Sometimes the best-tasting food is the simplest. My culinary forte is South-East Asian cuisine, and as a result I often get caught up with complicated recipes requiring a plethora of spices and condiments. Recently, I’ve been learning that food doesn’t always need a lot of ingredients and hours of preparation time in order to taste good. Rather, a simple recipe can be equally sublime with the right combination of fresh, tasty ingredients.
A prime example is this Greek-Style Roast Chicken, which only has five main ingredients: chicken, olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and salt.
I have to admit I nearly dismissed this recipe when a Greek friend recited it to me a while back. It can’t be that simple, I thought. But as I began experimenting with Greek cuisine, I began to appreciate their fondness for extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
Being the holiday season and all, I decided to cook a slightly fancier dinner for myself, but didn’t feel like taking too much time or effort. So I finally decided to give this recipe a go, and I got a roast chicken that can only be described as divine. And, something truly magical happens when you combine olive oil with lemon juice and oregano.
Here, the condiments complement, rather than overpower the flavour of the chicken. Therefore, I suggest using the best quality chicken you can obtain, preferably free-range if possible. This roast was juicy and bursting with flavour- a far cry from the kind you get from fast-food outlets. I also added some sweet potatoes to the baking pan. Basted in the pan juices, they turned out intensely sweet and aromatic, with a melt-in-the-mouth texture — I was left wondering why I don’t cook this more often!
Greek-Style Roast Chicken with Baked Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2, as a main
2 cuts of chicken leg, both thigh and drumstick, preferably free-range (in Australia this is known as a Chicken Maryland cut)
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
3 sprigs thyme (optional)
1 tbsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 golden sweet potato, peeled and cubed
dash of black pepper
Rinse the chicken and pat dry with a clean tea towel or paper towel. Place in a large baking dish or roasting pan. Rub the salt and oregano into the chicken, then drizzle over the olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle the black pepper over the chicken. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. If using, place the thyme on the chicken. Place the sweet potatoes in the baking dish alongside the chicken.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning the chicken pieces every 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. Take care while turning the chicken as the hot oil in the pan may splatter. Periodically brush the pan juices over the chicken and sweet potatoes to intensify their flavour.
The chicken is cooked when the skin turns golden brown and the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted into the meat. Remove from oven and transfer into serving plates. Spoon the remaining pan juices over the chicken and sweet potatoes.
Serve hot with a side of steamed vegetables, if desired.