Recipe: Roast Mexican Chicken with Pumpkin & Pesto
While bacon will come in at a pretty close second, if anyone asks me what the one meat product I can’t live without is I’ll say chicken thighs (if we’re even counting chicken as meat, because they’re really poultry, if you’re going to be fussy!) Skinless boneless or the whole shebang where the skin can crisp up beautifully, they are so versatile and can be used to replicate basically any nations cuisine with as much or as little effort as you want. I cook with them with such regularity that it is a surprise to me I’ve only got seven other recipes for them on the blog (I’ve linked to them at the bottom of this post for a bit more inspiration!)
While we’re on the subject of things in my kitchen that are absolute staples, I need to rave about my new Le Creuset roaster. I’ve been cooking with their amazing cookware as long as I’ve been cooking (my mother is also a fan) and you just can’t beat the quality. They’ll also last you a lifetime and they look great, too. While I love the coloured enamel numbers because they look pretty, ever since John Lewis gave me one of their toughened non-stick casserole dishes (last seen housing Baked Eggs with Black Pudding & Potatoes) I have been in love with the magical coating which literally nothing sticks to. You can roast anything in this tray (get your hands on one here) and no burnt on bits will stick – it has revolutionised my roasts. Full disclaimer: this was gift from Le Creuset and they’ve asked me to blog about it once. I promise you that you’re going to see this crop up here way, way more times than that, I love it so much. It is already my go-to piece of kit.
Now, let us get onto this chicken recipe, which is only slightly adapted from my third kitchen favourite of the post, Diana Henry’s landmark cookbook A Bird In The Hand. If you don’t own a copy it is a brilliant book that literally covers any way you could want to cook some chicken (and many more ways you probably have not thought of yet) and this one is right at the beginning of the book. While most of the flavours here work at any time of the year, I love it for around now as there are still a load of pumpkins in the shops even though everyone has lost interest in carving them now Halloween as past.
I’ve changed this up to serve two, which incidentally is the right size for an average roaster. I’ve also played fast and loose with the pesto recipe to suit what I had to hand, so no one will mind if you do too! Try to choose the smallest pumpkin you can find: not only does it cut down on leftovers (and it is a nightmare to have a mass of unallocated pumpkin flesh in the fridge even with a good soup recipe to hand), but the flavour will be much better.
- 1/2 tbsp Soft Light Brown Sugar
- 2 Fresh Thyme Sprigs
- 1 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 tsp Ground Allspice
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Juice of 1 Lime
- 4 Skin On, Bone In Chicken Thighs
- Juice of 1/2 Orange
- 1/2 Small Culinary Pumpkin
- Sea Salt
- Small Handful Pumpkin Seeds
- Small Handful Blanched Almonds
- 2 Large Handfuls Fresh Coriander
- 1 Red Chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- Small Handful Crumbled Feta
Combine the sugar, the leaves of the fresh thyme sprigs, dried oregano, spices, half of the lime juice, the orange juice and 2 tbsp of olive oil to make a marinade and make sure the chicken thighs are well coated – I like to do this in a plastic bag to make sure everything is well coated, and it saves space in the fridge! You can do this while you’re preparing the pumpkin, but if you can leave it to marinate for at least a couple of hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (355 fahrenheit). Peel and deseed the pumpkin, cutting it into thick slices. Arrange in a roasting tray with the chicken thighs (skin side up), setting aside the marinade. Season the pumpkin with sea salt. Roast for 40 minutes, basting the chicken with the leftover marinate every so often until you’ve used it all up.
Meanwhile, make the pesto. In a mini chopper (I have this one) or using a pestle and mortar (this is the one I use) combine the rest of the lime juice, the pumpkin seeds, almonds, coriander, a pinch of salt, half the chopped chilli and a good glug of oil. Add a bit more oil if you don’t think the mixture is loose enough.
Either on each plate, or still in the roasting tray if you’re bringing it to the table drizzle over the pesto, and scatter everything with the feta and leftover chilli pieces. If you’ve got any leftover coriander, this will look great scattered over too. Serve straight away, because I’m afraid this one does not really keep/ re-heat very well!
A few more of the recipes I love to make with chicken thighs: Mediterranean Roast Chicken, Skinny Sticky Storecupboard Barbecue Chicken, 5 Herb & Garlic Barbecue Chicken Thighs, One Pot Roast Chicken Thighs with Lentils & Rosemary, Oven-roasted Chicken with Sumac, Pomegranate Molasses, Chilli & Sesame Seeds, Barbecue Turmeric Chicken Thighs, Honey Spiced Chicken with Indian-style Veggies.