There is something very exciting about a whole roast chicken brought to the table - to me it reminds me of family Sunday lunches. The flavours here are really fantastic and really penetrate the flesh of the chicken.
- 1.5kg (3lb) chicken (preferably free-range or organic)
- 1 lemon
- 1 fresh thyme sprig
- 75 g butter (softened)
- 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
- 2 red onions (peeled and halved)
- 4 small carrots (peeled)
- 1 leek (chopped in half)
- 2 celery sticks (chopped in half)
- 1 garlic bulb (broken into cloves, but not peeled)
- 3 tblsp olive oil
- 1 tblsp plain flour
- 120 ml white wine
- 600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- roast potatoes and buttered peas, to serve
- Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F/Gas 8). Finely grate the rind from the lemon and place the rind in a bowl, reserving the lemon. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks and add to the lemon rind. Mix in the butter with the garlic and then season to taste.
- Loosen the skin from the chicken breasts starting at the cavity end and working your hand underneath to release. Spread the butter evenly under the skin and lay the skin back down on top. Slash the chicken legs several times with a sharp knife (this is to help ensure crispy skin once cooked).
- Place the onions in a roasting tin with the carrots, leeks, celery and garlic, tossing to coat in one tablespoon of the olive oil. Sit the chicken on top of the pile of vegetables and drizzle all over with the remaining olive oil, then season well, rubbing it all over and right into the slashes.
- Cut the reserved lemon in half and put it inside the chicken's cavity with the reserved thyme stalks. Place the chicken in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Roast the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes, basting the chicken halfway through cooking.
- When the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and transfer the chicken to a board and put the carrots and red onions on a warmed plate. Cover each with tin foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes while you make the gravy. Using a large spoon carefully remove most of the fat from the tin and then place the tin directly on the heat. Stir in the flour and then holding the tin steady, mash up the remaining vegetables as much as possible with a potato masher to release their juices.
- Pour the wine into the tin and allow to bubble down, stirring continuously to blend the flour in. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened, stirring occasionally. Take a large jug and set a sieve into it, then pour in the gravy mixture and use a ladle to push all of the liquid and some of the vegetables through with the back of the spoon. Stir in the juices from the resting chicken and season to taste. Transfer to a warmed gravy boat.
- Carve the chicken into slices and arrange on warmed plates with the reserved carrots and red onion halves, the roast potatoes and buttered peas. Pour over the gravy to serve.