Natural Wine Killers - Ras El Hanout Spatchcocked Roast Chicken with Chickpea Pulao & Les Cadoles La Cadole à Marcel Mâcon Chardonnay 2021

A Sunday roast is a special thing – or at least it is for a lot of people.

Blame my US upbringing, but I never felt that attached to the tradition, especially since so many Sunday roasts (whisper it) just aren’t that good. For every gastropub that’s nailed the formula, there are a dozen who haven’t, churning out meals that simply aren’t delicious enough to justify the ensuing food comas.

But there is something life-affirming about a weekend meal as a main event, about taking several hours to cook an ambitious dish with care, time in the kitchen as meditative recreation rather than harried necessity. Rather than go out for a roast, I’m often happier making one, and I can tweak and tailor the format at will.

Here, I knew I wanted to roast a chicken – the early stirrings of spring spark an annual craving for it. I decided to spatchcock my bird, which ensures juicy and evenly cooked white and dark meat. I also borrowed a friend’s spice blend recipe, which features generous quantities of ras el hanout and white pepper, and added baking powder to help crisp up the skin. And I placed a tray of water under the chicken as it roasted, which catches the drippings and serves as the beginnings of an indulgent, cream-based gravy.

To go with, I skipped the roasties and riffed on Nik Sharma’s recipe for spiced chickpea pulao. Perfectly fluffy basmati rice is one of the home cook’s great pleasures, and this dish, vivid with turmeric and fragrant with cardamom, has the right amount of chilli heat and added crunch from the toasted pistachios.

And of course, it’s not a real Sunday roast without a glass of something special. La Cadole à Marcel Mâcon Chardonnay hails from Burgundy’s southernmost region – it’s fresh and bright, with citrus and floral notes on the nose. But it has just enough body and creaminess to remind you you’re drinking Chardonnay, and to perfectly match the dish’s spicing and richness.

Ras El Hanout Spatchcocked Roast Chicken with Chickpea Pulao
Adapted from Serious Eats and Nik Sharma
Serves 4-6

For the chicken:
1 medium (1.7-1.8kg) chicken
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon ras el hanout
¾ tablespoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the chickpea pulao:
4 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil, divided
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 3-inch pinch ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
1-2 bird’s-eye chillis, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon hot chilli powder
2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Large handful coriander, roughly chopped
200g basmati rice, rinsed and drained
6-8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
½ teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
480ml chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon
100g pistachio kernels

 For the gravy:
200-300ml double cream
Juice of ½ lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 230°C. Place a wire rack over a baking tray.

2. Spatchcock the chicken: Place it on a cutting board, breast-side down, and, using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut along both sides of its backbone. Discard the backbone (or reserve for stock). Flip the chicken over and, placing the heel of your hand on its breastbone, press down firmly until you hear a crack; the chicken should be flattened. Tuck its wings underneath its breast to prevent them burning.

3. In a small bowl, mix all the spices, salt and baking powder. Sprinkle evenly over both sides of the chicken, rubbing so it coats every surface. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over one side of the chicken and massage in the spices; flip the chicken over and repeat.

4. Place the chicken, breast-side-up, on your wire-rack-lined-baking tray. Carefully pour 300ml of water into the baking tray beneath it (this will be your gravy).

5. Transfer to the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until, using an instant thermometer, the thickest part of the breast near the breastbone measures 66°C, and the joint between the thigh and body measures 80°C (avoid touching any bones with the thermometer’s probe, which will give a false reading). I start monitoring the chicken’s temperature 10 minutes before the cook time is up. You can also tent the chicken with foil if it’s browning too quickly and add any additional water to the baking tray if it’s evaporating.

6. While the chicken roasts, make the pulao. In a Dutch oven or other large, lidded pan, add 2 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions, and season to taste with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes, or until softened and translucent.

7. Next, add the ginger, bird’s-eye chillis, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder. Cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and stir to combine, so they're well coated with the spiced ghee or oil. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed before transferring to a large bowl and mixing through half of the coriander. Set aside.

8. Wipe the Dutch oven clean and return to the hob. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil and place over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the basmati rice, cardamom pods and black peppercorns. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the rice is fragrant and has stopped sticking.

9. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice to the Dutch oven and stir to combine. Place a lid over the pan and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 20 minutes; then, turn the heat off but leave the lid on, so the rice can steam for 10 minutes more.

10. While the pulao cooks, toast your pistachios: Add to a small frying pan and place over medium heat. Toast, tossing frequently, for roughly 5 minutes, or until golden-brown and toasty. Leave to cool before transferring to a cutting board and roughly chopping. Set aside.

11. To finish the pulao, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Add the reserved chickpea mixture, chopped pistachios and the rest of the coriander, and stir through until well-combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

12. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a board; leave to cool for five minutes. Meanwhile, make your gravy. Wipe the small frying pan you used to toast the pistachios and pour in the pan drippings. Add the double cream, beginning with 200ml, and place over medium-high heat. Cook until just beginning to boil, whisking frequently. Taste and add more cream if needed; cook for 3-5 minutes more, or until the gravy is slightly thickened and reduced. Add the lemon juice and mix through before transferring to a gravy boat or small bowl.

13. To serve, carve the chicken. Divide the pulao between plates and serve the chicken on the side, with gravy to accompany it.

Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our Natural Wine Killers wine subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings plus expert tasting notes for three amazing wines like this one every month.