Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Potjie-roasted Chicken with rosemary and lemon zest butter

Lockdown Recipe of the Day: Potjie-roasted Chicken with rosemary and lemon zest butter
Potjie-roasted chickens (it was a family occasion). (Photo: Tony Jackman)

I revisited this recipe this weekend, adding wine to the potjie juices after removing the chickens to allow them to rest. It's still a winner.

The best way to find a new way of doing something is to think it through, then throw caution to the winds and just do it.

My thinking was that I wanted to use a potjie as if it were an oven. No French-style mélange of chopped onions, celery and carrots at the bottom. No broth or liquid of any kind other than oil. Just the chicken, its seasoning, and the hot potjie. That, and time, and some attention.

The key thing I learnt is that it will not roast in the same way as it will in an oven, with the exposed half of the chicken browning. To get it to brown and crisp all over, you have to turn it. So here’s how…


1 large fresh whole chicken, giblets removed, cleaned and patted dry inside and out

Zest of 1 lemon (and the lemon itself)

2 heaped Tbs rosemary needles, finely chopped

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

4 Tbs butter

2 Tbs olive oil

For the sauce:

2 glasses dry white wine

1 heaped tsp cornflour mixed with water or milk


Have a fire going and coals ready to go under the potjie. The fire should not be too near the flame. Only use a few coals under the potjie at a time so the heat does not burn the chicken. If using a flat cast iron pot, place a few coals around the perimeter.

Clean the bird, pat dry, and cut off the wing tips, which you can either discard or freeze to go into a future chicken stock.

Salt and pepper inside the cavity and all over the skin.

Shove a few rosemary sprigs inside the cavity. Cut the lemon you used for the zest into quarters and stuff inside the cavity. Just use as much as will fit.

Mix together the chopped rosemary needles, butter, and lemon zest. Pack this all over the bird, especially on the breast side.

Pour 2 Tbs olive oil into the potjie and put it over coals. Put the lid on and put coals on the lid. After about 10 minutes, put the chicken in, top side down. Give the pot a little shake. Put the lid on and put more coals on too. Let that side brown for about 10 minutes, then turn and brown the other side for 10 minutes.

Repeat this process, another 10 minutes for the top side, and another 10 minutes for the other. Then leave the chicken breast side up to continue cooking for about two hours, with the lid on and coals on the lid.

Try to avoid lifting the lid or the temperature will drop.

If, when near done, the top side isn’t crisp enough for your liking, use two wooden spoons to carefully turn it over (but be careful it does not fall apart as it’s tender and by now) and crisp that side for 10 minutes more.

Remove chicken to a dish and keep warm (covered in foil or in a warmer drawer, or in a metal dish at the braai). Add the wine to the pot, put plenty of hot coals underneath, and let it simmer to develop the flavours and reduce the liquid a little. Optionally, you can stir in the cornflour (mixed with milk or water) to thicken it.

TGIFood Tip: Lemon potato wedges would be a wonderful accompaniment to this dish. Douse wedges in olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven until golden and crispy. Shake the pan once in a while, and turn the wedges once carefully with a spatula. DM/TGIFood

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Send your Lockdown Recipes to [email protected] with a hi-resolution horizontal (landscape) photo.

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