I never tire of the French writer Colette. She could write endlessly about that most fascinating (and trickiest) subject of all – love, without ever being sentimental. I go back to her books again and again, both for her seemingly effortless prose and her countrywoman’s eye for nature. For me her books have the feeling of absolute truth and have the same effect on me as a holiday (without travel fatigue). How I long to have been her house guest, not only for conversation but for the food, from her books you can tell Colette understood all that makes a meal worthwhile. This recipe isn't a million miles away from the camping chicken but just different enough I think and any chance that it might allow a new reader to discover the delights of Cheri is worth taking.
Colette’s spring chicken
“So why don’t you come down to the country? No nonsense, of course. Ripe strawberries, fresh cream, cakes, grilled spring chicken….that’s just what you need – and no women.”
Colette - Cheri
Lea is a famed courtesan at the end of her career. An offer of home-cooking made to the young and dissolute Cheri begins the one great love affair of both their lives.
Serves 2 (of course)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 small chickens (approx 400-450g each), cut along the backbone and beaten flat with your hand or a rolling pin
juice and zest of 1 lemon
sea salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Rub the herbs, zest and seasoning into the chicken and anoint with the lemon juice. Pour over the olive oil and leave to marinade for a few hours (no less than 1 hour).
Season again and prepare the grill. If it is outside, make sure the coals are glowing not burning - you need an even heat to cook chicken well. Place the chickens on the grill or griddle and cook for about 20 minutes per side, until the meat is cooked but juicy. Pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a knife and if the juices run clear without a trace of blood, the meat is cooked.
Serve with new potatoes cooked in paper and a freshly picked green salad followed by strawberries and cream for the full literary effect.