Herefordshire chicken recipes

PUBLISHED: 10:31 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:44 20 February 2013

A classic chicken dinner with a selection of roasted vegetables is a great way to combine the best of winter and spring

A classic chicken dinner with a selection of roasted vegetables is a great way to combine the best of winter and spring

As winter turns to spring Martin Griffiths goes in search of free-range Herefordshire chickens and suggests some recipes which make the best of this most versatile of birds

Although there were alwayshens clucking around the farm buildings when I was growing up, chicken was still a bit of a luxury to have on the dinner table. My mother would send me and my sister Alison out searching for eggs in the barns while occasionally my father would have to make one of the birds disappear, only for it to magically reappear, on the dining table, roasted, some time later!

Today, although many people are likely to collect their chicken, plastic wrapped, from supermarket shelves there is a growing realisation that this is sometimes not the tastiest or most bird friendly option available. Herefordshire is lucky in having some excellent local butchers who supply reasonably-priced free-range birds produced within the county; a variety of suppliers who will help you keep hens in your garden and a range of great pubs and restaurants who serve wonderfully flavoured, locally sourced chicken dishes.

If you want to bird that has had room to roam on fresh grass, spread its wings and had a chance to live in the daylight then look out for birds from Herefordshires premier poultry farmers. Chickens from Springfield Poultry, near Docklow are raised in excellent conditions and are allowed to mature a full 77-84 days. (Up to twice as long as some intensive birds.) The improvement is in the taste and their welfare. If you are interested in getting started yourself then Wynnes of Hope-under-Dinmore will supply you with equipment and great advice.

Chickens come in so many forms that are so easy to cook that we sometimes forget the simple pleasure to be had from the meat itself. I would suggest not only enriching the birds flavour with herbs and spices but also buying free-range chicken and keeping things simple. Just roasting a good quality bird and supplying some excellent stuffing as an accompaniment takes some beating, while poaching a whole bird in a vegetable-packed broth before jointing it and then serving it all together with the stock and vegetables keeps all the flavours in the dish. Of course any left-over broth can be used to make rich nutritious soups and stews.

This recipe makes a simple to produce, economical weekend roast.

Roast Rosemary Chicken

Serves 4

8-900g potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
4 free-range chicken legs
2-3 whole heads of garlic cut horizontally in half
4 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
5ml olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Seasoning to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4
2. Toss the potato cubes in olive oil, season well and scatter the bottom of a large roasting tray
3. Add the chicken pieces, skin side up, garlic, cut side up and sprigs of rosemary
4. Drizzle on the rest of the oil, the lemon juice and season the chicken skin with a touch of extra salt to create crispness
5. Cook for around an hour, or until the chicken juices run clear and serve with seasonal green vegetables
6. Deglaze the roasting tray to create your gravy

Variations: One of the best things about this method of cooking is so much of it is within one pot so it really helps to retain the flavour and nutrients. You can add any variety of vegetables to the potatoes to create extra flavours and different colours. Onions, carrots and pumpkin chunks all work well. Chicken cooked this way is also delicious served with spicy red cabbage.

Spicy Red Cabbage

I finely shred a whole red cabbage and cook it in a touch of water for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. I then add a handful of raisins, a finely chopped onion and apple and a good tablespoon of my Auntie Naomis red currant jelly. The addition of some Olivers Perry vinegar and a touch of sugar, cumin, chilli and seasoning creates a nice fragrant mix which I stir into the cabbage before popping it into an ovenproof dish and cook it alongside the chicken for around an hour. If you dont have any perry vinegar to hand then dont be afraid to experiment. Orange juice makes an interesting alternative, as does orange or lemon zest. You can cook your red cabbage for a longer period but I like to keep a little crunch in mine.

Tom Dennys Pot Roast Chicken with Cider and Beans

Serves 4 plus
This is a simple variation on a rustic theme, which was served to me when I visited my old friend Tom, the stained glass artist, at his studio some years ago. It allows the chicken to retain lots of moisture while creating a deeply fragrant herby sauce. Served alongside Toms own cider I was glad to be staying the night!

25ml olive oil
30g butter
200g roughly chopped streaky bacon
6 garlic cloves roughly crushed
4 onions, quartered
10ml plain flour
300ml cider
300ml chicken stock
1 large apple, cored, peeled and roughly cubed
1 lemon thickly sliced
50 ml chopped fresh thyme
1 chicken about 1.5kg
1 400g can haricot beans (or similar)drained and washed
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 190c/Gas Mark 5
2. Heat the oil and butter in a large flame-proof casserole
3. Add the bacon, garlic and onions to the casserole dish and fry gently for 4-5 minutes
4. Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly
5. Add the cider and stock; stir in well before adding the lemon, thyme and seasoning
6. Bring this sauce to a boil while constantly stirring before adding the whole chicken
7. Transfer the casserole to the oven for 1 hour and baste as required
8. Stir the beans into the casserole and cook for a further 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through
9. Remove the casserole lid for the last 10 minutes to help crisp up the
chicken skin

This is a very satisfying way to cook a chicken and the rich gravy is delicious served with simple baked potatoes or hunks of bread. Again variations are easy, with mushrooms being popped into the casserole for the last half hour being a particular favourite. Reserve the chicken carcase after carving and return it to the casserole with two pints of water. Pop it back in the oven for an hour and use the resulting stock as a base for the next days soup.

Chicken Breasts stuffed with Tarragon and Ricotta

Tarragon and chicken go beautifully together so whether you are creating a chicken pie or creamy white sauce, tarragon is always worth investing in. Mixed in with a selection of other seasonal herbs it helps give this recipe a really fragrant spring aroma.

Serves 4
175g ricotta cheese
72ml chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, chives and thyme
4 skinless chicken breasts
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon

1. Preheat the oven to 190c/Gas Mark 5
2. Break up the ricotta and mix in the fresh herbs
3. Cut a 5cm slit along the thicker side of each chicken breast. Open each one up to create a pocket and stuff with equal measurements of the ricotta mixture
4. Pull the pocket together and wrap each breast with a slice of bacon to help enclose and seal in the filling
5. Place on an ovenproof dish, cover with foil and cook for 35-40 minutes
6. Serve with a simple spicy tomato and onion sauce enriched with a dash of orange juice and Worcester Sauce

Wrapped in foil this chicken breast and herb mixture can also be easily adapted for the early summer barbecue and you can change the filling to suit your tastes. One of my other favourite options is to stuff the chicken breast pocket with chopped up spicy sausages and sun dried tomatoes from Legges of Bromyard or add chopped mushrooms and streaky smoky bacon from Wallers of Ledbury.

Shaun Naens Simple Malaysian-style Chicken

Serves 4

2 free-range chicken breasts cut into big chunks
4 new potatoes peeled and cut intolarge chunks
1 onion finely diced
1 shallot finely diced
2-3 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
400 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon madras paste
1 tablespoon turmeric, finely choppedfresh coriander, chilli, spring onionand seasoning
6 crushed cardamom pods

1. Marinate the chicken pieces in the turmeric and a little of the coconut milk for 30 mins
2. Saut the other ingredients together in a saucepan for around 3-4 mins
3. Add the remaining coconut milk and chicken pieces to the pan and simmer for 30-35 mins
4. Serve topped with the finely chopped spring onions, coriander and chilli.

The recipe for Shaun Naens chocolate pudding in the February issue should have included 250g of chocolate, not 25g as published.

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