From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
1.5 kg chicken (preferably free-range or organic)
1 sprig of thyme
75 g butter (softened)
2 garlic cloves (peeled and 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
100 ml white wine
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
roast potatoes and buttered peas, to serve
Take the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes in advance.
Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F/Gas 8).
Finely grate the zest from the lemon and place it in a bowl, reserving the rest of the lemon. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks (reserve the stalks) and add to the lemon zest. Mix in the butter and the garlic and then season with salt and pepper.
Loosen the skin from the chicken breasts, starting at the cavity end and working your hand underneath to release it. Spread the garlic 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 that the skin crisps up while the chicken cooks).
Place the onions in a roasting tin with the carrots, leek, celery and garlic cloves, tossing to coat in 1 tablespoon of 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 both halves 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 20 minutes, basting it halfway through cooking.
When the chicken is cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a board. Put the carrots and red onions on a warmed plate.
Cover the chicken and the vegetables with foil and set aside 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, holding the tin steady, mash the remaining vegetables as much as possible with a potato masher to release their juices. Pour the wine into the tin and allow it to bubble, stirring continuously to blend in the flour.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and thickened.
Take a large jug and set a sieve above it, then pour in the gravy mixture and push some of the vegetable fibres through with the back of the spoon. Stir in the juices from the resting chicken and season with salt and pepper 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. Serve with the gravy.