Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Capon With Oranges

Okay not really capon, which is a castrated rooster of 3 to 6 kilos. These are definitely not easily found in my local grocer's.  But you can find large chickens.  Remember the old days when a 1.5 kg chook was considered pretty large?  Not anymore; this chook that I bought recently was 1.58kg, and was labelled as small.  

the small chook

An article I read on the Good Food page said the place to buy capon was in France. Well sure I'd love to but!  So I had to make do with my small chicken from Woolies. Once again this recipe is from my History of Royal Food course.  The original recipe can be found in the Good Housewife's Jewel (1596) by Thomas Dawson.

my youthful helper

I had a 14 year old helper with me, who was on school hols so had a bit of free time.  As these recipes are a tad scant on details, Johnny, hubby and I went over the recipe trying to work out what we had to do.  I think I just lucked into doing it right; well fairly right.

look at those sunny oranges 

Basically, you poach your chook in stock; make an orange and red wine sauce, and serve the chicken in the sauce.  The course notes say it is very simple, but when you are guessing how to do it...


1 large chicken - say from 1.8 to 2 kg

2 litres of good quality stock - I used chicken but the recipe says to use mutton and marrow bones, or lamb

300 mls of red or white wine - historically it would have been white

3 - 4 oranges, peeled and sliced thinly (the recipe suggests 6-8 for a large bird) - keep approx. 2 tbs of the peel for the sauce

6 tsp sugar (you may want to add more)

a handful each of thyme, parsley and rosemary shoved into a muslin spice bag

1 cinnamon stick

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1 - 2 cloves

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs for the sauce (optional)


Place the bird into a large pan

Pour in the stock over the bird - don't worry if it doesn't cover it completely

Let it simmer for at least 45 minutes - make sure it is completely cooked through by sticking a thermometer into it to check it is at 60C, or by pulling a bit of flesh from the middle to check it is done

Put it aside while you make the sauce

Take several ladlesful (about 260mls) of the beautiful, aromatic stock and tip into a medium saucepan

Add the wine, the orange slices and peel, sugar, the herb bag and the spices 

Reduce the spicy wine mixture at a fast boil for 20+ minutes 

Remove the herb bag

If using the breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce, add them now

Pull the bird apart, and put the pieces into the sauce

Serve with spiced potatoes, or perhaps rice or cous cous


Turn the bird over once or twice during the poaching so that the whole bird gets well covered with stock.  I basted it now and then too for extra moistness

Don't go wild with the orange peel;  I added way too much at the start; it was bitter so I had to add more sugar.  So just add the 2 tablespoons and check if you want to add more

simmering the chicken in the stock 

peel and slice the oranges   

ladling out the stock ready to be reduced with the wine, oranges and spices  

herby bag goes into the pan of stock,wine and oranges  

sorry, a bit hacked due to checking for done-ness

stirring and reducing the sauce    

reducing the sauce  

the poached chicken going into the reduced sauce 

serve with spiced potatoes   

finally you get an orangey, spicy, winey chicken dish

This flavoursome dish would have been enjoyed by the wealthy Elizabethans.  Capons would not have been eaten by Ye Olde Local Peasants, and only the rich could afford oranges and spices. 

Here is the original recipe for your perusal:

Original recipe
Thomas Dawson, Good Housewife’s Jewel (1596)
Take your capon and set him on the fire as before with marrow
bones and mutton, and when you have skimmed the pot well, put
thereto the value of a farthing loaf, and let it boil till it be half boiled.  Then take two or three ladlesful of the same broth and put it into an earthen pot, with a pint of the same wine aforesaid. Peel six or eight oranges and slice them thin, and put them into the same broth with four pennyworth in sugar or more, and a handful of parsley, thyme and rosemary, together tied. Season it with whole mace, clove, and sticks of cinnamon, with two nutmegs beaten small. And so serve it.

You see what I mean?  A wee bit difficult to decipher.  But we had great fun making it and eating it.

my orange doodle


  1. Such an unusual recipe! I love it, it looks so tasty and comforting! :)

  2. Sounds delightful! Hehe at buying capon in France. I always buy my capon in France darling ;) Which is why I haven't actually bought capon! :P

    1. I know what you mean Lorraine. If only I could buy it in France:)

  3. I'm very disappointed you didn't castrate your own rooster for this recipe Sherry ;)

  4. You say Capon, I say castrated rooster.... great time too be cooking with oranges!

    1. it was very orangey fiona. i read that capon is very tasty and plump but i will have to head to france to try it methinks:)


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