Sat, Dec 01, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Ian’s Table: Take a leek

Locally grown Japanese leeks are gaining traction as a delicacy on Taiwanese tables

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Contributing reporter

(Serves 4)

This recipe is a bit of a cheat, mostly because the best way of cooking leeks is to do as little as possible. In this case, that very little involves no more than putting them under the grill. A bit of good olive oil and sea salt is really all that is needed to bring out some really amazing flavors that just happen to go well with a generous cut of roast chicken and potatoes. So there is not much to elaborate on the Japanese leek that has not been noted in the accompanying article.

I don’t know about others, but roast chicken for me as a child was always surrounded by an awesome mystique as something special, almost ritualistic, in the elements of its preparation. Then there is the banal simplicity of supermarket roast chicken, churned out from industrial rotisseries at great speed and sold for appealing prices. But a home-roasted chicken, if sourced well and coupled with just one or two flavorful elements, is a meal not easily surpassed. It takes only minutes to prepare. If nothing else, years in the kitchen have taught me that when good ingredients are on hand, the less you do to them, the better. The work is easier and the result is better — what is there to complain about in that?

This is my version of a roast chicken supper. The addition of basil provides a Mediterranean touch, but go for a mixture of cumin and coriander if you want a Middle Eastern twist, or perhaps stuff the chicken with half a lemon (instead of an onion) and rub with oregano and rosemary for some Greek flair.


1 whole chicken, naturally raised if not free-range

2 teaspoons oil

Half a small onion

1 tablespoon dried basil (optional)

12 baby potatoes

4-5 stems Japanese leeks, depending on thickness

Salt and pepper to season


1. If the chicken is frozen, defrost it thoroughly. The best method for this is to transfer it to the fridge the day before, a process that requires at least 24 hours for a well-frozen chicken. If purchased from a traditional market, the chicken should be washed thoroughly and for best roasting results, refrigerated uncovered overnight before roasting. Much depends on the bird in hand, but something that is unfrozen, or at least slowly defrosted, will serve best. Frozen imported supermarket chicken, especially if alluringly cheap, should be avoided.

2. Once the chicken is defrosted, rub vigorously with salt and pepper, and dried basil if using, then refrigerate for six hours or overnight to dry out slightly.

3. Wash the baby potatoes thoroughly.

4. Place a sturdy baking tray with a little oil in a preheated oven prepared to 200 degrees Celsius.

5. Put half an onion (or lemon) in the cavity of the chicken. Remove the baking tray from the oven and place the chicken breast-side up in the hot tray. Add the potatoes and toss to slightly coat with oil. Place in the oven and roast for a total of 40 minutes, basting the chicken and tossing the potatoes in oil after about 20 minutes.

6. Once the chicken is cooked (internal temperature for the thickest part of the meat should be around 62 degrees Celsius), set it aside to rest for at least 15 minutes.

7. Spoon out a little of the chicken fat and drizzle over the leeks. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place under the grill for about five minutes until they start to soften and color.

8. Remove the leeks and serve with cut sections from the chicken and the roast potatoes. It doesn’t get easier than that.

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