Roast chicken: New ways with a favourite dish
PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 March 2013
Roast chicken is such a simple dish and yet sometimes a challenge.
Spatchcock roasted chicken with herbs and garlic
1 whole chicken
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 sprigs of each fresh
rosemary, thyme and oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 small onions, peeled and
3 to 4 carrots, peeled and cut
into inch chunks
2 medium potatoes, cut into
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ lemon, sliced
For the gravy
2 teaspoons plain flour
1 chicken stock cube
Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/
gas mark 6.
Position the chicken so
the back is facing up and the
drumsticks are pointing towards
you. Using poultry or sharp
kitchen scissors cut down one
side of the backbone. Cut down
the other side of the backbone,
removing it completely.
(Reserve the backbone and
cook it underneath the chicken.
It will add flavour to the stock).
Now turn the chicken and
press it down towards the work
surface so it flattens slightly.
Tuck the wings under the
Rub the chicken with the oil
and sprinkle with salt and black
pepper, place in a large roasting
tin and add herbs, garlic cloves
and a few lemon wedges. I put
season on the board so the
roasting tin doesn’t catch too
much seasoning, as it can make
the gravy too strong.
Toss the vegetables with 1
tablespoon of oil, rosemary,
salt and black pepper. Arrange
vegetables around chicken
in the roasting pan. Pour an
inch of cold water around the
chicken and pop in to roast.
After 30 minutes, rotate the
roasting tin so the chicken
cooks evenly. Cook for an hour.
Test the legs for pink juices.
Once roasted, transfer
chicken to a cutting board on a
tray, cover loosely with foil then
let rest about 10 minutes.
To make the gravy remove
the vegetables with a slotted
spoon and strain the cooking
liquor into a glass jug or gravy
separator and allow to separate.
Carefully lift 2 tbsp of the
chicken fat on top of the juices
and place back into the roasting
pan. Add 2 tsp of flour and
cook out for a few minutes until
it looks russet brown.
Remove from the heat and
gradually add the chicken liquor
and the chicken stock.
Return to the heat and bring
slowly to the boil, whisking
all the time. Simmer for a few
minutes until the gravy is shiny.
Season to taste with salt and
Cut the legs off the chicken
and divide into thigh and
drumstick, trim off the wing tips
and cut the breasts in half.
Remember the old saying “you get what you pay for”? It’s particularly appropriate in relation to food. A whole chicken can cost as little as £3 but where has it come from and do you care? Do you choose free-range, organic or cage-free?
All these terms can be confusing.
If you’re concerned about the amount of antibiotics fed to chickens, purchase poultry and eggs labelled free-range and no-antibiotic-added. Cage-free means the brids were not kept in cages within a warehouse but does not mean they necessarily had access to outside areas. To ensure you’re purchasing meat and eggs from chickens that foraged in a natural environment, look for packaging indications that the chickens were pastured, or find poultry with the “Animal Welfare Approved” label.
The alternative is to buy locally from someone you know. As the recent horsemeat scandal proves, the label on your food may not be as truthful as you would like to think.
Whatever chicken you buy, you need to know how to cook it.
French roasting involves an inch or so of water, unpeeled garlic cloves, lemon wedges, and a few choice veggies, a few parsley stalks, twists of black pepper and flakes of salt. The chicken is turned about half way through to finish with the breast side up. Once the bird is cooked, the cooking liquor is used to make the gravy. English roast chicken tends to be cooked breast side up throughout and has stuffing in the neck cavity, and perhaps between the skin and breast. This keeps the breast moist and it absorbs the lovely flavour of the stuffing.
One of my favourite ways to prepare a chicken for roasting is to Spatchcock, or to remove the backbone, enabling you to flatten out the whole chicken. Use a good pair of scissors either side of the backbone and then place the chicken on a board and press firmly on the breast to flatten and slightly break the bones to make sure it remains flat. This helps it roast evenly and cook a little quicker. As all the chicken skin is facing upwards, it browns all over.
I prefer to cook my potatoes around the chicken and I pop them in about half way through, once I have par-boiled them. Cutting them quite small means they will cook in time and they soak up some of the delicious juices.
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