|Cuban roast chicken with sour orange mojo sauce|
Cuban food is a fabulous combination of their historical influences and local ingredients. Since the island is the perfect example of melting pot influences, from Spanish, Portuguese and South American Indian to African, Chinese and Arab.
The food is also the food of ingenuity and creativity. You have to be imaginative when you are surrounded by hardship; when food is rationed. I had never been made more aware of this until I read the books of Leonardo Padura
Padura has written a series of detective novels, featuring The Count, Lt Mario Conde, who is based in Havana and isn't entirely sure why he joined the police force; his mixture of indifference and efficiency both annoys, disconcerts and endears.
But The Count's feelings towards his friends and food are anything but reserved since he appears to love them all in equal measure and I was entranced by descriptions of the food cooked in plenty of garlic and bitter orange, with Argentine olive oil, black beans and rice - food of a sunshine island, in a country blighted by "Stalinism with palm trees" and the sadness of a lost generation.
This all sounds terribly depressing, but don't despair. This roast chicken served with moros y christianos rice and a sour orange mojo sauce was enough to make anyone smile.
Skill level: Easy
2-3 chicken pieces per person (use thighs and drumsticks)
4-5 x garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
juice of 1 x fresh lime (reserve the shells)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sour orange mojo sauce
fresh thyme sprigs (to serve)
- Make the marinade by blending together all the ingredients.
- Coat the chicken pieces in the marinade and leave in the fridge, preferably overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas Mark 5.
- Bring the chicken pieces back to room temperature and place in a baking tray, together with the remaining marinade and reserved lime shells. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, basting occasionally.
- Remove the foil and continue to cook for 10 minutes to brown the chicken skin.
- Serve with mojo sauce and moros y christianos rice. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.