“I begin with the proposition that eating is an agricultural act. Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth. Most eaters, however, are no longer aware that this is true. They think of food as an agricultural product, perhaps, but they do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture.”

What are People For? (1990) Wendell Berry

As with all the chicken recipes I use, it is imperative to seek out high welfare, guaranteed free-range birds.

With popular legislation enacted to prevent the suffering of the odd quarry during a foxhunt, why in the UK do we sanction 900 million chickens per year to live and die under conditions which Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, in his foreword to Hattie Ellis’s disturbing book, Planet Chicken (2007) describes as, “industrialised savagery”? And why, given the many who are evidently sceptical of farm subsidies, do we appear to be so reluctant to pay the appropriate cost for a well-reared chicken?

As Wendell Berry declares -“Eating’, like shopping, ‘is an agricultural act’. Whatever we choose to buy, agriculturalists will continue to rear or plant.

For now, a delicious free-range, high welfare chicken recipe from a book that illustrates the richness and diversity of Jerusalem and its far reaching tapestry of multi-cultural and multi-faith cuisines, cooked regularly in a lapsed agnostic’s kitchen in Norfolk.

Jerusalem (2012) Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Roasted Chicken with Clementines and Arak

 100ml arak, ouzo or Pernod

4 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tbsp grain mustard

3 tbsp light brown sugar

2 medium fennel bulbs

1 large free-range chicken divided into 8 pieces

4 clementines, unpeeled, sliced horizontally into 0.5cm slices

1 tbsp fennel seeds. slightly crushed

Salt and black pepper

Chopped flat-leaf parsley to garnish

Put the first 6 ingredients in a large mixing bowl and add 2½ teaspoons of salt and 1½ teaspoons of black pepper, set aside

Trim the fennel and cut each bulb in half lengthways, cut each half into 4 wedges

Add the fennel to the liquids along with the chicken pieces, clementine slices, thyme and fennel seeds

Stir well, then leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight

Preheat the oven to 220°C/ gas mark 7

Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking tray large enough to accommodate everything comfortably in a single layer (roughly 30cm x 37cm tray), the chicken skin should be facing up

Once the oven is hot enough, put the tray in the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes until the chicken is coloured and cooked through

Remove from the oven

Lift the chicken, fennel and clementines from the tray and arrange on a serving plate, cover and keep warm

Pour the cooking liquids into a small saucepan, place on medium heat, bring to the boil then simmer until the sauce is reduced by a third.

Pour the hot sauce over the chicken, garnish with some chopped parsley and serve

Wine thoughts

 With such a mix of intense and varied flavours, this is no time for a lightweight, shrinking violet of a wine. I have no hesitation in reaching out for that least casual, most demanding of white wines: Gewürztraminer. Gewürz is German for spice and that is one of its welcome characteristics when pairing a wine with this formidable dish. An alluring sense of sweetness on the nose, is followed by a rounded but bone-dry spiciness that knits together with the arak and fennel in the dish, rather than competes.