Preheat oven to 200 °C.
Remove chicken from fridge. Coat the chicken’s skin and cavity with freshly cracked pepper. Stuff the cavity with a few sprigs of thyme and a whole preserved lemon.
To make the preserved lemon and thyme butter, pound the garlic in a mortar & pestle (alternatively you can use a food processor). Chop the remaining half of preserved lemon. Add the preserved lemon to the mortar, and pound until smooth. Mix in the butter. Pick the leaves from half of the remaining bunch of thyme, add to the butter and mix. Reserve a little butter if you wish, this can be used on the cooked chicken, on crusty bread, or to flavour roasted vegetables.
Carefully lift up the chicken and push a spatula (or your fingers) between the chicken breast and skin to create a pocket above each breast. Be careful not to tear the skin, otherwise the salt crust will make the flesh too salty. Add your flavoured butter into the pockets. Tie the legs together using kitchen string, and pat dry the skin with paper towel, then set aside.
In a large bowl combine salt, egg whites, water and remaining thyme leaves. Mix the ingredients together; the mixture should resemble wet sand. Pack ⅓ of the salt mixture onto bottom of the pan, making a layer approximately 1cm thick, pat down using your hands, make sure it’s big enough to accomodate the chicken. Place the chicken atop the salt mixture, breast side up, and pack remaining salt mixture over and around the chicken, completely enclosing it. Bake for 105 minutes.
Remove the chicken and let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
Break open the crust with the back of a knife, dust off any salt remaining on the chicken, or remove the skin.
Serve with your favourite roast dinner sides
Recipe and Photography by Cle-ann