Chicken is one of the more versatile meats and perhaps this explains its unrelenting popularity. Traditionally, the bird is roasted and served with a variety of vegetables and roast potatoes. I love chicken since it adopts other flavours so well and also for its ability to retain its own flavour, especially if you have a good quality free range bird that was given enough natural time to grow and develop.
There is nothing more off putting and repulsive than those scrawny looking birds that adorn the shelves of many supermarkets in SA. I can recommend a few chicken farmers on the Pretoria Boeremark and if you are at the market on a Saturday, please come and ask, I’ll direct you to some very tasty birds.
In this recipe I used sundried olives from the Prince Albert region in South Africa, these olives are plump and full of a natural fruity flavour. Prince Albert is in the Karoo, a very dry and hot part of SA and I felt that the olives would resonate well with a dry cider and some white beans to help balance all the flavours in the pot.
Please note: Your chicken should reach 75°C in the thickest part of the leg. You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead. And I know 90°C for the oven heat sounds too low, but it is worthwhile cooking it this low.
- 1.5–2kg Chicken Legs (it about 6-8 legs)
- 6% brine (300g salt dissolved in 5 litres of water)
- 1 lemon
- 1 bunch of thyme
- 125g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for rubbing into the skin
- 125ml Dry Cider (I used Savanna Dry)
- 100g Sundried Olves
- 1 Tin White Butter Beans
For the gravy (optional)
30ml Dry Cider
250ml chicken stock
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Resting time: 45 minutes
- Prepare and trim the legs and then place them in a clean container. Pour over the brine ensuring that the chicken is submerged then cover the container with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the liquid the next morning and dry well with kitchen paper.
- Preheat the oven to 90ºC and use a free standing oven thermometer to ensure that your oven remain constant.
- Tear off the thyme leaves and mix it with the butter and the juice of the lemon and rub each leg in the butter mixture ensuring that you push some under the skin.
- Place the chicken in a roasting tray, add the cider, olives and butter beans and place in the oven. Roast the chicken uncovered until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the leg is 75°C. This will take about 2-3 hours.
- Remove the chicken, olives and butter beans from the oven and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Turn the oven temperature as high as it will go.
- Once the resting time has elapsed, put only the chicken back in the roasting tray and return it to the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown, taking care that it doesn’t burn.
- Once coloured, remove the chicken from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Rest for another 10 minutes before serving.
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
If making the gravy…
- When the chicken has been browned and removed from the roasting tray, place the tray containing the juices on the hob over a medium-high heat. Add the Cider and scrape and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the chicken stock and cook until reduced to a sauce. Strain into a small saucepan.
- Before serving, stir in the mustard and warm through.
- I served this chicken with polenta, baked potatoes and carrots.