18 March 2009
For this meal you need:
A Frenchman and a South African
4 large-ish red-skinned potatoes, thinly sliced but not shaved
4 cloves of garlic
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup water
A hot oven: 450'F/220'C to start.
In a cast iron pan/open roasting pan, layer the potatoes, and put the hens on top. Inside each bird are the herbs and garlic, plus salt and pepper. A peeled shallot wouldn't be half-bad. Squeeze the juice of the lemons over the hens and inside the cavities. Salt and pepper liberally. Add the water to the bottom of the pan (this helps cook the potatoes).
Put in oven and roast for about 45 minutes at high heat, and turn it down to 400'F/200'c for another fifteen minutes to half an hour or so. Timing depends on the size of the birds, and they are usually ready when they are brown all over. It is not necessary to baste them. While roasting, and after the first cup of water has almost disappeared, add a drizzle of water every now and then to keep a nice sticky juice forming at the bottom of the pan. Never let it dry out completely.