People seem to think that “glamping” is a relatively recent phenomenon. I can assure you that this is not the case. For in 1969, on a sand dune in Portrane, Dublin, my family stayed in a long retired Dublin tram (it would be called vintage these days) for a week one summer. No electricity, water from a pump, distant toilet, primitive cooking facilities, dark and cramped and not so much as a Kath Kidston cushion to brighten the outlook. Yet, we early pioneers of “glamping” suffered so that you could have your feather bed yurts, your champagne filled tipis and your pods with complimentary fire-pit and jacuzzi today. Back then we kept it real!
Well, for us kids it was heaven. We loved going to collect the water from the distant pump in a big bucket. We loved being literally on the beach. We really, really loved going to a chip shop or a burger bar complete with Juke Box for greasy lunches every day. My mother however was less than enamoured with the “arrangements”.
Enter my wonderful Auntie Lily, who tried not to look too appalled at the conditions that her brother’s family were enduring on that wind-blasted sand dune. The next morning we visited her and my Granny in North Dublin. We had been out in the garden that was beautifully tended by Uncle Paud and we each had a sprig of mint from the herb patch near the back wall. Auntie Lily gave my Dad a basket as we left. And the contents of that basket became all too apparent as we drove back to the tram, as the aroma of a freshly roasted chicken filled the warm, crowded car. It has to be one of my favourite food memories and still a much loved food smell. This was real food, cooked simply and well. We were of course completely starving by the time we got home, Mum boiled some lovely new potatoes, and we ate them with the lovely, golden chicken and loads of butter.
I have great affection for roast chicken in the winter with ham and stuffing and roast spuds. But as it gets warmer, I switch to a version that’s a bit lighter and brighter. In the garden right now the summer herbs that I use in this recipe are all abundant and lush and need cutting back and using regularly to keep them going over the summer. This is my version of a classic French inspired roast with summery notes from the tarragon, chives, lemon and parsley. Served with buttery baby new potatoes and new season asparagus this is an easy to put together feast.
Roast Chicken with Lemon, Tarragon, Parsley and Chives
- Large bunch of fresh tarragon
- Large bunch of parsley
- Large bunch of Chives – I used “garlic chives” which were great for this dish.
- I un-waxed lemon
- I bulb of garlic
- Olive oil
- 75g Butter
- Salt and pepper
- Two sticks of celery
- Two shallots
- Large glass of white wine
- One 1.5 Kg fresh free-range chicken
- A large roasting dish
- Pre-heat the oven to 180c degrees.
- Take the chicken out of the fridge and bring to room temperature for about half and hour.
- Finely chop all the herbs and mix together with the butter, lemon rind, 1 clove of garlic and seasoning as desired. Use a pestle and mortar for this if you have one. Add a small amount of olive oil to loosen the paste up.
- Place the celery sticks, whole peeled shallots and half of the bulb of garlic in the roasting dish with the wine and half a glass of water. This will act as a trivet for the chicken and keeps it moist as it half steams and half roasts in the juices.
- Now prepare the chicken by easing the skin from the breast with a sharp knife or with your fingers and push half the herb paste in under the skin to ensure perfect basting. Rub the rest of the paste inside the chicken, with the other half of the bulb of garlic and the lemon.
- Place the chicken in the Roasting dish on top of the vegetables, brush with olive oil and season well all over.
- Roast in the oven for 20 minutes per 500g weight and an additional 20 minutes – so for 1.5kg that would be one hour and twenty minutes in total. Leave to stand for about 20 – 30 minutes before serving.
- These days I use a meat thermometer to check that my roast meat is cooked properly, but if I was on a tram on a sand dune somewhere I would just stick a knife in the thickest part of the leg and if the juices run out clear it is cooked. If not, back in for five minutes and test again. After all, you wouldn’t want to have food poisoning on a beach in Portrane with no access to running water!
Serve with the earliest little new potatoes, with asparagus or with a green salad for a simple lunch, to be served outdoors on an early summer day. And raise a glass of crisp white wine to my dear Auntie Lily and her wonderful, restorative roast chicken.