Scottish Barbecued Chicken

Barbecued Chicken à la Mrs James Young. It looks an axe murder but trust me—it truly is delicious. But the chicken should have been carved before the sauce was poured over it.

Back in the 1960s the wife of eminent soldier-diplomat Sir Fitzroy Maclean, a spectacularly lovely woman named Veronica (1920-2005), published Lady Maclean’s Cook Book (Collins, 1965), a classic which I have dipped into from time to time. Charmingly illustrated with woodcuts and simulacrums of aristocratic notepaper, its 234 pages contained a compilation of typed and handwritten recipes contributed by Lady Maclean and her friends, a heady crew ranging from Nancy Lancester (Nettle Soup) to Pandora Astor (Pâtés Vertes, Watercress Soup) to the Duchess of Devonshire (Chocolate Cake) to Lady Birley (Devilled Sardines). Even Elizabeth David, the woman who changed British cookery with her adventuresome tastebuds and matchless joie de vivre, was part of the bunch, as was Sir Fitzroy, whose offerings included a fantastic hot pudding called Whisky Bananas.

One individual who supplied recipes for many favourite dishes was Phyllis Young, wife of Colonel James Young of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; they owned The Portsonachan Hotel near the village of Dalmally in Argyllshire, Scotland. I haven’t tried all her entries but Mrs. Young’s Barbecued Chicken is delectable, even if our production of it looks a bit messy as seen in the photograph above. The introduction to the recipe is charmingly practical: “We find this a good way of roasting chicken which has been deep frozen and is rather lacking in flavour.” Sign me up—what store-bought chicken doesn’t share these characteristics?

“It doesn’t look very appetizing,” my husband said once the platter was carried to the table, “but we really should have carved the chicken as directed—I didn’t notice that part of the recipe.” As for the taste, he noted, “It was wonderful. Not really barbecue-like, more tomato-like, with a tang.”

We turned the leftover meat into a chicken salad for the next day’s luncheon, binding it with a bit of mayonnaise and mixing in thinly slice celery and a dash of fennel seeds. The leftover sauce was added to the chicken bones, mixed with water, and turned into a broth for risotto.


Recipe by Mrs. James Young of The Portsonachan Hotel, Argyll, Scotland

SOURCE: Lady Maclean’s Cook Book by Veronica Maclean (Collins, 1965)



1 roast chicken [about 4 pounds]

1 teaspoon any mustard

1 teaspoon ginger

1 teaspoonful salt

Ground black pepper

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

1 onion

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Tomato sauce [4 ounces or to taste]

HP sauce [order it from Amazon here]

Tomato purée [10-ounce can]

1 clove garlic


[Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.]

Chop onion finely and sauté in the butter, then add garlic, and all the liquids. Cook for half an hour [over a low to medium heat] and strain.

Put the chicken in a roasting pan. Mix the dry mustard, ginger, salt, and pepper together and rub well into the chicken and place the roasting pan in a hot oven and cook for 20 minutes. Pour the basting sauce over it and baste every 15 minutes until cooked [about 1 hour]. [Be sure to baste as directed, otherwise the barbecue sauce will burn.]

Carve the chicken and arrange on a platter. Skim fat from the sauce and reduce a little on top of the stove. When thickened pour over the carved chicken and serve.

4 comments on “Scottish Barbecued Chicken

  1. Ahem! Fitzroy MacLean would be fingering his dirk at the thought of someone spelling Scotch whisky with an ‘e’…. That spelling is only for bourbon or Irish whiskey, never Scotch.

  2. french girl cooking says:

    Green and red are complimentary colors: perhaps, if you sprinkled it with some fresh coriander or parsley, it will look like a little less bloody?

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