I can only recall one plant which I have managed to keep alive for over a year; I was about eight and it was a cactus purchased from the school fair for 20¢. Pretty much sums up the extent of my gardening skills… needs to be something which can survive dire desert conditions and not terribly expensive as under my care, its life expectancy is low!
I thought I might have inherited some gardening skills from my parents, both of whom quite enjoy pottering out in the garden and having plants in the house but no, the green finger genes did not trickle down… Not that it bothers me at all; the idea of digging around in soil doesn’t really appeal and while I do love pretty fresh flowers, my hayfever doesn’t.
It wasn’t until we noticed how often we were using, and therefore buying, fresh herbs that we thought perhaps it was time to give this gardening thing a second chance and grow our own herbs. Being able to literally reach out of our kitchen and grab some basil to finish off a pasta dish or rosemary for Sunday roasts was so handy; but the herb I found us using the most was thyme. As it’s really aromatic and earthy, I found even just a couple of sprigs worth could add a lot of extra flavour and it worked really well with comfort foods such as stews and the stuffing for my roast chicken crown!
The first time I made this dish was on an uneventful Sunday when I decided I was going to learn how to butcher up a chicken; what I hadn’t got round to deciding was how to use all the chicken parts… I’m a legs and thighs girl so those were easily earmarked for a curry or stew, but I was a little stumped by the breasts. Personally, I think there’s nothing worse than dry meat so to avoid that travesty, I decided to stuff ‘em which got the thumbs up from a certain someone and now this dish is a regular on our menus!
Roasted Chicken Crown with Stuffing
- 1 small chicken crown, skin on and deboned so the breasts are still attached
- 30g butter + extra for cooking
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 4 brown button mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs, you may need more or less to get the right consistency
- 2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 200°c.
Cook the butter, shallots, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked through and the spinach is wilted.
Transfer to a bowl, add the thyme and enough breadcrumbs to bind the mixture together. It should be wet enough to clump together with a bit of pressure. Season well with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
While the filling is cooling, you can prepare your chicken crown – I usually get a whole chicken, take off the legs and wings and save those for another meal, and make a stock from the carcass once I’ve removed the breasts. Yep, look at me being all thrifty. Those of you who have portioned and deboned a chicken before will know that the first couple of times are a bit fiddly but all it takes is a little practice. If you’ve never done it before there are plenty of great tutorials on youtube so do give it a go. However if you’re really not confident enough you could also use single butterflied chicken breasts.
Lay your chicken skin-side down onto a flat surface, open up the chicken breast flaps and place the filling in the middle.
Now carefully fold over the chicken breast flaps so they overlap and tie the whole thing together tightly – if you know how to tie a butcher’s knot then go for it, otherwise I find any old knot will do!
Pop it onto a baking tray with a few extra knobs of butter and bake for around 30-40 minutes or until the skin is brown and the juices run clear.
Take out of the oven and leave to rest for 10-15 minutes, meanwhile you can make a gravy from the pan juices if you can be bothered, or just wait then slice and serve – it goes well with all the usual roast accompaniments but I especially like it with a carrot and parsnip mash!
I’m sharing this recipe as part of Cotton Trader’s #CTGrowYourOwn Campaign which aims to encourage more people to try their hand at growing their own herbs – read their handy guide here!
Do you grow your own herbs in the garden or a planter box? Do you have any handy tips for a novice gardener such as myself?!