Most of us remember the first time we tasted preserved lemon. Perhaps there were yellow dots of the briny, yellow peel simmered through a North African tagine, strips scattered over creamy labneh, or even little lemony jewels tossed through a simple vegetarian pasta sauce.
Whatever the nature of their introduction, preserved lemons leave an impression. Made by slowly curing whole lemons in salt, the resulting ingredient has its citrus vibrancy amplified. Even better, thanks to its hugely punchy flavour, a little goes a long way. Add it to stews, soups, braises, salads, couscous, roast potatoes, rice dishes or use it to garnish roast meats and barbecued seafood.
Similarly, Aleppo pepper needs only a small introduction to a dish to make a big impression. The ripe chillies are only semi-dried before being crushed, giving them a gentle heat, soft texture, mild smokiness and deep red hue. They add a boost of flavour, colour and warmth to potatoes, eggs, fish, steak, soup and almost any other savoury dish.
This roast chicken stuffed with preserved lemons, Aleppo pepper and thyme is a perfect match for a bowl of lemony roast potatoes (we love RecipeTin’s simple recipe), and a simply dressed salad, perhaps with a preserved lemon dressing.
Preheat your oven to 170C.
Remove the flesh and white pith from the preserved lemon, leaving only the yellow skin, and dice as finely as possible (alternatively, use a food processor to break down the skin). Add to a bowl with the room temperature butter, thyme leaves and fleur de sel, then use a microplane (or other fine grater) to grate in three of the cloves of garlic. Combine very well with a fork.
Carefully push your index finger in under the skin of the chicken, sliding it between the skin and the breast. Take half the butter mix and push it into one side of this pocket, running your hand over the top of the skin to help spread the butter mix out. Repeat with the other breast.
Slip the two remaining garlic cloves into the chicken’s large cavity, then truss the legs together using oven-proof butcher’s twine.
Transfer the chicken to a large oven-proof frying pan or roasting tray, and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven after this time and, using a pastry brush or spoon, baste the chicken with the melted butter that has begun to pool at the base of the pan. Return the chicken to the oven and repeat the basting process every 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (around 1 1/4 hours).
Remove from oven and rest for 10-15 minutes, then sprinkle with additional Aleppo pepper, thyme leaves, salt and freshly ground pepper, carve and serve.