James Bond food chicken watercress

Butter-basted chicken with watercress

After arriving at the Royal Bahamian in Nassau during the events of Thunderball (1961), James Bond and Felix Leiter consult the hotel menu and order lunch. Bond opts for ‘home farm’ broiled chicken,  disjointed and basted with creamery butter, and ‘sauté au cresson’ (priced 38/6 or $5.35). The dish appears to be based on the French classic, poulet rôti au beurre, a standard in contemporary cookbooks such as Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking (1960) or Mary Reynolds’ French Cooking for Pleasure (1966). Bond and Leiter are disappointed with their lunches, but you can’t go far wrong with this recipe.

Recipe (serves 4)

  • 1 chicken, oven-ready with giblets removed
  • 60g butter
  • A handful of herbs, such as a bay leaf and sprigs of rosemary, parsley, thyme or marjoram
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100g watercress, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan-assisted, 375F). Stuff the cavity with the herbs, half the butter and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Rest the chicken on its side in a roasting tin and rub the skin with the rest of the butter, putting any remaining bits of butter underneath the chicken. Place the chicken in the oven. After 20 minutes, turn the chicken over onto its other side and baste the exposed side with the juices and melted butter. Cook the chicken for another 20 minutes before placing it breast-side up and basting again. Continuing cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked (the juices should be running clear).

Remove the chicken from the roasting tin. Cut the chicken into six to eight pieces (two legs, two thighs and up to two portions per breast) and place the pieces onto a serving dish. Put the dish to one side. Place the roasting tin on the hob (or pour the juices from the tin into a saucepan) and heat the juices until they begin to bubble. Add the watercress and sauté until it wilts (it should be a matter of seconds). Drizzle the resulting watercress sauce over the chicken and serve.

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