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Lemon & Onion Roast Chicken / Yassa Poulet Roast. An African inspired roast for Christmas.

This Christmas I am serving four roasts with chicken, beef, butternut squash and seafood. You don’t have to be complicated like me, but I hope to inspire you to add a taste of Africa to your feast.

My chicken roast is a combination of some of Thurston’s favourites; chicken and roasted onions. For a unique roast that can easily become a family favourite, try my Lemon & Onion Roast Chicken inspired by the Senegalese Yassa Poulet.

Lemon & OnionRoast Chicken / Yassa Poulet

Lemon & OnionRoast Chicken / Yassa Poulet

Yassa Poulet is the all singing Senegalese dish with pieces of chicken stewed amongst sweet caramelised onions, sharp mustard, and tangy lemons, creating such rich flavours that only time and patience can achieve. This recipe is a wonderful marriage of Senegalese and French cuisine and reminiscent of sauce a l’oignon.

A bed of onions and shallots for the bird.

A bed of onions and shallots for the bird.

The large amount of onions used is the key to a moist and flavourful roast and a rich sauce. I decided to marinate my onions overnight to give it time to break down in the acids of lemon and cider vinegar, before adding the whole chicken to marinate for 4 hours. I am not a fan of marinating chicken in acidic fluids for longer than four hours because acids tenderise meats and if overdone you risk turning your chicken into a tough sack.

Although Yassa Poulet is typically cooked with peanut oil which is very flavourful, I have used sunflower oil because of my allergies. Any vegetable oil will do. I have adapted the recipe to suit a roast, and instead of caramelising the onions first, they create a bed for the bird to roast on, and rich drippings for a sauce or gravy.

29cm oval Le Creuset cast iron casserole

29cm oval Le Creuset cast iron casserole; a treat from my favourite cooking brand

I was lucky to be sent some treats from the new Marine collection from Le Creuset. The first of my Christmas presents this year. I have been a very good girl!
The oval cast iron casserole was the perfect tool for my roast. Nothing stuck to the bottom, the entire roast was moist and cooked to perfection. Basting the chicken two or three times throughout the roasting process is the secret to cooking a moist roast but with my Le Creuset casserole I didn’t need to, as the moisture transported to the top of the lid traveled back down onto the roast.

Once cooked, I placed the chicken on a serving dish to rest while I finished off the sauce and gravy in the same casserole.
Anything for reduced washing up and I’m all in. Le Creuset is such a dream!

Lemon and onion chicken roast

Pro chef tip: Grill for 15 minutes opened for crispy skin

We haven’t gone through Christmas yet and I am already yearning for naughty leftovers, many of which this dish will serve to be exquisitely useful. Healthy lettuce wraps, a late night sandwich, a quick salad with chicory and roasted nuts or mini pies with fluffy mashed potatoes on top. This is a roast that just keeps on giving.

Try it this Christmas!

Lemon & Onion Roast Chicken / Yassa Poulet Roast


Preparation time: 4 – 12 hours; Cooking time: 1hr 45 minutes
Feeds 4-6 people


For the marinade
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 medium scotch bonnet, pierced or finely minced
4 tbsp. of vegetable oil, peanut oil, sunflower or rapeseed
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
4 tbsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. cider vinegar
6 cloves of grated garlic,
2 tbsp. grated ginger
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
3 tsp. salt

For the roasted chicken and onions
1.5 kg free range & corn fed whole chicken (use what you wish)
Fresh herbs to stuff the chicken, 3 thyme sprigs, 2 rosemary, 1 bay leaf, 1 sage
1 whole lemon, sliced into two, skin pricked with a fork
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
3 carrots, washed and halved
100ml water
6 chili peppers

For the gravy
4 – 5 heaped tbsp. roasted onions, carrots and drippings
200ml stock or a diluted cube mixed with warm water
100ml single cream
Salt or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Mis-en-place! Prepare all the ingredients ready for the marinade. Lay the sliced onions, shallots and pierced or minced scotch bonnet in a non-reactive roasting dish such as glass, ceramic or a Dutch oven like I did with my oval Le Creuset cast iron casserole.
2. Mix the remaining ingredients for the marinade in a separate container.
Add half of the mixture to the onions and mix well. Cover your casserole with the lid or wrap your roasting dish tightly with cling film and keep overnight in the refrigerator, or at least for four hours. The longer the onions are left to marinate the sweeter they will become. Reserve the remaining half of the marinade for the chicken.

3. If your chicken is frozen be sure to defrost it properly before roasting in order to achieve an evenly cooked roast. Brush the reserved marinade onto the outer layers and into the cavity of the chicken and then stuff with the lemon halves and fresh herbs. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil onto the chicken and place on top of the marinated onions. Cover with your casserole lid of wrap tightly in clingfilm and keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

4. To roast, preheat oven to 200C/180C fan.
Take your marinated onions and chicken out of the fridge, take the lid off or remove cling film if used. Add the whole chili peppers and chopped carrots to the marinated onions. Pour 100ml of water around the sides of the roast. Roast covered using your casserole lid or foil at 200C/180C fan for 1 hour and 25 minutes. A larger bird will require more time. Increase your roasting time by 30 minutes for every 500g.

5. For restaurant-style crispy skin, turn on the grill for the final 15 minutes and grill the roast unopened. Make sure your chicken is well cooked by using a thermometer to check for 75C – 80C or by pushing a skewer through the thickest part of the thigh. The juices will run clear when ready.
6. Once cooked, remove from the oven, and using two wooden spoons or lifting forks, carefully remove the chicken along with some roasted onions and carrots. Place on a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
7. Place your Dutch oven on medium heat or transfer the remaining onions, carrots and all drippings into a pot. Cook for 5 minutes before adding 200 ml of stock. Cook for 10 minutes to reduce the sauce and then add 200 ml of single cream. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes or until lightly thickened. Add a pinch or two of salt if needed and freshly ground pepper. Black pepper makes everything magical.
8. If using a glass jug or an immersion hand blender, you can blend immediately, if using a plastic jug, leave the sauce to cool down slightly before blending into a silky smooth gravy.

9. Carve your roast and serve with your favourite accompaniments such as rice, potatoes, plantains, it will even do wonders stuffed in a sandwich or piled onto a salad for Christmas leftovers.

Cook’s tip: This marinade is wonderful for roasted vegetables especially the likes of aubergines, potatoes, and cauliflower that cook well in sauces. Fabulous for fish and if using beef, marinate for 24 hours for tender succulent steaks and fillets.


Check out my youtube channel, LERATO LOVES FOOD for more recipes. I have just launched the channel and I hope to share lots more videos.

If you enjoyed this recipe, like and share to the world. I love reading from you and sharing recipe photos, so do share yours on twitter @leratotomato or Instagram @lerato_tomato
Remember to use the hashtag #leratolovesfood so I can find your posts.

Happy Christmas with lots of love and scotch bonnet kisses from me to you!


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