An Early Summer Feast
07 Jun 2022
Very soon, summer will begin to find its stride, and the moment that it does, you can trust that we'll be found outdoors pouring heart and soul into this month's delectable trio from our resident food writer, Flora Shedden.
For the less carnivorous, rest assured that this is plenty filling to enjoy as orzo and asparagus side alone – or add a healthy wedge of herby focaccia alongside it if you're feeling fiendishly hungry...
Roast Chicken With Feta and Dill Orzo
1.5kg high welfare chicken
1 lemon, unwaxed
6 cloves of garlic, skin on
A glug of olive oil
A sprinkling of salt and pepper
A small handful of fresh marjoram (thyme or oregano would also work well)
250g white wine
300-400g chicken stock
30g fresh dill
1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
2. Begin by spatchcocking your chicken. This is optional but will speed up the cooking time. Place your chicken breast-side down on a chopping board. Find the spine and cut down the left hand side as close to the bone as possible, being careful not to cut all the way through to the breast bone. Repeat this process on the other side to completely remove the spine. Flip over and press down firmly on the breasts to flatten. Transfer into an oven- and hob-proof shallow pan (I use a cast iron 26cm one).
3. Next, peel and slice your shallots in half. Quarter the lemon and arrange the segments around and underneath the chicken along with the shallots, garlic and butter, cut into cubes.
4. Drizzle the skin generously with olive oil then cover with a good amount of salt and pepper. Carefully add the marjoram around the sides of the chicken (they'll burn if left on top) and finally pour in the wine.
5. Place in the oven to roast for 1 hour. Check in when the time is up to baste with the juices. Return to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes or until the juices run clear and the chicken skin is crisp and golden brown.
6. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to rest (cover to stop it cooling down too much).
7. Pick out the lemon and the garlic skin from the pan, but keep the roasted garlic in the juices. Add the orzo and 200g of the stock to then put your dish on a medium high heat so that it comes to the boil. Be sure to stir it regularly to stop the orzo from sticking (much like you would a risotto).
8. Once the liquid begins to evaporate taste the orzo and add a little more stock bit by bit. You want the orzo to be a little al dente and for there to be enough sauce to coat the pasta but not drown it.
9. Once nearly cooked (better to be a little under) remove your orzo pasta from the heat. Crumble in the feta and finely slice the dill before stirring through. Check for seasoning before serving immediately with the chicken.
Asparagus, almonds and wild garlic pesto
Serves 4 with some extra pesto which will keep chilled for 7-10 days
125g wild garlic
125g olive oil (nothing too strong)
75g flaked almonds
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A pinch of pepper
100g crème fraîche
1. Begin with the pesto. Wash your wild garlic leaves and place a pan of water on to boil. Once simmering add the wild garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until wilted. This makes sure the garlic doesn taste too bitter when blitzed.
2. Drain the cooked leaves then rinse with cold water, making sure to thoroughly squeeze out any excess liquid. Once drained, place in a food processor alongside the olive oil. Blitz on a high speed until well combined.
3. Finely grate your parmesan. In a small frying pan toast your almonds over a medium high heat until golden and fragrant. Add the cheese and 50g of the nuts to the processor alongside the lemon juice and a bit of freshly cracked black pepper. Blitz again until fully combined. Taste and season to taste.
4. For the asparagus, heat a large frying or griddle pan over a high heat. Click the woody ends off the asparagus (keep for finely slicing and frying with some garlic and oil. I like to stir this through pasta or eat on toast with some ricotta).
5. Once the pan is smoking add the asparagus and char lightly for a minute or so before removing from the heat.
6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
7. To serve, spoon the creme fraiche over your serving platter. In a bowl toss together 100g for the pesto and the asparagus. Once well coated, arrange over the crème fraîche then garnish with the remaining toasted almonds. You could also finish with a little lemon zest or some wild garlic flowers if you like. Serve immediately.
Makes one large jug
200g elderflower cordial (or make your own as below)
1L of sparkling water
Several large ice cubes
4 heads of fresh elderflower
A sprig of fresh mint, optional
Measure out the cordial and the gin (or leave this out if you're prefer a non-alcoholic version) in a large jug, stirring to combine. Finely slice the lemon into discs and add to the jug alongside the elderflower heads, ice and mint leaves if you fancy. Top up with the sparkling water and you're ready to serve (before the ice melts).
Homemade Elderflower Cordial
24 large elderflower heads
60g citric acid
1.2kg caster sugar
1. Wash the elderflower heads in cold water and drain well.
2. Finely slice the lemons.
3. Add the citric acid, lemon, caster and water to a large pan. Bring to the boil until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the elderflower.
4. Cover and allow to infuse for 2-3 days in a cool dark place. Once strong enough strain and store in sterilised bottles in the fridge for up to two months.