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Spit or oven-roasted farm hen, white Rovinj truffles and potato and rainbow chard


Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook 
The Venetian Republic

PREP TIME 15 minutes

Croatians enjoy cooking and eating meat and fish on the bone, and this dish is a stunning example. Spit roasting the farm hen keeps the flesh lovely and moist, while also giving it a wonderfully caramelised skin. If you’re not able to use a spit, oven roasting will work well too, although you might miss the lovely charry flavour that comes from cooking over a flame. For those who can find (and afford) such a luxury, the truffle makes a sensational addition, as does the potato and rainbow chard – a classic combination seen all over the Croatian coast.

Spit-roasted farm hen
1 farm hen (a medium-sized chicken can be substituted)
150 g (5½ oz) butter, softened
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 head garlic
4 g (¼ cup) picked thyme
20 g (¾ oz) Rovinj truffle (any white truffle can be substituted or a black truffle – however black truffles have a milder flavour)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Potato and rainbow chard
3 potatoes
80 ml (⅓ cup) extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 bunch orange and red Swiss chard, cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) strips

To make the spit-roasted farm hen, preheat the spit roast to a medium to high heat or the oven to 180°C (350°F).

Starting at the neck end of the bird, use your finger to separate the skin from the flesh, pushing your hand between the skin and breast meat to form a cavity, then gently do the same to the thighs, making sure not to tear the skin.

Take the softened butter and place evenly in the cavity under the skin. Rub the olive oil all over the bird, then season with salt and pepper on the inside and outside. Cut the head of garlic in half and place inside the bird with the fresh thyme. Place the bird onto the spit and secure as per the instructions of the manufacturer.

Cook until the bird’s internal temperature reaches 70°C (160°F) – this should take approximately 1 hour. Alternatively, you can roast the hen in a conventional oven for approximately 50–60 minutes. Then cover with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the potato and rainbow chard, peel and dice the potatoes into 2.5 cm (1 inch) dice, then place into a medium-sized pot of cold water and boil over a high heat until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Place a large frying pan over low heat with the olive oil and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, add the potatoes and cook again for 3–4 minutes, then add the Swiss chard and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Carve the bird with a sharp knife: remove the legs, then the breast meat, cut into even pieces and serve on a platter.

Slice or grate the truffle over the hen and serve with the potato and rainbow chard.

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