Poached chicken with spicy red pepper mayonnaise

Poaching a whole chicken is a joy for the cook as there is a delicious stock to play with later. Photograph: Emma Jervis
Serves: 6


  • 1 whole 2kg chicken
  • 2 large onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1 head of garlic, halved across the middle
  • A few sprigs of tarragon
  • Salt and pepper
  • The sauce:
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice of
  • 600ml olive oil
  • To garnish:
  • Tarragon, basil or parsley

Usually when I mention poached chicken to people it is met with a raised eye brow. School dinners, granny and insipid, seems to spring to mind. Over the years I have now learned that less detail is the way to go. The secret here is to buy a very good chicken, cook it gently and add plenty of seasoning.

Poaching a whole chicken is a joy for the cook as there is a delicious stock to play with later. So gather up all the bones, return them to the cooking liquid and let it simmer for an hour or so. This will then be the base for a quick supper dish later in the evening or for the week ahead.

1. Put the chicken into a large pan. Chop the carrots and celery and add to the chicken along with the split head of garlic. Add salt and pepper and cover the chicken well with water. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

2. Now turn off the heat and place a tight fitting lid on top of the saucepan and allow to sit for another 30 minutes.

3. In the meantime, make the mayonnaise. Roast the red peppers whole until blistering black. Remove from the oven and place in a bowl with a plate on top and allow to cool (this process loosens the skin and makes it easy to remove). Once cooled, remove the skin and roughly chop the flesh.

4. Place the skinned peppers in the jug of a liquidiser along with the chopped chilli, garlic, egg yolks and zest and juice of the lemon. Liquidise until well pureed, scraping the sides down a couple of times if needed. Next, turn the speed to medium and slowly add the oil until it’s all incorporated. Season well with salt and allow to stand until needed.

5. Remove the chicken from the liquid and allow it to cool. Remove the skin (add this back into the liquid, which will be the base of your stock) and portion the chicken into pieces with a sharp knife, then place them on a serving plate. Scatter chopped herbs over the chicken and serve the mayonnaise on the side.