Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Curried Easter? Roast masala chicken with lemons, artichokes and peppers

Curried Easter?  Roast masala chicken with lemons, artichokes and peppers

I spent yesterday cleaning last year’s flower stalks out of the porch garden, swatting away hungry bees who thought surely I was a flower.  So far, only the hepatica have blossomed, as well as a couple of violets deep into the back yard. No wonder the bees were frantic.  All the while I was plucking and then stuffing old delphinium and lambs’ ears into composting bags, I considered the upcoming Easter Dinner.  In Calgary, it’s considered a nearly sacred tradition to serve one of three choices.

Many have ham, which I shudder to look at.  It looks to me like something cannibals would serve, even if they do trick it up with canned pineapple and maraschino cherries, I kid you not.  Next on the list is a roast turkey.  I rather like roast turkey, although I did hear a funny story about a Canadian who cooked it for his ESL adult students in Japan.  He brought it into the room on a platter, a dome covering it.  When he lifted the dome, his students, all middle aged Japanese ladies, started to shriek and cry, some fainted.  The last choice, leg of lamb, is considered exotic, and some of my family members won’t eat it, because they believe lambs are too cute. 
I have been able to get away with serving other dishes at Easter, provided lemons are involved.  We always associate Easter with lemons, though I don’t know why.  I’ve been warning my family that I’m thinking of doing a chicken and lemon dish that my mother’s friend, Mrs. Prieur found, and as everybody adores that, I’ve been getting nods of approval.  However, now I’m dreaming of substituting her oregano for fennel, and adding a touch of cinnamon.  Here’s what I’m planning:

1 to 2 large packages chicken  (cut into pieces)
2 carefully washed organic lemons, sliced into rounds slightly less than ¼ inch thick
5 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1 to 2 chillies chopped (more or less depending on your crowd’s tastes)
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
20 grates freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
2 to 3 large sweet red peppers, cut lengthwise into 1 inch strips
enough new potatoes to feed your crowd, cut into quarters if they’re large, halves if they’re not
1 teaspoon salt
2 cans artichokes, drained and quartered (fresh artichokes are available here, but expensive, and these work well with the lemons.)
1 tablespoon olive oil
This is an easy dish to prepare.  I’ll say quickly that Mrs. Prieur’s spices were cumin, oregano, a tiny bit of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper, with no fresh chillies.  Mine is similar,but more sub continent, as you can see.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Rub olive oil into a roasting pan.  You just need to create a slippery surface, so if your pan is huge, you can use a bit more, but consider that you aren’t frying anything here.  Place all ingredients, except the lemon and artichokes, into the pan.  Pick up several lemon slices at a time, hold over the chicken, and squeeze , then toss the slices into the roasting pan.  You’ll do this with all the slices.  Don’t worry.  The lemon rind becomes delicious, like a mild pickle, when it’s caramelised and roasted.  You will be eating it as a vegetable.

Roast uncovered for an hour, perhaps an hour and a half depending how much you have.  As it seems nearly done, test the potatoes for softeness.  When it’s getting close, add the artichokes, and continue roasting till everything is well cooked.  
This is truly a one dish meal.  I load it onto a huge blue platter, the colours of the plate contrast beautifully with the yellow lemons, golden chicken and red peppers.  

I’ve never dared curry up the Easter Dinner before.  I’ll update this posting with pictures of the food and the family’s reactions!
Update:  It looks pretty even before it gets cooked!

And even prettier when it is cooked.  Absolutely delicious too!

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