One of my favourite things about cooking in the summer, with all the fresh produce, is how little time it takes to put a meal together. You needn't spend hours slowly simmering a stew or taming a beetroot the size of a soccer ball. Fresh leaves or vegetables need only be chopped up and then thrown together for a satisfying summer supper.
Spatchcocking a chicken is a wonderful way of speeding up the cooking process, whether you're roasting the bird in the oven or on the barbecue. You can ask your butcher to do it if you like, but it isn't difficult.
Spatchcocking flattens the bird so the heat of the oven or barbecue can penetrate it much faster. Roasting in the oven is easier, but, when the weather's lovely, it can really be worth it to cook your chicken on the barbecue. The smokiness adds a gorgeous extra dimension to the meal.
I love to serve spatchcock chicken with a selection of salads and sauces. Tzatziki is a Greek sauce: a divinely fresh mix of yoghurt and cucumber. I think basil really works well in a potato salad along with the sharp, citrus notes of lemon juice.
Watermelon and feta may seem like an unusual combination, but the sweetness of the watermelon balances perfectly with the salty softness of the feta, and this dish makes an ideal accompaniment to barbecued meats.
You will need:
1 free-range organic chicken
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 tablespoon rosemary or thyme, chopped
Extra-virgin olive oil
A few garlic cloves
You can, if you wish, barbecue a whole chicken, though the bird needs to be spatchcocked first -- doing so flattens it so it will cook evenly on the barbecue.
To spatchcock a chicken, using a good pair of kitchen scissors or poultry shears, place the chicken, breast-side down, on a board and, starting at one end, cut the
chicken all along the backbone so that you can open it up. Turn it around to place it breast-side up and press the chicken down to flatten it. Some people put skewers through the bird for stability; this is handy, but it is not completely necessary.
Next, slash each chicken leg two or three times with a sharp knife. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, then sprinkle with the chopped rosemary or thyme, whichever you're using. Add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Now you can cook the chicken either in the oven or on the barbecue.
If you're cooking the chicken in the oven, transfer the spatchcocked bird to a roasting tin. Turn the skin side upwards and tuck the whole garlic cloves underneath. Roast in an oven preheated to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Depending on the size of the bird, it should take about 50-60 minutes to cook. When it is fully cooked, the legs will feel loose and there will be no trace of pink in the juices when you pierce the chicken with a skewer.
If you're cooking on the barbecue, place the chicken, breast side down, on the direct heat of a hot barbecue, and cook for five minutes, then turn it over and cook for five minutes on the other side. Then move the chicken away from the direct heat, put the garlic cloves underneath, and place the lid on the barbecue. The bird will take about 45-60 minutes, depending on the heat of the barbecue, to fully cook. Turn the chicken over from time to time to make sure that it doesn't burn.
Makes about 150ml.
You will need:
150ml (5fl oz) Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cucumber, cut into rough 1-2cm dice
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Juice and finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the Greek yoghurt in a small bowl and mix in the roughly chopped mint, the roughly diced cucumber, the peeled and crushed garlic, the lemon juice and the finely grated lemon zest. Season to taste with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lemon and basil potato salad
You will need:
850g (1 3/4lb) new waxy potatoes
75ml (3fl oz) lemon juice (juice of 1 large lemon)
75ml (3fl oz) olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
3 tablespoons shredded or torn basil leaves, see Rachel's Tip, below
In a saucepan of salted water, boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, or until just cooked. Drain, peel off the skins, and slice the potatoes 1cm (?in) thick. Dress with the lemon juice and the olive oil while the potatoes are still hot. Season with the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and leave to cool.
When the potatoes have cooled, add in the finely sliced spring onions and the shredded or torn basil leaves and mix everything together.
Watermelon salad with feta, lime and mint
You will need:
500g (17 1/2oz) watermelon
200g (7oz) feta cheese, crumbled into pieces roughly 1-2cm (1/2-3/4in) square
Finely grated zest and juice of one lime
2 teaspoons mint, chopped
Sometimes I add 50g (2oz) of pumpkin seeds, toasted in a moderate oven for four minutes or so.
Peel, deseed and chop the watermelon into 4cm (1?in) pieces. Place in a bowl, and add the crumbled feta, the finely grated lime zest, the lime juice and the chopped mint.
Toss gently and serve as soon as possible, ideally within an hour or so of making.
Sunday Indo Life Magazine