A roast meal takes time and generates a lot of washing up. Pace Sam and Louis, I think it’s worth it. We always make a small stock for the gravy beforehand and then a big stock afterwards, which can serve a range of meals for the following week (risotto, soup, leeks & quinoa to name a few). If you have neither time nor inclination to make a proper stuffing – this one has been passed down from the Scottish side of my family – you can just fill the seasoned chicken cavity with half a lemon and a bunch of herbs (thyme works well). I also like Ottolenghi’s twist: smear the chicken with pomegranate molasses and cover with lots of za’atar. Some of you disagree. All sorts of vegetable sides accompany our roasts: roast potatoes (always), Carluccio’s carrots (usually), Hungarian spinach (often).
1 large chicken (1.8-2kg)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 sticks celery, cut into 3cm chunks
3 bay leaves
150 ml white wine
Salt and pepper
For the stuffing:
Half an onion, very finely chopped
100g porridge oats or oatmeal
Salt and pepper
Optional: 1 tsp each fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest
Preheat the oven to 200/180 (fan).
To prepare the chicken, pull off the flaps of fat at the entrance to the chicken cavity. Chop off the ends of the drumsticks if your chicken still has those extra joints. Arrange a carrot, a stick of celery and half an onion (in chunks) on the base of a roasting tin or heavy casserole dish: the vegetables create a ‘rack’ for the chicken.
Mix all the stuffing ingredients together and fill the chicken’s cavity, packing the stuffing in well. Close with a skewer (a bamboo one, cut to about 10cm works well). Smear the chicken with olive oil, season all over and then place, breast side down, on top of the vegetables.
Roast in the oven for 1.5 hours. (If your chicken isn’t stuffed it will need less roasting time). Put another carrot, celery, half an onion, 10 peppercorns and a bay leaf with the drumstick ends in a small pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour.
After the chicken has had about half an hour, turn it over to lie breast-side up and return to the oven. You might be putting potatoes in to roast at the same time.
When the chicken is cooked (test this by piercing the thigh at its fattest part, to see if the juices run clear), remove from the oven and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes.
To make the gravy, put the baking tray on the hob, on a medium heat, deglaze with some white wine, then add stock and potato water and cook for 5 mins. I prefer this thin ‘jus’ with chicken but if you want something thicker you could add flour before adding the liquids. Check seasoning and adjust as necessary.
To serve, scoop out the stuffing into a bowl, then carve the chicken. We like Jamie Oliver’s method of carving the breast (remove the whole breast and then slice cross-ways). ‘Common sense tells you that’s going to be mega.’
There is no excuse not to make a stock afterwards
Remove any skin and stuffing from the chicken carcass and gather up the other leftover bones. Place in a large pot along with an onion (quartered), a stick of celery, a carrot, 2 bay leaves and a handful (15 or so) peppercorns. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours. Allow to cool (it’s fine to leave overnight), then strain and store in a bowl / tupperware in the fridge or freezer. If there’s too much to accommodate you can boil it down to make a more concentrated stock, which will ‘set’ in the fridge.