Something to warm the cockles of your heart

PREP TIME: 15 mins
IDEAL FOR: family, easy meal, midweek meal, post-cold-water swim!

Another spatchcock recipe.

I love them.

Spatchcock chicken is great as it cooks faster than a whole chicken.

And for me, I like to buy a whole chicken and spatchcock it myself to hone a new skill.

This week, I chose a fiery little number with the flavours of Spain.

A lovely mix of smoked paprika, fennel seeds (I love, love fennel seeds), some herbs and lemon zest.

These flavours on a succulent chicken with the skin nice and crispy… heaven.

I also like this particular combo as a warmer post-sea swim.

Yes, swim.

I’m learning the benefits of cold-water swimming/dunking

Followed by good homecooked food, of course.

Perfect for Lockdown ll.

Blackpool Sands (Devon)… cold water, guaranteed

I actually gave this a go last January… the 5th to be exact, as it was my birthday.

It was a stunning, sunny winters day.

And my neighbour convinced me that I should join him for a dip in the sea.

I was up for it.

A ‘oncer’ I thought so no big deal.

OMG. It was cold! And I had a good wetsuit on.

My hands were tingly so much I had to hold them out of the water.

We stayed in for about 10 mins bobbing about, ducking under the cold sea.

But I have to say, it was exhilarating.

When we came out, we changed into warm clothes and went for a lovely breakfast at the beach café.

I felt amazing.

So good, that we continued to do it throughout winter, every Saturday.

Unfortunately, it dropped off again with lockdown and summer.

But recently I’ve started again.

My neighbours are great at doing it every day.

And there are more people in our village jumping in for a splash.

Cold-water immersion

They say you need the water to be at least between 10 – 15 degrees C to gain the benefits.

That box is ticked with our beach, Blackpool Sands.

In terms of immersion vs swimming, I kind of is a mix of both.

I’m currently not swimming long enough (approx. 30mins they say) to call myself a cold-water swimmer.

Perhaps, that’s a goal I’ll set.

So for now, I’m kind of in-between (and I wear a decent wetsuit).

But there are benefits to dunking yourself in cold water as well.

Apart from just feeling like you’ve got away from your work (or family chaos).

It’s a nice feeling to be out in nature when most people are staying indoors.

And cities like London, have The Serpentine and Hampstead Ponds to get out to, so no excuse.

There’s some evidence that suggests cold water can:

  • get you into a better mood – who doesn’t need that during lockdown
  • aid your immune system
  • boost your metabolism
  • help reduce inflammation
  • help reduce pain

The benefits of cold-water swimming

I’ve got friends who have been doing this for years in rivers and the sea.

And they’ve always championed cold-water swimming and its benefits.

Including Maggy Blagrove, who founded an open water swimming not-for-profit organisation called Open Minds Active – check it out.

So, don’t listen to me.

Here’s a list of benefits for cold water swimming that I’ve gathered up (references below).

The top 8 benefits of swimming whatever your fitness level

Full body workout

Swimming uses all the muscles in the body so whether you swim a gentle breaststroke or hammer butterfly, you will get a full body workout. Plus, exercising in water makes your body work harder so 30 minutes in a pool is worth 45 minutes of the same activity on land.

Great for general wellbeing

Just 30 minutes of swimming three times a week alongside a balanced, healthy diet and lifestyle is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy and maintain a positive mental outlook. Do it with friends, and it’s even more fun!

De-stresses and relaxes

Swimming regularly can lower stress levels, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve your sleep patterns. Feeling the mental benefits of swimming takes just a light swim.

Burns those calories

Swimming is one of the most effective ways to burn calories. A gentle swim can burn over 200 calories in just half an hour.

Lowers the risk of diseases

 As well as being a great form of cardiovascular exercise, swimming just 30 minutes a week can help to guard against heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Increases your energy levels

Inactivity and not ageing are often responsible for people’s lack of energy. Just 30 minutes of swimming can boost energy levels.

Warming up and staying safe

Remember, it’s flippin’ cold!

And your body really can react in ways you wouldn’t expect if you do this without caution.

So, read up some more on any of the below links on how to do it safely.

And I would highly recommend doing it with friends or family.

It’s safer, but it’s also much more fun and the benefits seem even greater.

Do it with friends or family

The Outdoor Swimming Society recommends taking these steps to warm up safely:

  • Immediately put on a hat and gloves – I own a Dryrobe (expensive but amazing!)
  • Get out of your wet clothes and dry off.
  • Dress in warm, dry layers, starting with your upper body.
  • Drink a warm beverage – we always have a cup of tea on the beach.
  • Have a bite to eat — bonus points for something sweet, since sugar elevates your body temperature – weekends we have full breakfast at the beach café.
  • Find a warm place to sit down or, if you feel up to it, walk around to raise your body temperature.
  • Avoid taking a hot shower. The sudden change in blood flow could cause you to pass out.


As you can see, food plays an important role in making sure you warm up post-cold water.

During the week, I prepare the meal ready for when we get back.

Which is why this warm spicy spatchcock chicken is perfect.

But to be honest, it’s perfect for a midweek meal or an easy dinner with friends!

Enjoy a cold dip or a lovely chicken dish… or both.

And be safe if you get out into the cold water… and enjoy it.

Have you got a great dish or cold-water swimming experience to share? Leave a comment…


Openmind Active

Outdoor Swimming society

Warm spicy spatchcock chicken

Course Main Course
Keyword chicken, easy, midweek meal
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Cost £


  • 1.7 kg spatchcock chicken (approx weight) (see my post for link to how to do yourself or ask your butcher to spatchcock it)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic gloves, grated
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • a handful of flatleaf parsley (leaves only)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cold water


  • Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/ Fan 160°C
  • Make sure your chicken is at room temperature and spatchcock your chicken (see post for link to 'How to…') and place on a baking tray
  • Make your marinade:
    In a pestle and mortar, crush your fennel seeds. Then, grate in your garlic, lemon zest and add the oregano, smoked paprika and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Lastly add in the oil and water and mix well
  • Pour over the marinade and rub all over
    Cover the chicken with foil and pop in the oven for 45 mins.
    Then, remove the foil, baste the meat and return to the oven, uncovered, for 15 mins or until nice and golden and crispy
    The chicken is cooked when it reaches 71 C on a meat thermometer or if you insert a skewer or knife into the thickest part of a thigh and its juices run clear
    (If not, return the chicken to the oven for a further 5-15 mins before checking again)
  • When you're happy it's cooked, transfer to a serving plate and rest for 20 mins covered, loosely, with foil.
    Sprinkle chopped parsley leaves and the lemon wedges.


Abel and Cole