This is my adaptation of two Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridges Chicken Baked in Hay and Cider, taken from his Proper Pub Food book.
In a nutshell, you wrap a whole chicken with bay leaves and garlic cloves in a muslin cloth, put this parcel into a lidded casserole pot, then pack hay all around it before pouring over a bottle of cider. You then cook it for an hour, rest it for 45 minutes, and then serve.
For me, the chicken was incredibly tasty sweet and earthy from the hay and cider combo but there were two flaws: one was dealing with the hay itself I got mine from a local pet shop and by the time Id packed enough into my Le Creset pot my kitchen looked like the bottom of a rabbit hutch; two was the flabby skin at the end of cooking, Tom recommends browning with a blow-torch which, unfortunately, I dont possess. I tried blasting the bird in a hot oven for 15 mins to get the same effect, but didnt really succeed.
On the plus side, the flesh itself was incredibly moist and succulent.
Tom suggests baking a whole celeriac as an accompaniment, but I was unable to source one locally, so instead made roast potatoes, stove-top glazed carrots and Toms Yorkshire Puddings to go with the chicken.
Overall, the meal was a triumph, but not a patch on my many-times-tried-and-tasted Lemon-Garlic Roast Chicken. Click here, if you have a mind to, for more Roast Chicken recipes in the Recipe Shed.
Still, as a taste experience, Toms hay-baked bird is definitely worth a go, although, to be frank, the idea of it was better than the reality. Now I need to find someone with a rabbit to take the extra half bale of hay off my hands!
1 chicken, about 2kg
6 fresh bay leaves
2 bulbs of garlic
600ml chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small bag of hay
500ml chicken stock
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Place the chicken on top of a piece of muslin, large enough to wrap around it and season with salt and pepper. Put the bay leaves on top of the chicken. Break apart the cloves of garlic from one bulb but dont peel them. Give them a bash with the back of a knife and sprinkle them over the chicken.
2. Wrap the chicken tightly in the muslin, then put it in a large flameproof casserole pot. Pack hay all around the chicken and pour over half the cider. Cover the pot and place it in the oven for one hour, checking occasionally that the liquid hasnt evaporated. If it needs topping up, use the remaining cider and then some hot water, if necessary.
3. Pierce the muslin with a knife and stab the chicken in the thigh joint to check if the juices run clear. If not, return the pot to the oven for a further five minutes. Afterwards, leave the chicken to rest in the pot, covered, for 45 minutes.
4. Remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a chopping board. Pass any liquid from the pot through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Add the chicken stock and continue boiling until the liquid reduces to a sauce/gravy consistency. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. If needed, thicken with a little cornflour mixed with water.
5. Unwrap the chicken from the muslin and remove the garlic and bay leaves. Tom says use a blow torch to brown the skin but I didnt have one, so put the chicken back into a hot oven for 15 mins, though with limited browning success.
6. Serve the chicken whole on a platter and the gravy in a jug. I accompanied mine with roast potatoes tossed in Dijon mustard; carrots cooked on the hob in butter and two branches of thyme, salt and pepper; and Toms Yorkshire puddings (click here for the recipe). Let diners carve the chicken themselves.