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My darling clementine, the one bright star that clings to January as the days become gradually brighter. Photograph: iStock
January must be the most melancholic month of the year, with its short grey days and its long dark nights. The food from this month can also seem quite dour. I can hear the root vegetables laughing at me from the fridge, knowing I’ll be in their debt until March at least.
However, there is one bright star that clings to January as the days become gradually brighter – the humble clementine. A clementine is a type of tangerine, a citrus fruit hybrid between a willowleaf mandarin orange and a sweet orange. It is named in honour of Clément Rodier, the French missionary who first produced the cultivar in Algeria. First named in 1902, it began to be commercially produced in California in 1914 and now most people associate it with this sunny American state. However, Spain produces a variety of clementine called Fina.
Though clementines are traditionally used to make a variety of cakes, they also make a nice glaze for chicken. The leanness and neutral flavour of the chicken meat lends itself well to a sweet citrus glaze.
Take one whole chicken and place a clementine, a head of garlic and some fresh thyme in the cavity. Rub the bird with oil and then season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Place in a 200 degree oven for one hour.
In the meantime, put the juice and zest of two clementines in a small pot with 60ml of Irish honey. Cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, until reduced to a light syrup. Add some fresh thyme leaves and set aside.
After an hour remove the chicken from the oven and glaze with the clementine and honey syrup. Return the chicken to the oven and roast for another 10 minutes. Glaze the chicken again and roast for another 10 minutes. The temperature should be over 72 degrees Celsius at the thigh bone. Allow the chicken to rest before carving. Serve alongside a nice fresh clementine and red onion salad.
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