The Lemon Roast Chicken Recipe That A Greek Grandmother Swears By
Yiayia Koula is the strongest female figure I've ever known; coexisting with her in this life is one of my biggest blessings. Until her last breath, she never stopped impressing me with her determination, fierce attitude, inner peace, and unconditional love.
Her main love language was preparing food for her family. She was from the Peloponnese, but love brought her to the island of Andros in her late 20s. I spent my first summer with her when I was only a month old. I remember her using her retro cooking utensils from the 1970s, which she would insist were irreplaceable on account of their quality.
During the summers I never had an alarm; it was the smell of what she was cooking in the mornings that would always wake me up and bring me straight to the small, traditional kitchen she had. She taught me how to forage, harvest, and prepare my own capers; how to cultivate vegetables; and how to make sure every year we have enough chickens for our own eggs. She was obsessed with her lemon tree, which she planted when I was born. I knew that one of my daily tasks would be to collect the eggs in the morning and cut a few lemons for her that she would then use for our meals, like this kotopoulo lemonato. After her passing, I've probably never eaten or will ever eat food that has been prepared with so much love.
YiaYia Koula's Kotopoulo Lemonato (Lemon Roast Chicken) From Andros
Born Peloponnese, 1930
Dedication by Melina Giolva, co-founder of Zymi baked snacks
- 6 large potatoes, peeled, halved lengthways, then cut into thirds
- 1 chicken, jointed
- 3–4 large garlic cloves, sliced
- 50 ml (1¾ fl oz/3 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 vegetable stock cubes dissolved in 650 ml (22 fl oz/2¾ cups) water
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1 heaped tablespoon mustard
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (375°F/gas 5).
- Scatter the potatoes in a large roasting tin. Arrange the chicken pieces between the potatoes and make a couple of 2-cm- (¾-inch-) deep incisions in each piece of chicken by stabbing into it with a small, sharp knife. Slide the sliced garlic into these incisions.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken, then sprinkle with the oregano and a pinch each of salt and pepper (you won't need a lot as the stock is salty enough).
- Pour over the vegetable stock (it shouldn't entirely cover the potatoes but should come up to two-thirds of their height in the tray) and lemon juice. Rub the mustard into the portions of chicken that still sit above the water.
- Roast in the oven for 1½ hours. If the chicken starts to get a little too dark on one side, turn it over and add a splash of water if it needs to cook for longer.
- Serve with a leaf salad and hefty chunks of feta. You can use the chicken bones to make a broth for gamopilafo (see page 160 of cookbook).
This is an edited extract from Yiayia by Anastasia Miari, published by Hardie Grant Books. Available in stores nationally, RRP $55. Photography by Marco Arguello.
Founder of the Matriarch Eats brand, Anastasia Miari has been cooking with and interviewing the world's grandmothers for six years. She holds a Guild of Food Writer’s Award for 'inspired storytelling and great journalistic integrity'. She freelances for Lonely Planet Guides, Monocle Magazine, Konfekt Magazine, the Guardian, the Sunday Times and is Courier magazine's Athens-based correspondent. Anastasia is also the author of Grand Dishes, a book of stories and recipes from grandmothers of the globe inspired by her own Greek grandmother (Unbound, 2021). She was invited to cook with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Alba on The Drew Barrymore Show to launch the book.