Emily Dobbs recommends making this dish if you want to impress and spice up a roast dinner.
She says: “The butter, coconut milk and chicken juices turn into a gutsy sauce. Butterflying quickens the cooking time and ensures the chicken is cooked evenly – even in an unpredictable oven. Marinating the bird in yoghurt tenderises the meat, making it extra juicy and succulent.”
- 2kg free-range chicken
- 1/2 quantity chilli butter, melted
- 800ml coconut milk
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chilli butter:
- 250g salted butter, softened
- 4 red bird’s-eye chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 15g garlic, peeled (optional)
For the marinade:
- 500g natural yoghurt or curd
- 50g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 50g garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
For the brown sugar limes:
- 4 limes
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar or grated jiggery
- chopped fresh herbs
- pomegranate seeds
Make the marinade – whizz everything in a blender, or grate the ginger and garlic into a bowl and combine with the yoghurt and spices using a wooden spoon. And to make the chilli butter – also whizz everything in a blender (save half in the fridge for another time).
Next, butterfly the chicken. Place it breast side down and cut down each side of the spine with strong kitchen scissors, then turn the chicken over and press down hard on the breast with both hands until you have flattened the chicken. Alternatively, you could ask your butcher to do this.
Cover the chicken with the marinade, inside and out. Leave overnight in the fridge or for at least a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6 and find a roasting tin that allows the chicken to fit snugly inside.
Fit the bird in the roasting tin with the coconut milk and cook on the middle shelf for 45-50 minutes. A large 2kg chicken should cook perfectly during this time. For a slightly smaller bird, check if cooked after 45 minutes by pulling gently on a leg and seeing whether the juices run clear, basting the chicken juices and coconut milk over the chicken every 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, cut the limes in half and put in a bowl. Mix in the oil and sugar and place skin side down on a baking tray with most of the sugar on the flesh. Place on the top shelf of the oven in the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Put the chicken juices and coconut milk that remain in the tin through a sieve and season to taste with more salt or brown sugar if necessary. Transfer the chicken to a warm serving plate and leave to rest for at least 20 and up to 40 minutes uncovered, then serve it with the sieved sauce, the brown sugar limes, some chopped fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds (and any optional sides you fancy).
Weligama: Recipes From Sri Lanka by Emily Dobbs, photography by Issy Croker, is published by Seven Dials. Available now.
What do you think of this spiced roast chicken? Do you like to experiment with different flavours or stick to a traditional roast?