Ready-to-hand staples and basic recipes are the nuts and bolts of every kitchen. In her latest recipe book, The Wholefood Pantry, Amber Rose urges us to rethink the ingredients we cook with.
"Spatchcocking a chicken is a great ways of achieving a really crispy skin, which we all love," explains Amber. "You could keep it simple and simply spatchcock the chicken then baste with ghee, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, or you could spice it up as I have done with my za'atar spice mix. Kids and adults love this dish and it's so easy to create."
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour, plus resting
1 medium free range chicken
2 tbsp ghee
3 tbsp za'atar spice mix (scroll below for mix recipe)
Seeds of ½ pomegranate
Handful fresh rocket or coriander
Garlic and herb yoghurt (optional)
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1. Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas 6.
2. To spatchcock the chicken, use strong, sharp kitchen scissors to cut down the length of the backbone of the chicken on each side. Remove the backbone and open the chicken out so that it lays flat with the breast facing upwards and the thighs and legs pointing outwards.
3. Using 2 long bamboo or metal skewers, stick them through the middle of the chicken so that they form a cross. This ensures the chicken remains flat when it cooks.
4. Place the spatchcocked chicken on a baking tray with low sides. Rub the ghee over the chicken, sprinkle with the za'atar spice mix then transfer the tray to the preheated oven and roast the bird for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 180C, 350F, Gas 4 and roast for a further 40 minutes. You are aiming for a crispy skin and tender meat that falls off the bone.
5. Remove the tray from the oven and allow the chicken to rest, uncovered, for about 10 minutes before serving. I like mine strewn with pomegranate seeds and rocket or coriander leaves. Also delicious served with some garlic and herb yoghurt and wedges of lime.
"This super-easy Middle Eastern spice blend is so versatile," says Amber. "You can sprinkle it over chicken legs or vegetables before roasting – try it on sweet potato wedges, carrots, butternut squash or aubergine. Use it when roasting chickpeas and cauliflower florets to create a lovely warm salad. The beauty of this blend is its simplicity and it gives everything a wonderful flavour."
Makes: 1 small jar
Preparation time: 20 minutes
6 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 tsp ground sumac
¾ tsp sea salt
1½ tbsp toasted sesame seeds (dry-fry the seeds in a frying pan over a medium heat, stirring, until lightly golden)
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1. Preheat the oven to 170C, 325F, Gas 3.
2. Spread out the thyme leaves on a baking tray and put in the oven to dry for about 10 minutes. When done they should crumble between pinched fingers. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
3. Grind the thyme leaves finely inside a pestle and mortar then set aside. Add the sumac to the mortar and crush it as finely as you can – you may need to do this in batches. Add the thyme and crush them together then add the salt and crush again.
4. Stir in the sesame seeds, taste and adjust the seasoning if desired. Transfer the spice mix to an airtight jar and keep in the fridge ready for use. It will last for a couple of weeks.
Rid your cupboards of ready-made and processed staples and rethink the way you cook with Amber Rose's The Wholefood Pantry. A collection of 175 savoury and sweet "toolbox" recipes, including stocks, sauces, spice mixes, butters, oils, ferments, cultures and chutneys, it helps you be in control of what goes into your food and how it's prepared. The Wholefood Pantry by Amber Rose is published by Kyle Books, priced £19.99 hardback.