Roast chicken with verjuice, white grapes and tarragon

Roast chicken with verjuice, white grapes and tarragon

Real Food by Mike
Alan Benson

There is a famous French fish dish called sole veronique. I was inspired by the ingredients to make it with chicken, another white-fleshed meat. I have also eaten a very similar dish in France served with quail. I really love the sweet flavour from the grapes juxtaposed with the bitter flavour of the radicchio. Adding radicchio to the warm juices will make it wilt slightly and lose some of its bitterness, and it’s delicious for soaking up the juice. The walnuts give the dish a nice crunch and tarragon just happens to be my favourite herb.


Quantity Ingredient
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 x 1.5kg free-range chicken
200ml verjuice
1 handful thyme sprigs
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
360g picked white grapes
1 handful activated walnuts
1 bunch tarragon, leaves picked
6 radicchio leaves


  1. Place the garlic cloves inside the chicken, then place the chicken in a large zip-lock plastic bag. Pour in half the verjuice and add the thyme sprigs. Fasten the bag and shake well. Leave to marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator, shaking every so often as you walk past.
  2. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  3. Tip the chicken into a terracotta or non-reactive baking dish (you might like to serve it in the same dish you cook it in) with a healthy splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. Put the dish in the oven and cook the chicken for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200°C for 20 minutes – until the drumstick easily twists out of the socket of the thigh when tested. The chicken will colour fast because the verjuice is high in residual sugar. If you find that it’s colouring too fast, reduce the heat by 10°C and cover the chicken with aluminium foil.
  4. When you think it’s about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked, add the remaining verjuice and the grapes. Scatter over the walnuts. Allow to sizzle and roast for a final 10 minutes.The grapes will swell and burst. (A purist would say you need to peel them, but I say this is too much work.) The time to add the grapes is really up to you – you can cook them longer so they blister, or just enough so they go soft.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and scatter over the tarragon leaves. Leave to rest for 15 minutes to allow all the flavours to mingle.
  6. The best way to cut the chook is with poultry shears if you have them. Cut up the breast plate to divide the chicken. Remove the leg and thigh and use your shears to cut up the breast – don’t be precious.
  7. Finish with a few torn radicchio leaves thrown into the warm juices and a fresh grinding of black pepper.

Medicinal Benefit

  • Chicken is a quality source of lean protein, needed to build muscle. It contains selenium, which helps regulate thyroid hormone activity, and is high in vitamin B (which helps convert food into energy). It’s also rich in phosphorus and calcium, two minerals that help build and protect bones. Tarragon has one of the highest antioxidant levels of all the common herbs. It also contains compounds that help restrict blood clotting inside the tiny blood vessels of organs, such as the heart and brain, and this protects from heart attack and stroke.
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