Spring Chicken cooked with lemon juice, garlic and olives



Free range chicken ready for spatchcocking and cooking with lemon juice, olives and garlic

Succulent lemony chicken pieces bathed in a rich lemon and garlic sauce. I first ate this dish on holiday in Tuscany about ten years ago. It was cooked for us by the American housekeeper who was a passionate foodie. She was generous in sharing this lovely recipe since when it has become a true family favourite, requested by my daughters when they come home from ‘uni’, and for high days and holidays, spring, summer, winter.  Because of the nature of its ‘spatchcoking‘ we call this dish affectionately ‘Splat Chicken’. I like to serve the chicken cut into pieces, stacked on a warm dish and surrounded by its juice and component parts as part of a casual help-yourself meal served at the table. 

Splat chicken cooked with lemon and garlic

Serves 5-6

1 x 3.5-4kg chicken

4 lemons, juiced and shells retained

6 cloves garlic skins on

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

½ tsp pepper or chili flakes (optional)

1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper

100ml good quality olive oil

120g pitted green olives


Spatchcock  the chicken  – this is a slightly unusual but easier way to spatchcock and the chicken  retains  its flavour and succulence.  Put the chicken on a chopping board (as shown in the first picture above) and cut through the breast bone from one end of the chicken to the other. Open out the chicken, pressing it inside down onto the board and then put it skin side up into the roasting tin (as in this picture below).



Spatchcock Chicken splayed, skin side up and covered with olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, garlic and pepper. Splat chicken!


Pour over the lemon juice adding the lemon ‘shells’ to the roasting tin. pour over the olive oil, sprinkle with the pepper and then scatter over the garlic cloves, thyme and olives. Cover and marinade for an hour.

Heat the oven to gas to 200c/180c/gas 6/5. Put the chicken in to cook and baste regularly. If the skin or the olives start to colour too quickly then cover loosely with butter paper or foil or reduce the oven temperature slightly. If the lemon juice catches on the bottom of the roasting pan then tip in a cup of water. You need the juice to make a rich and lemony gravy.

Cook for about an hour and a half  depending on the size of the bird. The skin should be golden and the chicken surrounded by a lemon sauce. Remove the chicken from the oven and rest it in a warm place for 10 minutes.

To serve, joint the chicken into 8 pieces and put onto a warm dish. Spoon over the olives and the lemon shells. Put somewhere warm while you make the sauce.

Remove the lemon ‘shells’ and the thyme stalks; I like to use them as a garnish on the serving dish. Using the back of a wooden spoon squash the garlic cloves so that the soft cooked flesh separates from the outer skin. Discard the outer skins. Put the baking tray over a moderate heat and stirring boldly simmer the sauce mixing in the pulped garlic. The cooked garlic acts as an emulsifier and the  lemon juice and oil should come together in a rich thick gravy. Pour this lovely juice over the jointed chicken and serve.


And ready to serve – Chicken with lemon, garlic and olives – the family Hill ‘Splat Chicken’.

I like to serve this with either home made tagliatelle, soft polenta or with rosemary roasted potatoes and lashing of freshly steamed vegetables .

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