying sweetness they’re sometimes prone to. You can get everything ready a good few hours before eating and just assemble before serving.
Prep 20 min
Cook 45 min
4 large sweet potatoes, skin-on, cut in half widthways and each half cut lengthways into 4 wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp maple syrup
Salt and black pepper
2 green chillies, finely sliced at an angle, seeds and all (20g net weight)
2 limes – 1 finely zested, to get 1 tsp, and both juiced, to get 2 tbsp
100g fridge-cold unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
1½ tbsp white miso paste
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
15g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
60g shelled pecans, well toasted and roughly chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
20g chives, cut into 1½cm lengths
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9.
In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes with the oil, two tablespoons of maple syrup, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a good grind of pepper, and toss to coat. Spread out on two large baking trays lined with greaseproof paper and roast for 40 minutes, stirring once halfway, until golden and caramelised.
Meanwhile, put the chillies in a small bowl with a tablespoon of lime juice and a good pinch of salt, and stir to combine.
Set a medium frying pan over a high heat, add the cold butter, miso paste, remaining tablespoon of maple syrup, garlic and ginger, and fry, stirring to melt the butter and combine the ingredients, for two minutes – do not let it boil, or the mixture will split. Once melted and combined, set aside.
When you’re ready to serve, return the butter pan to a medium heat, stir in the remaining tablespoon of lime juice, the lime zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and pecans, and cook just to heat through.
Put the sweet potatoes in a large bowl, add the butter mixture, chives and pickled chillies, and toss to combine. Transfer to a platter, and serve warm or at room temperature.
Gruffalo stuffing cake
Want your kids to try something new? Name it after a favourite fictional character, and you’ll be in with a chance. The fact that this cake – studded with chestnuts, black garlic and fried onions, soft and pudding-like on the inside and brown and crisp outside – really does bear a resemblance to the Gruffalo will help your cause no end. Serve with roast meat or as part of a vegetable feast.
Prep 12 min
Cook 1 hr 5 min
50g unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled, cut in half lengthways and very finely sliced (use a mandoline, ideally)
3 tsp caraway seeds, roughly crushed
Salt and black pepper
2 tsp sherry vinegar
300g sourdough bread (about 4 thick slices), crusts on, cut into 3-4cm pieces
3 large eggs, whisked
130ml double cream
300ml chicken (or vegetable) stock
200g ready-cooked and peeled chestnuts, roughly chopped
50g black garlic, roughly chopped
4 tbsp (15g) parsley leaves, finely chopped
30g chives, finely chopped
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp lemon zest
Heat the oven grill to its highest setting.
Put the butter and two tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat, add the onions, caraway seeds and three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt, and fry, stirring often, for 15 minutes, until the onions are deeply golden brown – you don’t want them to burn, so if they’re getting too dark, turn down the heat a bit. Add the sherry vinegar, cook for a minute more, then set aside.
Meanwhile, put the bread pieces on a large oven tray, grill for three minutes, until nicely toasted, then set aside.
Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6, and line a 20cm x 7cm loaf tin with baking paper. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream and chicken stock, then stir in the chestnuts, fried onions, black garlic, parsley, 25g of the chives, a teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Fold in the pieces of toasted bread and toss until completely soaked in liquid.
Transfer to the lined tin – don’t even out the top: any jutting-out bits of bread will go crisp and add texture – then drizzle over the maple syrup and remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on top.
Leave to rest and set for 15 minutes, then lift out of the tin and transfer to a platter. Finish with the lemon zest, the remaining chives and some flaked sea salt, and serve.
Brussels sprout and pomegranate slaw
Can’t face the cooked sprouts Christmas outcry? Serve them raw and thinly sliced instead. Pomegranate seeds are chucked about a bit too much at this time of the year, I know, but this festive salad is well worth bejewelling. It makes for a delicious side dish or first course, if you’re having one.
Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
400ml 100% pomegranate juice
60ml olive oil
3 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped (90g net weight)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ tbsp mustard seeds
1½ tsp dijon mustard
1½ tsp maple syrup
60ml lime juice
500g brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced (use a mandoline, ideally)
20g dill, roughly chopped
20g chives, roughly chopped
100g roasted and salted almonds, roughly chopped
100g pomegranate seeds
In a small saucepan, boil the pomegranate juice on a medium-high heat for 35 minutes, until reduced and syrupy, then leave to cool.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small frying pan on a medium-high heat, then fry the shallots for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, fry for another two minutes, then turn off the heat and stir in the mustard seeds.
In a large bowl, whisk the mustard, maple syrup, lime juice and the shallot oil mixture with a teaspoon of salt, add the sliced sprouts, dill and chives, and toss.
Transfer to a platter, scatter over the almonds and pomegranate seeds, pour over the pomegranate syrup, and serve at room temperature.
Fiona Beckett’s drinks match There’s a lot going on in Yotam’s dazzling chicken dish, which makes it a tricky one to pair with wine. You could go for a bright, fruity red such as a beaujolais, but I’m plumping for a lush white in the form of the Vasse Felix Margaret River Sauvignon Semillon 2020 (£12 Tesco, 13%). As for the Gruffalo stuffing cake, I reckon kids will enjoy cherry cola with that, though you might prefer Vina Boyante Navarra Roble 2018 (£8.50 Booths, 13.5%), a ripe, fruity, cherryish red from Navarra, or a young rioja.