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Roast Chicken With Verjuice, White Grapes and Tarragon

Sweet grapes, crunchy activated walnuts, and a wonderful roast chicken

There is a famous French fish dish called sole veronique. I was inspired by the ingredients to make it with chicken, another white-fleshed meat. I have also eaten a very similar dish in France served with quail. I really love the sweet flavour from the grapes juxtaposed with the bitter flavor of the radicchio. Adding radicchio to the warm juices will make it wilt slightly and lose some of its bitterness, and it’s delicious for soaking up the juice. The walnuts give the dish a nice crunch and tarragon just happens to be my favourite herb.

‘Activated’ has become a buzz word whenever we use nuts. The main reason people activate nuts is that raw nuts contain phytates and enzyme inhibitors, which can reduce the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients properly. It’s best to activate all nuts and pulses, and even seeds, to purge them, although some seeds are very small and difficult to handle. There have also been arguments on the other side of the fence, however, saying that phytates are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant properties. The choice is yours.

I activate nuts because I like the texture of them. The crunch is deep and far more satisfying than just toasting them in the oven. Once they’ve been soaked and rinsed, they’re ready to be made into nut milks or dehydrated until crisp. Try using tamari instead of salt for a different toasted flavor, but you will need to use double the amount of tamari. —Mike McEnearney, author of Real Food by Mike


Medicinal benefit: Muscles, bones, and joints

Chicken is a quality source of lean protein, needed to build muscle. It contains selenium, which helps regulate thyroid hormone activity, and is high in vitamin B (which helps convert food into energy). It’s also rich in phosphorus and calcium, two minerals that help build and protect bones. Tarragon has one of the highest antioxidant levels of all the common herbs. It also contains compounds that help restrict blood clotting inside the tiny blood vessels of organs, such as the heart and brain, and this protects from heart attack and stroke.


  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • One 3-pound-5-ounce free-range chicken
  • 7 fluid ounces verjuice
  • 1 handful thyme sprigs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 2 Cups picked white grapes
  • 1 handful activated walnuts (see below)
  • 1 bunch tarragon, leaves picked
  • 6 radicchio leaves

Activated nuts:

  • 2 Cups raw nuts, shelled
  • 2 Teaspoons salt
  • 2 Cups water


Place the garlic cloves inside the chicken, and then place the chicken in a large zip-close plastic bag. Pour in half the verjuice and add the thyme sprigs. Fasten the bag and shake well. Leave to marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator, shaking every so often as you walk past.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C (430 degrees F).

Tip the chicken into a terracotta or non-reactive baking dish (you might like to serve it in the same dish you cook it in) with a healthy splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. Put the dish in the oven and cook the chicken for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F) for 20 minutes — until the drumstick easily twists out of the socket of the thigh when tested. The chicken will color quickly because the verjuice is high in residual sugar. If you find that it’s coloring too fast, reduce the heat by 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) and cover the chicken with aluminum foil.

When you think it’s about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked, add the remaining verjuice and the grapes. Scatter over the walnuts. Allow to sizzle and roast for a final 10 minutes. The grapes will swell and burst. (A purist would say you need to peel them, but I say this is too much work.) The time to add the grapes is really up to you — you can cook them longer so they blister, or just enough so they go soft.

Remove the pan from the oven and scatter over the tarragon leaves. Leave to rest for 15 minutes to allow all the flavors to mingle.

The best way to cut the chook is with poultry shears if you have them. Cut up the breast plate to divide the chicken. Remove the leg and thigh and use your shears to cut up the breast — don’t be precious.

Finish with a few torn radicchio leaves thrown into the warm juices and a fresh grinding of black pepper.

Activated nuts:

Combine all the ingredients in a non-reactive container, then cover and soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to the lowest setting (about 50 degrees C/120 degrees F) or turn on your dehydrator, if you have one.

Drain the nuts and rinse them well, patting them dry with a clean tea towel (dish towel). Lay them on a baking tray and roast them for 24–48 hours.

Recipes excerpted with permission from Real Food by Mike by Mike McEnearney (Hardie Grant Books, August 2017)