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Chic chooks and cosy blankets...

My favourite night in winter is Sunday night. There is something undeniably wonderful about lighting a fire, cosying up small creatures (ie children and Jack Russells) in warm blankets, uncorking a cheeky red and getting busy in the kitchen.

Last night I turned to Sean Moran’s “Let it Simmer” for inspiration. Back in my days at Elle magazine, Sundays without fail would be a chic, cosy comfort meal at his Bondi Beach restaurant, Sean’s Panaroma. I may now be gazing at a different coastline, but I can throw together his fab food myself and get all sentimental. One of my favourite dishes is his incredibly fragrant and flavoursome Good Chook, roasted with Oregano and served with Creamed Corn. It is not the quickest dish to make but well worth the effort and is ideally followed by a second bottle of red by the fire.

Here’s to Sunday’s with Sean, chic chooks, dogs in blankets and cheeky reds. Snuggle up and enjoy.

Good Chook, roasted with Oregano and served with Creamed Corn
Serves 4

  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 generous handfuls oreganosalt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 heaped tablespoons duck fat or butter
  • 1 x 1.8-2 kg free-range chook
  • 1 lemon
  • 8 salad onions
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • 250 ml dry white wine

Creamed Corn

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4 cobs fresh corn
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 150 ml dry white wine
  • 250 ml Chook Stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel 2 of the cloves of garlic and pick oregano leaves then grind to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix duck fat or butter through paste.

With legs of the chook pointing toward you, slip your fingers under the breast skin to free it from the flesh, pushing carefully all the way down to the wing-bone joint on both sides, then slide seasoned fat in under the skin being careful not to puncture it as you go. Cut lemon in half and squeeze as you insert each half inside cavity of chook. Pull breast skin tightly toward you and make a small incision at the central point, about 1 cm intop of cavity, then tuck the end of each drumstick through this hole so that the legs cross. At the other end of the bird, tuck any excess neck skin underneath and twist each wing tip back and under for support in the baking dish.

Trim onions, leaving a 3-4 cm of green stalk then peel. Whisk tomato paste with a little stock until smooth, then stir in remaining stock.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Pour wine into a suitably large, heavy-based baking dish and add onions.  Sit chook in dish breast-side up, then pour stock mixture over bird and season well. Roast for 20 mins, then turn bird onto its side and return to oven for another 20 mins. Turn bird again for a final 20 mins, adding remaining unpeeled garlic cloves to dish. Remove from oven and rest for 20-30 mins.  Leave oven on.

While the chook is roasting, make the creamed corn…
In a small dry fry pan, toast cumin seeds over a low flame until fragrant, then cool and grind. Peel onion and chop roughly. Peel and crush garlic. Strip ears and silk from corn and cut kernels away from cob by running a sharp cook’s knife down sides, being careful to avoid any tough husk.

Heat oil in a small, heavy based pan over a moderate flame and saute onions for several minutes until lightly caramelised. Add corn, ground cumin, garlic and thyme (stalk and all), then saute for several more minutes until sugars just start to catch on base of pan. Deglaze with wine and stock, then reduce heat and cook at a steady simmer for 20-30 mins, stirring occasionally until corn is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, then discard thyme sprigs. Set aside a large spoonful of corn, then blend remaining corn for a couple of mins. Pass thorugh a sieve, then return saved corn and season well to taste. Keep warm or reheat for serving under chook.

Just before carving…
Pick out onions and garlic cloves from chook dish and return to oven to glaze on a baking tray for a few minutes. I like to carve the chook in the roasting dish so I catch all the juices. Remove carcass, squeezing juice from lemon halves into pan. Gently spoon fat from baking dish, then quickly reduce over a full flame to a saucy consistency and check seasoning.

To serve…
Serve carved chook at once on a bed of creamed corn with the crisp garlic cloves and onions and a leafy green salad.

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