4 portions. Approximate cost: £15.60 (and that’s assuming you have a jar of preserved lemons, otherwise £19)

Skill level: Medium, 

Total cooking time: 1 hour, 10 minutes (plus time to marinade overnight) 

  • Prep time: 15 minutes, 
  • Cooking time: 55 minutes, 

Equipment used: 1 large bowl, 1 large deep roasting tray, 1 smaller roasting tray, 1 saucepan, 1 sieve, 

Original recipe: (BBC Good Food’s) Sticky citrus chicken with griddled avocado & beet salad


The first time I made this I followed the original recipe to the letter. On the second and third occasion I adapted it slightly and by the fourth attempt, I think I’ve cracked it.

The original recipe cooks onions, beetroot, spelt and chicken in one pot – the juices from the marinade mix in with the beetroot juices and the roasted red onions and create a beautiful rich sauce. Although this tastes amazing, the beetroot colour completely obliterates all other ingredients and each item takes on a heavy dark purple tinge (absolutely nothing like the fresh, vibrant picture included on April’s edition of BBC Good Food)

Instead, I opt to roast the beetroot separately and add to the pan for the last 10 minutes of cooking or when plating up. There isn’t a huge difference in taste but a massive difference in appeal. (You do eat with your eyes after all). Potentially try both methods and see which you prefer.

I also opt to serve the avocado raw (rather than char this or add to the oven for 10 minutes as recommended). Each time I’ve baked the avocado it takes on a slightly acrid taste when you actually want it as a fresh accompaniment to the roasted chicken and root veg. I’ve therefore opted to serve this as part of a spinach and red onion side salad. 


To prep:

(Original recipe in bold font)

Make the marinade:

Rinse 1 preserved lemon under running water to remove some of the brine, then separate the middle from the peel (the middle part – the flesh and pips – is very sour) and discard the middle. Finely chop the soft peel until it resembles a paste.

Tip into a bowl and add the remaining marinade ingredients and a pinch of salt. Whisk until combined, then pour roughly half the marinade over the chicken and rub it into all the nooks – Pop the other half into the fridge for later use 

For the best flavour, leave the chicken to marinate overnight, covered, in the fridge (store the remaining marinade in the fridge too), but if you’re short on time, 2 hrs marinating will do.

Spatchcock the chicken:

Flip it over so the backbone is facing you. Using a sturdy pair of kitchen scissors, cut down either side of the backbone, then discard. Turn the chicken over and push down firmly on the breastbone to flatten it out, then make a few slashes in each leg joint. (For more help – check out these oh so handy pictures)

Prepare the veg:

Cut 2 red onions into 8 wedges each

Peel the beetroot and cut each into 8 wedges – you can wear gloves when doing this to avoid pink hand, but it seems a litte extreme (I do however add a sheet of tin foil onto my wooden chopping board to stop the wood from staining)


To cook:

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Tip the onions and beetroot into a large roasting tin (use your best tin and you can serve the dish straight from it), drizzle with oil and season well.

(This is where I deviate and add onions and beetroot to separate dishes to prevent the beetroot juices from obscuring all the other ingredients. Up to you if you combine or cook separately. Using your best dish is, to be honest, a load of nonsense as you inevitably end up with blackened edges – fine for real life eating but not if you want to create the visual beauty that is featured in the magazine).

Toss the vegetables to coat and spread them out towards the edges of the tin. Place the chicken on top, skin-side up, and pour over any juices from the bag or dish. Season the chicken well and roast for 45 mins.

(Add chicken to onions or beetroot or both as you wish)

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to the boil and add the spelt. Cook for 20 mins or until tender, then drain and set aside. (I’d recommend increasing this time to 45 mins, especially if you choose not to soak beforehand, but best to refer to packet instructions)

Pour the remaining marinade into a small pan and bring to a rapid boil, then continue cooking for 2-3 mins until you have a sticky glaze.  I usually yse the leftover from the chicken as well, but make sure you bring this to the boil if you do to kill of chicken germs,

Remove the roasting tin from the oven, lift the chicken onto a plate or board and stir the spelt into the vegetables (Onions only although you can add in the roasted beetroot after you have stirred the onion and spelt mixture)

Place the chicken back on top and brush the thickened glaze over the chicken. 

Return to the oven for a further 5-10 mins. To check the chicken is cooked, pierce the thickest part with a skewer. The juices should run clear, not pink. If you need to, return the chicken to the oven for a further 5-10 mins, then check again. (At this point I took the chicken out but leave for another 5 to 10 minutes if it needs it)

Lift the chicken onto a plate, cover loosely with foil and return the roasting tin with the vegetables to the oven for a further 10 mins 

For the spinach salad, simply slice some red onion, add 1 sliced avocado and a large handful of spinach leaves per person. Drizzle over olive oil or a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil if you prefer.



  • 1 medium chicken (£9.25) or 4 (+) oyster legs (£7)
  • 2.5 red onions, each cut into wedges (75p)
  • 6 beetroots (I used 4, £1.80 for a bunch)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 250g spelt (£2.40 for a 500g bag)


For the marinade:

  • 1 small preserved lemon
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika, plus a pinch
  • zest and juice from 2 large lemons (70p)
  • zest and juice from 2 oranges (60p)


For the salad:

  • 1 large bag of spinach (£1)
  • half a red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 large, firm avocado (£1)


View other chicken dishes

View other dishes from BBC Good Food