You know winter is coming when the house is suddenly cold, when you go out your breath is like a mist and after a few minutes you cannot feel you cheeks, lips and ears….oh yes! I must say this reminds me of home as minus temperatures are a feature of Romanian winters (the average I would say is -10 C but we also get -40C!). So what better recipe to make you feel warm and good inside than a proper roast chicken! Mine comes with a twist: 1. this is a healthy and nutritious alternative to your usual roast chicken and 2. giving you an alternative to the less nutritious and sometimes boring roast potatoes.
This roast chicken recipe is healthier because it is not using oil when roasting meat (I know some of you don’t already so that is already great!), and it’s giving you inspiration in using some higher nutritional, in season veggies to pack your body with that essential goodness to prepare you for the cold ahead. I am making use of what Autumn has to offer: kale, parsnips and one of my favourite autumnal fruits, quince.
Chicken is actually immunity enhancing making it the perfect these cold November days. The darker meat in thighs and legs contains double the amount of zinc and iron than the lighter meat in the breast giving it immune boosting properties. Remember though, in order for your body to get all of these important nutrients minus the toxins you need to go for organic meat. Organic does come at a price tag, however eating less but higher quality meat will make it more manageable. Also, thighs and legs are cheaper cuts than your higher in demand breasts. It’s a great way of using the entire parts of the chicken (if we eat all the time breast what happens with all the other parts…most likely they will end up in waste).
Kale is great as an antioxidant boost (rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C and K, folate which is essential in the form of new blood cells and its calcium and iron content are easily absorbed by our bodies), it helps in lowering cholesterol and contains natural substances called indoles that boost DNA repair and help balancing hormones (essential in lowering the risk of hormone related cancers like breast cancer).
Parsnips are a great alternative to your carrots. They are rich on potassium which helps regulate blood pressure as well as soluble and insoluble fibres which help lower cholesterol as well as with bowel regularity (therefore if you cannot go to the loo to often start eating these root veggies:) ).
Quince: back home late October meant that we used to get these unusual fruits at home. They have quite a sharp, bitter and porous flesh which I used to love eating raw (possible not the best unless you chew these properly as while the bitter juices help with detoxifying your body and treat diarrhoea, the dense fibre content might make it difficult to digest). Quinces have amazing immune boosting properties as they are high in vitamin A, C and E. Some laboratory tests have shown that the content of leaves and fruit help inhibit the growth of colon and kidney cancer cells (Curtis, Thomas & Vilinac, 2013). Usually you will find this in high end supermarkets or farms. Borough Market in London is a great place to explore and see new fruits and vegs. I definitely encourage to try it as it tastes amazing and you will not regret it! You can use it to make a juice used as a great tonic, in desserts (works well with apple, pears) but also in savoury dishes…like the one I am posting here.
So, enough about the health benefits…let’s get cracking with the cooking:). For this roast chicken recipe you will need:
- 5-6 large stems of organic kale (mainstream supermarkets sell shredded leaves which look quite different from the full leave)
- 4-5 medium organic parsnips
- 2 organic quinces
- 4 organic chicken thighs or 2 legs
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds – crushed in a pestle and mortar (if you don’t have a pestle and mortar then ground cumin would be fine)
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 grated lemon peel
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1/4 sliced chilli
1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Start cutting your parsnips in quarters (don’t bother peeling them as most of the goodness is closer to the skin plus it’s quicker:) ) and your quince in 2cm thick slices like you would do with an apple (again, these don’t need peeling). Prepare the dressing made of crushed cumin seeds (or ground cumin), turmeric, mustard, lemon peel and juice of 1 lemon. Coat the veggies using your hands or a brush and put these in a roasting tray. Put in the oven and roast for about 15 min.
3. After 15 min of veggies being in the oven remove and arrange the chicken thighs in between the veggies. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for an additional 30 min.
4. In the last 10 min of the veggies and chicken being in the oven you can start preparing your kale. Rip the leaves and steam them for about 5 min. They should still be bright green (if they are losing their colour means they are overcooked).
5. Prepare the dressing for the kale by mixing juice of 1 lemon, salt, olive oil and chilli slices. Pour the dressing on the still hot steamed kale.
Amazing flavour, amazingly simple, amazingly healthy! DONE:)