Brining makes for a delicious bird, perfectly seasoned with beautifully moist flesh. It may seem like too much effort, but it's very simple; the only requirements are salt, water and some forward planning. The rice in this dish ends up golden on top and fluffy underneath, with a rich, buttery flavour. It's so good – almost better than the bird itself, because it catches all the juices when the chicken is carved.
50g fine salt
1.2–1.4kg free-range chicken
1½ cups basmati rice
150g salted butter
1 large white onion, sliced into half-moons
5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
12 cherry tomatoes
3 fresh bay leaves
1. Combine the salt with 1.2-1.5 litres of cold water until the salt dissolves, and submerge the chicken in it. Stand at room temperature for 2 hours, then remove the bird, drain and dry with paper towel.
2. Preheat the oven to 200C fan-forced (220C conventional). Place the rice in a deep-sided enamel baking tray or ovenproof ceramic dish about 20cm x 30cm.
3. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chicken, breast-side down, and sear for about 5 minutes to brown, then rotate the bird to sear it on all sides.
4. Add the onion, garlic and cumin to the pan and cook until softened and lightly coloured, about 6 minutes. Don't allow the pan to get too hot – you don't want to burn the butter.
5. Once the onion and garlic are a little golden, position the bird in the rice, breast-side up. Season the onion generously with salt and pepper, then spread out on top of the rice, spooning any remaining butter over the chicken. Season the bird well with pepper.
6. Return the pan to the heat and add the stock. Bring to a simmer and swirl to deglaze, then pour over the rice and add the cherry tomatoes. Push two bay leaves into the rice and stuff the third into the cavity of the chicken. Squeeze the lemon's juice into the rice, then add the squeezed lemon to the cavity. Cover with baking paper, then foil, and roast for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for a further 25 minutes, until golden.
7. Rest the chicken for 5-10 minutes before carving it in the dish so that the rice catches all the chicken juices. Serve with a leafy salad and either yoghurt flavoured with mint and garlic, or your favourite spicy sauce.