Sunday: Roast chicken

Roast chicken. Photograph: David Sleator

Roast chicken. Photograph: David Sleator

Sat, Sep 6, 2014, 01:00

  • Serves: 4
  • Cooking Time: 60 mins
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: French


  • 2 heads garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped (don’t peel)
  • 1 medium chicken, approx 1.5kg
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • Few sprigs thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp of honey (optional)
  • 2 glasses white wine


Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas 4. Make a bed of veg by putting the garlic, carrots and onions in the middle of a roasting tray.

I sometimes slice one head in half, horizontally, and leave the cloves of the other head loose, but unpeeled. Place the chicken breast-side down (yes, upside down) on top of the veg. Then stuff the lemon halves into the chicken. Pour the wine over it and then season generously with thyme, salt and pepper. Roast for about 45 minutes.

Take the roasting tin out of the oven, flip the bird over and squeeze some honey on top. Season again and cook for another 15-20 minutes. At this stage, take it out and leave for a few minutes.

Give the legs a wiggle: they should move about freely. If you aren’t sure, slice between the leg and the breast. Check what colour it is. It shouldn’t be too pink, and the juices should definitely be clear. I like to leave it covered in foil or in the oven – which has been turned off – to sit for at least 30 minutes before carving.

The roast bits of veg are an added perk. But if you can, strain some of that delicious jus at the bottom of the roasting pan, which you can always deglaze with a little water.

This is usually tasty enough on its own, with no adornment, but you can also transfer it to a smaller saucepan and simmer away till it’s nice and rich.

If you must, add some “beurre manie” which is equal parts butter and flour (just a spoonful of each) which you can chuck in as it will help thicken and emulsify it. Add some more honey or wine depending on what it lacks. Simmer until everything is just as it should be.

Once you have eaten your fill and just have bones left, put all those bones into a suitably-sized saucepan, fill it with water and gently simmer for as long as you can. I sometimes only manage three hours before bed time.

Go fishing for the bones and discard. Strain it through a colander and then cool it down. I do this by sitting the saucepan in a sink full of cold water to make a water bath. You just want to cool it down so you can then transfer it to the fridge and have it to use in your soups or as a nourishing broth on its own for the week.