Elisabeth Luard, in her absorbing book European Peasant Cookery, introduces one of my most treasured poultry dishes from France with the following note from one of her close relatives whom she describes as a gentleman-of-letters’:

“Garlic eaters, assuredly wiser than lotus eaters, have to enjoy their pleasure among themselves. Either everybody eats garlic and delights in its beautiful flavour as well as in the vitamins, which make it so healthy – or nobody does. People who reek of garlic are pests to their neighbours at parties and in public places. Neither is it advisable to arrive at any love or business appointment in an aura of garlic. The results in both cases could be disappointing. Enjoy your garlic at home parties only, maybe for lunch in the country; but in town, only for supper, so that everybody has a good night’s sleep ahead to eliminate the fragrance which could be unbearable to others. Garlic has to be restrained to private pleasure.”

Warned you have certainly been, but please don’t desist from cooking this delicious meal. Perhaps a rider…consenting adults only.

Garlic Chicken from European Cookery (2007) Elisabeth Luard

1 free-range roasting chicken

40 cloves of garlic

1 wine glass of olive oil

Salt and freshly milled pepper

Sprigs of thyme, rosemary, marjoram and chervil

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6

Wipe the chicken inside and out and truss it neatly

Pour half of the oil into a lidded casserole and then put in the unpeeled garlic cloves

Settle the chicken on this pearly bed, sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour on the rest of the oil

Tuck the herbs all around and on top, and seal with the lid

Bake for 1¼ hours undisturbed, turning the oven down to 350F/180C/Gas 4 after half an hour

Use the last 15 minutes waiting time to prepare a green salad and to cut for each diner 2/3 slices of bread

Toast the bread under a very hot grill

Serve the casserole at the table, lifting the lid the scent will be heavenly

Squeeze garlic cloves from their papery jackets onto a piece of hot toast and top with a sliver of chicken. Eat with green salad

Elisabeth ends with “Continue till all is finished up”. Now doesn’t that sound like a fine invitation?

Wine thoughts

 Just south of the acclaimed vineyards of the Côte de Beaune in Burgundy lies the neat city of Mâcon, coincidently a mere stone’s throw from the revered centre of French chicken rearing; Bresse. (If you can lay your hands on a Poulet de Bresse for this dish, I roundly suggest that you do so. I promise you will thank me!)

Whites of Mâcon, are all built from Chardonnay grapes and are often inexpensive and gluggable. Reach out to Mâcon Supérieur or Mâcon-Villages for high Burgundian value with low Burgundian costs, both potentially delicious partners for this dish.