As the table grape season comes to an end, celebrate one of the oldest cultivated foods with this succulent roast chicken recipe.
One of the oldest edible foods to be cultivated, grapes are produced around the world, for wine, to be consumed fresh, or dried into raisins - among other uses. In Australia, in areas with rich soils and warm, dry summers we have perfect grape growing conditions. We are reaching the end of the season, but at least in Victoria where the majority of the late season table grapes are grown it's the perfect time to eat grapes.
The most common table varieties in Australia are the Thompson Seedless, Menindee Seedless, Crimson Seedless and Red Globe. Table grapes vary in flavour, shape and colour of the grape and texture of the pulp and skin. Grapes don't ripen off the vine, so at the market, always choose ripe fruit. The fruit should be firm, the clusters plump and securely attached to their stems. The stems should be green not brown. Red and black varieties should have foggy bloom, which is a natural protection for the fruit. If stored in an airtight container, at very cool temperatures, grapes can last weeks in the fridge. They store very well. This also means though, that as the season progresses you will be presented at the market, with old grapes. Look for those signs, the green stems, to make sure the grapes you're buying are fresh.
It is nearing the end of table grape season and the perfect time to take advantage of grapes in your cooking. Photograph: Lauren Bamford for the Guardian.
For this dish, choose whichever grapes look best at the market. I like the large red globe grapes, even though they have seeds, they just look so grand, but seedless is more convenient. The grapes will soften, relax and caramalise into the winey sauce at the bottom of the pan. The sweetness compliments the chicken, and by the end of it you'll be wanting to mop up the pan juices with a loaf of crusty bread.
Depending on the weather - at this time of year, especially in Melbourne, the weather can flip flop from freezing to warm and glorious - serve this chicken with something comforting and wintery, like mashed potato, or if you're serving this on a crisp sunny day for lunch, a peppery rocket salad and some steamed kipflers would be perfect.
The perfect seasonings for roast chicken: grapes, onion and thyme. Photograph: Lauren Bamford for the Guardian
Roast chicken with grapes
A large, free range, organic chicken
Pepper and salt
150ml sweet white wine
500g seedless grapes
2 red onions, wedges
1 bulb of garlic, separated
A handful of Kalamata olives (green Spanish olives would also be delicious)
Sprigs of rosemary
Sprigs of thyme
Get the best whole chicken you can find, and ask your butcher to section it for you, if you don't know how to do it yourself. Preheat oven at 200C. Season the chicken pieces. In a large, heavy bottomed pan that can go from stovetop to oven, over high heat, drizzle a little olive oil and brown the chicken pieces. When brown, remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the white wine and turn off the heat. Add grapes, red onion and garlic, olives and herbs to the wine at the bottom of the pan - season with a little more pepper and salt. Nuzzle the chicken pieces into this mixture, in the pan, with the skin side facing up.
Roast for 45 to 50 minutes. The dish is ready when the grapes have relaxed, and begun to caramalise and the chicken is tender and still moist.