Chicken and Sweet Potato with Olive, Basil and Lemon Sauce

Recently I heard someone happily reminiscing about the recipes and styles of cooking that represented the different stages of their life. This blog has been going since 2009 and has close to 300 recipes and I imagined that it would fulfil that function for me. But when I looked back through the blog I realised that there are quite a few gaps. So, before I admit that enough is enough with this blogging malarkey, I've decided that my project for this year should be to try to fill at least some of those gaps. Yes, I know this is self-regarding nonsense, but I'm too old to care. 

This isn't a history lesson, though, and I wouldn't necessarily want to recreate dishes from the past in their original form. I'd rather offer versions that I really want to eat today. I suppose that I should present these recipes in chronological order but I'm afraid that my mind doesn't work that way. So I'm starting in the 1990s for no very good reason at all.

This recipe is a riff on a Peter Gordon dish from the London Sugar Club days. I've scaled it down, simplified it a bit and made a few adjustments. Peter Gordon, in my opinion, has always produced innovative, influential and, above all, seriously tasty food. Sadly, at times over the years I've noticed a few snide comments from chefs, cookery writers and other scoundrels about the lack of "authenticity" in his fusion approach to food. Having eaten many “authentic” restaurant meals and read many “authentic” cookery books,  I can honestly say that I find a lot of modern authenticity to be self-important, pompous nonsense. I'd rather have Peter Gordon's food, thanks very much. For me, this dish tastes modern and fresh and it feels a bit odd to realise that his original recipe is now at least a quarter of a century old.

To make this dish, you need to choose an ovenproof ceramic or glass dish that can hold the chicken pieces in a single layer without too much space to spare. Once you've found the right dish (and a blender), the method is very straightforward.

Chicken and Sweet Potato with Olive, Basil and Lemon Sauce

This will be enough for 2 people.

For the main ingredients:

Either 2 chicken thighs and 2 drumsticks or 4 thighs, skin on, bone in
1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes

For the all-important Olive, Basil and Lemon Sauce:

Around 12 green olives, pitted
125 ml dry vermouth
1 tbsp agave syrup or runny honey
The leaves from a small bunch of basil (about the size you find packaged in a supermarket)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
The zest and juice of 1 large lemon
40 ml lower-salt soy sauce
A dash or two of white wine vinegar

This is all you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan oven).

Clean the sweet potatoes and cut into roughly 1cm thick slices. You don't need to peel them. Toss the slices in a teaspoon or two of olive oil or simply use an oil spray to coat them lightly.

Line the base and sides of your chosen ovenproof dish with the sweet potato slices and season with salt and pepper. (You don't have to be too fussy about this - just do the best you can with the slices you have). Lay the thighs, skin side up, and drumsticks on top of the sweet potatoes. Roast in the oven for 40 - 45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potatoes are softened.

Meanwhile, either shove all the sauce ingredients into a blender and whiz together until well combined or put them in a jug and attack them with a hand blender. It's up to you how smooth or chunky you'd like this purée to be, but I prefer to leave a little bit of texture without any large chunks. Add an extra dash of the vinegar if you think the sauce is a little too sweet.

When the chicken has finished roasting, remove the dish from the oven and pour the sauce over the chicken and sweet potatoes. Return the dish to the oven and continue cooking for 5 - 10 minutes until thoroughly heated through.

I served this with a few peas on the side this time but any green veg or a salad would be just as good.

Chicken and Sweet Potato with Olive, Basil and Lemon Sauce


  1. This is my/our kind of chicken dish and sounds delicious.
    Any recipe is surely just a version of something adapted from something gone before. I can understand people getting picky over messing about with classical recipes that only work the original way but cooking is all about putting something tasty on the table, regardless of how authentic it is.

    1. Back in the 1990s there was a bit of a fashion for being more "authentic" than anyone else and I remember one London chef claiming that you couldn't really appreciate the authentic, Asian rice experience unless you climbed at least one of the Himalayas and cooked some rice while you were up there. Peter Gordon was a bit unlucky with his timing because 10 years or so later when Mr Ottolenghi published his excellent first book, I don't remember many complaining about "authenticity" despite many of the flavour and ingredient combinations being reminiscent of PG's recipes of the previous decade.

  2. Phil, this looks soooooo good. And I know Mr Delightful will love it because it has green olives, lemon, and wine vinegar. And I so appreciate everything you said about authenticity ("self-important, pompous nonsense"). And then, of course, now you can add to it "cultural appropriation." I also appreciate your "dish that can hold the chicken pieces in a single layer without too much space to spare." That is an important detail that many might overlook and then the dish would not turn out right. And I hope you never decide "enough is enough with this blogging malarkey!"

    1. To be perfectly honest, I might well have been a little doubtful about the combination of ingredients in this sauce had it not been for the fact that I trust Mr Gordon's flavour combinations completely. As for "enough is enough", I do enjoy the blogging malarkey but there is a limit to the number of recipes I have in my overstuffed, confused head.

  3. I love the sound of this, and as Jean said, a lot of recipes from modern chefs are just retakes on classics from other chefs. I still love some recipes from my well used Robert Carrier books!

    1. Thanks for the reminder of Mr Carrier. There are so many very fine recipes in his books. Over the years I've come across very many chefs and cookery book writers "creating" recipes such as aubergine caviar when RC was there many years before. (Not that RC was above borrowing a few ideas himself, although, at least, he did it with some style). Thankfully, apart from one or two of his last publications perhaps, he didn't go in for a glossy, picture-book presentation. His books with a few simple line drawings and a smattering of (not very good, to be honest) photographs are such a pleasant relief. Sad to think that he left us more than 15 years ago.


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