During high school, there was a lot of absolutely scrumptious food in the school dining hall. It's funny to think that school food could be good, but my friends and I ate like elephants during those years in England. Bread and butter pudding, chicken and mushroom pie, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, chicken fricasée with rice, ratatouille with baked potato, smoked mackerel and salad – we ate it all. The dining hall cooks loved us, because we always went up for seconds.Now, over 10 years later, we just reminisce nostalgically about all the good food we used to eat back then.
I had a sudden urge to recreate a particular dish that I hadn't had in years, ever since I left Malvern. It was served back then as chicken legs roasted in a tray with a chunky tomato sauce that was chock-ful of tomatoes and onions. The chicken was always sweet and crispy with the taste of honey and butter, so when I recreated it last weekend, I used a healthy amount of honey to rub over the chicken and also mixed in the tomato sauce mix. It turned out amazing. I also added potatoes (not in the school version) and that was great too; however it is fine without potato and served with penne or rice.
The only thing you have to watch out for is for the chicken to blacken too soon due to the honey rub - but the crispy chicken skin (even when black) is pretty amazing stuff!
The great thing about this roast chicken is that it can serve 2 people nicely, or else you can reserve the chicken breasts and sauce to go with pasta the next day, and the leftovers (bones, neck, feet, any leftover tomatoes) will make a nice tomato chicken soup as well. It's pretty economical and efficient.
- 1 whole chicken (or legs, drumsticks, wings, etc.)
- 1 small can tomato paste
- A large handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or else a couple of diced large tomatoes would work too)
- 1 large onion
- 4-5 cloves garlic (or more!)
- 3-4 (or more) par-boiled new potatoes, baking potatoes or any potatoes you have left over
- Herbs and spices that you want (I put 2 bay leaves, a bit of oregano, rosemary, cumin, black pepper, sea salt)
- Real butter or olive oil
- Honey (cheap honey such as for BBQ is fine)
- Preheat oven to about 220 Celcius (425 F).
- Rinse and pat dry chicken. Rub all over with sea salt. Place a couple pats of butter inside skin underneath the chicken breast (this is optional if you have a good organic/free range chicken). Drizzle a light coating of honey over the chicken, rub in to make sure it evenly coats the chicken. Place in a roasting pan (make sure there's room to put all the other stuff) and set aside.
- Chop up tomatoes, potatoes, onion, garlic (no need to peel garlic completely if you're lazy, the final silver layer of skin is fine to be kept on). In a large bowl, mix all these with the can of tomato paste (may need to add a bit of water), herbs, and at least 1/3 cup honey, if not more.
- Spoon the tomato sauce mixture into the roasting pan around the chicken (or underneath the chicken if there's not enough room). Feel free to add an additional bay leaf inside the cavity of the chicken. Also, put a couple dabs of butter (or generous squirt of olive oil) on top of the tomato sauce mixture if you want.
- Place the roasting pan into the oven, cook for about an hour, but check it every so often to see if it's done. Usually I find that the chicken is done in just over an hour depending on the size of the bird. (Use a meat thermometer or just poke it in the thigh to see if it's still red. I normally cook chicken for me and my boyfriend only, so presentation is not that important. I just cut open the chicken at the thigh joint to see if it's done there. If it is all white, then it's ready!)