27 April 2012

A "how to" guide : Roast Chicken with Lemon & Herbs

Hubby and I were pondering on what to have for Sunday lunch the other day, when it occurred to me that there has to be more than a few people out there who really don't know where to start with preparing a Sunday lunch.

This is why we thought we'd work our way through various Sunday roast joints over the course of the year and prepare a "how to" guide for them as we go.  I'll also include various vegetable side dishes such as roast potatoes etc. too.

So for those of you who know how to roast a chicken, don't think I'm patronising you.  This post is not for you.  ~wags finger~  For those of you who have found your way here to find out how to roast a chicken, read on!

Roasting a chicken is one of the easiest Sunday Roasts you can opt for.  Chickens are really quite forgiving things, so long as you don't leave them in the oven for way over the recommended time and dry them out - or alternatively, take them out too soon and serve pink chicken (which could land everyone up in hospital).  Undercooked chicken really is one of the most common causes of food poisoning - so it's worthwhile ensuring that your chicken is cooked through.  Once upon a time, you were told to pierce the meat of the thigh and observe the colour of the juice which emerged.  For me, this isn't a good enough test.  I much prefer to pull the whole leg away from the body and peer into the gap to see what colour the juices are.  If there is any slightest hint of pink - put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.  If there is the slightest doubt as to whether there is pink there or not - put it back anyway.  You so don't want to be visiting A&E accompanied by a bucket.

I must say a few words about stuffing, as we're talking about food hygiene here.  If you're a novice at roasting a chicken, prepare your stuffing and cook it in a separate dish.  It tastes just as good and doesn't come complete with globby bits of cooked blood, the sight of which used to turn me over when I was a child - and doesn't do much for me now, either.

The difficulty with stuffing a chicken is that because the stuffing fills the body cavity, the hot air from the oven can't penetrate into the chicken so easily.  Hence, it takes a good half an hour longer to cook than an unstuffed bird would.  That half an hour can easily make the difference between a lovely juicy chicken dinner and some dried out chicken sawdust for dinner.  If you must put something inside your chicken, make it a couple of bay leaves, a small bouquet of herbs or a lemon.  Better still, why not make hubby's recipe below, which just can't help but be succulent and gorgeous!

Now then, let's assume you've roasted your chicken and had your roast dinner.  On your worktop sits the remains of the chicken, glowering at you.  Don't throw it in the bin!  Oh my heart is having palpitations at the very idea.  No, no, get yourself a bowl, a sharp knife, a freezer bag and maybe a dog bowl if you own a dog, plus some kitchen paper with which to wipe your hands.  Separate off any - and I'm talking any - meat from the carcass, to put in the bowl as even little tiny scraps of meat can go into a sandwich or into some soup.  Remember to look under the chicken, as there are two choice pads of meat to be found under there (known as the "oysters").  As you find pieces that you recoil at eating (such as skin), you have to decide whether to a) put them in the dog bowl, or b) put them into the freezer bag with any bones you come across.  Don't give the dog roast chicken bones (other than wing tips and the parson's nose) as they can splinter and damage your dog's throat and digestive tract.  That freezer bag full of bones and yukky bits can be hidden away in the fridge until the following day, when you can chop up a celery stick, an onion, a clove or two of garlic - and make some gorgeous chicken stock.

The bowl of leftover chicken can be used for a myriad of recipes - not just a sandwich or soup - such as Coronation Chicken, Chicken Wraps, Spicy Chicken Rice - the world is your leftover chicken oyster.

So, enough yapping about it, let's get on and make that roast chicken :


Ingredients for the herb butter :

60g salted butter at room temperature
6 Sage leaves
1 Sprig of Rosemary
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp Thyme
half tsp Chives
half clove Garlic

Simply mince the herbs and garlic as finely as possible before combining with the butter. Form the mixture into two patties, cover and chill slightly in the fridge, taking care not to let them get hard.

Ingredients for the Chicken :

1 Medium Chicken
Herb Butter
1 Lemon
2 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper

Ingredients for the Gravy :

Chicken Juices
One and a half tablespoons plain flour
A splash of Sherry
150ml boiling water.

Method :

1.  Wash the chicken, inside and out under cold running water.  Pat dry with kitchen paper, then using your fingers, gently make a pocket over the chicken breast by easing the skin away from the meat.  Try to make the pocket as large as possible but take care not to tear the skin.  Insert the herb butter patties into the pocket, easing the butter as far over the breast as possible.

2.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice all over the skin on the chicken before inserting both halves and the two bay leaves into the chicken's cavity.  Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper but do salt the legs as this can make them dry.

3.  Place the chicken into a lightly oiled baking dish, cover with baking foil and then put into an oven, pre-heated to 180 degrees C.  Cook for 30 minutes before removing the foil and returning to the oven for a further 45 minutes (or more, depending on the size of the chicken).  During this second phase of cooking, baste the chicken every 15 minutes or so with the cooking juices.

4.  At the end of the cooking time, pull one of the thighs away from the body and check that the juices in the gap are running clear.  Any sign of pink and return the chicken to the oven for another 15 minutes.  Assuming all's well, take the chicken from the roasting dish, place on a carving board and cover with foil for ten minutes to rest.

5.  While the chicken is resting, spoon out the worst of the fat from the roasting dish, then place over a medium heat and bring the juices to a simmer.  Add a splash of sherry or white wine to deglaze the pan and then stir in one and a half tablespoons of plain flour.  Stir vigorously to remove any lumps and then add 100ml of water or chicken stock.  Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth before transferring to a small saucepan.  While simmering and stirring the gravy, add more water or stock until your preferred consistency is reached.  Season to taste and then pour into a warmed gravy dish.

6.  Carve and serve the chicken with a selection of vegetables and of course, Yorkshire puddings.  Stuffing can be prepared and cooked in a separate dish, if required.



  1. Your recipe looks lovely Jenny, and I will be showing it to my daughter (who already does a delicious roast chicken. I know most of us were taught by our parents to wash raw meet before cooking it, but are you aware of the latest advice not to do this because this increases the risk of food poisoning? Here are a couple of links to current advice:



    1. Thank you Noreen. Yes, I was aware of the current advice not to wash chicken. I look upon it from a view that if your kitchen hygiene is as good as it should be, then careful washing of a chicken can only be a good thing. I will admit that there are elements of the advice that would be good to follow in many cases, but such a lot of this advice just smacks of the Nanny State being over-cautious, to me.

  2. Your gorgeous roasted chicken is very appealing and enticing to eat. I love the veggies that goes with it too. =)

  3. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find
    this matter to be actually something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me. I'm looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!
    Also see my page - Montaz sprzedaz komputerow na zamowienie

    1. I welcome questions, Mr Computer Installations!


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