Learn how to cook a bird like Ronnie Bonetti, the mastermind behind Soho House's food
"WHEN Soho House decided to open a Chicken Shop, the owner Nick Jones asked me to make him the best chicken in London.
I went into kebab shops, fried chicken shops, I tried supermarket rotisserie chicken and I tried to work out the best way of cooking them so they had that crunch on the outside but still stayed moist on the inside. That’s the key to making great-tasting chicken.
So we went to some builders who made us these rotisserie skewers that only held two birds. You can’t have five or six chickens on a spit because they end up not getting turned as much as they need to and whoever gets the one on the end tucks into a really dry bird.
We also made a special marinade, which is more like a brine really, because we submerge the bird in it for 24 hours. It’s really simple and there’s no chilli in it because we didn’t want to make it too hot; we wanted kids to be able to come in and enjoy it, too. But it’s still really flavoursome and I think that’s mainly down to the vinegar and salt that it’s marinaded in and the quality of the bird. I scoured the country to find the best one and we get ours free-range from Banham’s Farm in Norfolk.
The birds come straight to us from the farm, they’re left to marinade, they’re cooked over a charcoal rotisserie to give them a wonderful charred, smokey flavour, then they’re chopped and served with lemon and sea salt. You can make your own Chicken Shop chicken at home on a kettle BBQ but it must have a lid.
Gourmet fast food has taken off because it’s food that’s taking everyone back to what they ate in their childhood. We grew up with McDonalds but we’re kind of over it. Being adults now, you still crave a burger but you want produce that’s better sourced.
The menu is really simple – there’s only one thing you can have, really: chicken – but it doesn’t get monotonous for the guys in the kitchen. They’re always trying to chop this thing faster or roast the birds to perfection and it’s an open kitchen so they can see people enjoying the food.
It just made sense to put Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger together in Whitechapel because they compliment each other very well. The people who live there have really welcomed it. There are a lot of trendy types moving in, it’s inexpensive and there’s not a lot else going on there at the moment, to be honest. We get young families having an early dinner about 5pm and then by about 8pm you’ve got all the young, cool kids coming in.
I think Londoners have got used to better food and, now a lot of these mid-range gourmet fast food places are around, the bad ones will die out. It might change as a trend, but people will always crave a good piece of chicken so I think it’ll stick around for a while longer."
- 1 free range chicken
- For the marinade:
- 3tbsp smoked paprika
- 1tbsp garlic powder
- 3tsp fine table salt
- 200ml vegetable oil
- 80ml white wine vinegar
- 50ml water
Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix well, add the chicken (make sure that you cover inside and out with the marinade) - marinate for at least 2hrs. This works best if you let the chicken marinate overnight in the fridge
Preparing the BBQ
- Light the BBQ using charcoal or very high grade briquettes (don’t use instant lighting charcoal or briquettes as the fuel will ruin the flavour of the chicken)
- Once all the charcoal has turned white you’re ready to start cooking
- Push the coals to the sides of the BBQ (no coal in the middle of the BBQ) place on the wire grill.
- Rub your chicken all over again with the marinade, cut a lemon in half and push into the cavity of the bird with 3 sprigs of rosemary (lemon will help the bird stay moist). Save any excess marinade for basting
- Place the bird in the middle of the grill and put the lid on - cook for 40mins with the bottom vents open
- Remove the lid and baste more marinade onto the chicken - ensure the coals are still lit
- Put the lid back on and cook for a further 40mins
- To check if the chicken is ready, prick a knife into the thigh. If the juices run clear the chicken is ready.
- Serve the chicken with wedges of lemon, hot chili sauce, a creamy coleslaw and green salad