Nigel Slater’s recipes for roast chicken with pepper and olives, and marinated strawberries

I lightly brown the plump cushions of chicken, their skin turning glossy and golden, then turn them over and brown the other side. They are to roast with long, scarlet peppers, pointed like a sultan’s slippers, tiny potatoes and whole cloves of garlic. Seasoned with dried lavender and thyme, oregano and salty green olives, the dish emerges from the oven smelling of deepest summer. No side dish is needed save a bowl of watercress and butterhead lettuce, whose leaves will soften in the warmth from the sweet aromatic juices on our plates.

At the height of summer, I cherish such unfussy cooking; recipes that look after themselves, the ingredients working magic in the oven while we get on with other things. What appeals here, as much as the crisp-skinned chicken and soft peppers, are the juices, sweet and golden and delicious enough to make everyone reach for a lump of bread. It is worth mentioning that the chicken heats up well the next day, too, should you need it to, and can be eaten cold.

I have also done this dish with green-skinned summer squash in place of the chicken. The squash are halved and their core tugged out, then they are browned in the same way and left to roast with the peppers and herbs.

This could leave time to make a strawberry tart, its sweet crust filled with pastry cream and the fruit glazed with redcurrant jelly, but I am opting for a less-sweet alternative: a lightly salted yoghurt, left to drain until it is as thick as mascarpone, as a side dish for strawberries. The berries are marinated in orange juice, balsamic vinegar and a little sugar, so the fruit takes on a richness it may otherwise lack in a summer of so little sunshine.

I want to eat these dishes outdoors, at a long table in the shade. Pink wine that has spent an hour in the ice bucket would be a thoroughly good thing to have in our glasses. Laidback cooking for lazy summer days.

Chicken, romano peppers, olives

A doddle of a dish, where the chicken comes out with crisp skin and sweet, golden juices. No accompaniments are necessary. Soft green leaves would be good for mopping up. When browning the chicken, it is best not to overcrowd the pan, so do the job in 2 batches if necessary. Serves 3. Ready in 1 hour and 45 minutes

chicken thighs 6, large
olive oil 3 tbsp
new potatoes 400g
romano peppers 6
garlic 6 juicy cloves
green olives 12
tomatoes 6, medium sized
thyme 2 tsp, dried
lavender 1 tsp, dried
oregano 2 tsp, dried
white wine (or vermouth) 250ml

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. You will need a capacious roasting tin.

Rub the chicken on both sides with a little of the oil then season it with salt and black pepper. Warm the olive oil in a sauté pan over a moderate heat, then lower in the chicken, skin side down, and let it cook until the underside is golden – about 8 minutes. Turn the chicken over and lightly brown the other side for 5 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, wash the potatoes, dry them and cut them in half.

Transfer the chicken, skin side up, into an oven dish or roasting tin. Return the sauté pan to the heat, then put in the potatoes, cut side down, and let them cook for about 6 minutes until the cut sides are pale gold, then turn them over with kitchen tongs and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.

While the potatoes cook, halve the peppers, discard the seeds, stalks and cores and put them among the chicken pieces. Tuck the garlic cloves, without peeling them, and the olives, between the chicken pieces then scatter the browned potatoes over the chicken. Halve the tomatoes and add them to the tin. Season with the thyme, lavender and oregano and a little black pepper.

Place the sauté pan back over the heat, turn to high and pour in the white wine or vermouth, if you prefer. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve any delicious sediment left by the chicken and potatoes. Pour the liquid over the chicken and bake for an hour, until the chicken is golden and tender.

Place the roasting tin on the table or transfer to a serving dish, spooning over the golden roasting juices as you do so.

Strawberries, labne and balsamic vinegar

Juicy fruits: strawberries, labne and balsamic vinegar. Good with cherries, berries and any soft summer fruits. Photograph: Jonathan Lovekin/The Observer

A lightly salted and strained yoghurt, this is a luscious accompaniment for berries that will please those who find normal dairy cream too sweet. Serves 4. Ready in 45 minutes, plus overnight

For the labne:
natural yoghurt 500g
salt ½ tsp

For the strawberries:
caster sugar 2 tbsp
balsamic vinegar 2 tsp
orange juice 125ml (one medium fruit)
strawberries 400g

Stir the yoghurt and salt together. Line a sieve or colander with a piece of clean muslin or similar cloth, then spoon in the yoghurt and leave to drain overnight.

To make the marinade, put the caster sugar in a large bowl and pour in the balsamic vinegar and orange juice and stir well. Don’t worry if the sugar doesn’t immediately dissolve.

Remove the stems from the berries, slice in half and stir them into the marinade. Cover and set aside for a good hour, stirring occasionally.

When you are ready to eat, place generous spoonfuls of the labne in each of 4 dishes (you will have a little left over for later. It will keep in the fridge for several days) then pile the berries on top and spoon some marinade over each.

Follow Nigel on Instagram @NigelSlater

The Guardian