Perfect roast chicken
When it comes to chicken, it’s really worth spending the most you can afford on a good bird. Try your local butcher for the best pasture reared bird that your money can buy.
Ingredients (serves 4):
For the chicken
1 whole chicken, weighing approx. 1.6–1.9kg
Butter, salt and pepper and rind of 1 lemon for breast stuffing
2 carrots, cut lengthways into thick slices
2 onions, peeled and cut into rounds
2 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
For the stuffing
60g blanched almonds or other nuts, roughly chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of rough breadcrumbs
Handful rosemary needles, finely chopped
1 egg plus a splash of milk
For the gravy
1 pan of roasted chicken juices and veg
1⁄2 Tbsp flour (optional)
250ml red or white wine
250ml chicken stock
1 handful curly leaf parsley, finely chopped
1. Your chicken should be at room temperature before going in the oven – remove it from the fridge about 20 minutes before you plan to cook.
2. Preheat the oven to 160°C for a fan oven, or 170°C for a convection oven.
3. Place the chicken on a wooden board. For the basic breast skin stuffing, mix the butter with salt and pepper and lemon rind (see variations below).
4. Using your forefinger, lift the breast skin up and open up the pocket between skin and meat. Get it as far towards the end as you can, so you can spread the butter evenly.
5. Push the softened butter down each pocket, and press it through the skin to coat the breast evenly. This butter will melt and steam inside the skin pocket to keep the breast moist.
6. Mix the stuffing ingredients together; add a splash of milk if it feels a little dry. Stuff this into the cavity of the chicken but don’t pack it too tightly. You still want the hot air to be able to penetrate the cavity and cook through.
7. To truss the chicken, cut a piece of string approximately 1 meter long (you’d rather have too much than too little). Make sure the wings are tucked behind the bird. Starting at the ankles, wrap the string around each ankle in a figure of eight.
8. Now take the string towards the crown of the bird, guiding the string in between the leg and breast joint.
9. Turn the bird over and cross the string and wrap around each wing joint.
10. Turn the bird over again. Bring the string back to the ankles but this time going underneath the thighs, bring up to the ankles, then do one more figure of eight around the ankles. Secure with a sailors knot (or bow) and you are set to go.
11. In the roasting tin, make a small, flattish bed of the carrots and onions. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, tucking them underneath the chicken.
12. Drizzle over the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 20 minutes per 500g, plus 15 minutes over, until golden brown and cooked through.
13. Reserving the juices from the roasting pan, remove the chicken and allow it to cool on a board, covered with tinfoil to maintain the temperature. For a chunky gravy, lightly mash the carrots and onions. For a smooth gravy, remove the large bits and purée at the end.
14. Place the roasting tray with juices on the hob on medium heat. Whisk in the flour, if you want a slightly thicker gravy. Add the wine (red or white), then chicken stock. Whisk until slightly thickened and bubbling, stir in the parsley and serve immediately with the roast chicken.
Variations to your roast chicken:
Butter: To jazz up the butter you stuff under the skin, add some grated orange zest and finely chopped rosemary needles. Or mix the butter with capers and anchovies for a Mediterranean feel, and roast the chicken with cherry tomatoes.
Roast: Thinly slice potatoes and place underneath the bird before cooking (you can do a mixture of veg and potatoes or just potatoes, it is ok if they overlap as they’ll shrink during cooking). Drizzle over a bit of extra olive oil and pop in the oven. The potatoes will absorb a lot of moisture so this is not the route to go if you would like to make gravy using pan juices.
Gravy: Think of your favourite things with chicken and then throw them into the basic gravy sauce: basil, roasted cherry tomatoes, anchovies, all manner of herbs and spices.
Sunday roast sorted. Refer back to this one as often as needed.