Mrs McCulloch’s baked chicken with sea salt – Mary

42 years ago at our wedding one of my uncles gave a speech, during the course of which, as a resident of Golders Green, he presented my husband with a copy of what must have been one of the early examples of a community recipe book, The Hampstead Cookery Book. There, along with Dame Peggy Ashcroft’s Boo-Loo-Gai and Miss Judi Dench’s Carrot and Orange soup (chilled) was his contribution of a recipe for Pig’s Head Brawn, originally, I think, from my grandmother. I am not sure if he thought my husband had the makings of a chef or if he thought everyone should be able to master the art of this highly skilled procedure. My mother was a careful creator of this complex dish, producing an appetising result, but it is not for the faint hearted. I think I may have attempted it once in the long distant past.

Glancing through the contents page some time later however, I happened upon Mrs McCulloch’s Baked Chicken with sea salt. It turned out to be quite the most useful recipe for the ensuing forty plus years, tweaked only slightly, adaptable from one to as many as you like and suitable for a family meal or a casual repast with friends. In later years my husband, finding himself sometimes in charge of his own meals would return to this dish with much enthusiasm. Thank you Mrs McCulloch!

  • Ingredients: Chicken – (as many portions as required) I like to use thighs. Remove any excess fat but do not remove the skin.
    Rosemary – (preferably fresh)
    Sea Salt – (ordinary cooking salt will not do)
  • Method: Preheat the oven to 170°C ( Again this is flexible depending on how much time you have . You can cook it a bit faster or slower or a bit of both depending on your timetable). Choose a fairly shallow dish and either place the rosemary sprigs on the bottom or tuck them between the chicken portions which should fit comfortably in a single layer in the dish. If you are using dried rosemary you could also sprinkle it over. Then sprinkle with the sea salt. (you may wish to experiment with quantities.)

This needs nothing more. The sea salt draws out the natural juices from the meat.  Place in the preheated oven for half an hour, reduce the heat to 150°C and bake for another hour and a half. The result is tasty, succulent chicken with wonderful crispy skins.

This works just as well served with new potatoes/rice and a green salad/ french beans or in winter with baked potatoes and perhaps a fresh cabbage salad. The choice is yours!  It has never failed to please.”

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