sunday lunch: a really good roast chicken

medieval stylee
Have you decided what you're having for Sunday lunch? Are you having a roast? Can I make a suggestion? Many people complain that chicken has no flavouror that it is too dry. But it really doesn't have to be. Admittedly not of all of us can afford one of those organically reared birds that promise so much flavour and a gaping hole in your finances. But a supermarket bird, treated properly, will be beautifully aromatic with and intense savoury flavour.

I love this recipe, and it's not just because of the recent warning on eating red meat. I have mentioned my obsession with spices. This chicken recipe is full of aromatic flavours, reminiscent of a medieval banquet, but perfect for a Sunday lunch. The skin should be crisp and the fleshy buttery; the glossy bird as a centrepiece for a traditional Sunday roast is sensational.

Serves 4-6 (depending on the size of your bird!)
Skill level: Easy

1 x chicken
olive oil
2 x knobs of butter
1 x lemon, cut in 2
2 x garlic heads, cut in half (leave the skin on)
2 x onions, halved around the circumference
3-4 x strands of saffron
400ml white wine
1 x bay leaf
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground mace
a knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6.
  • Put the wine in a jug and add the saffron strands. Leave to soak.
  • Season the inside of the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Take one knob of butter and smooth under the skin of the chicken.Combine the pepper, cinnamon, cloves and mace.
  • Mash a knob of butter with the spice mix and rub all over the chicken. Place any left over inside the chicken together with the bay leaf and lemon halves.
  • Place the onion halves in a roasting tin and place the chicken on top.
  • Nestle the garlic around the chicken.
  • Sprinkle the ginger over the chicken.
  • Shake a little olive oil over the garlic.
  • Pour the saffron and wine around the chicken.
  • Roast for 20 minutes for every 500g plus and extra 25 minutes.
  • After the first 20 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 180C / Gas Mark 4. Baste and return to the oven for the rest of the cooking time.
  • Check every 20 minutes or so. Baste again if you choose.
  • If it looks as if the chicken is burning, then cover in foil.
  • The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear when the flesh is pierced with a sharp knife or skewer.
  • Wrap in foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes, just enough time to perfect your gravy!
  • To make the gravy, pour off any excess fat but keep the pan juices. Place the roasting tin on the stove top, over a moderate heat. Add more wine, or vermouth or water. Heat through, scraping up the caramelised bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Make sure that you add any of the juices that have accumulated as the chicken rests. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Quite often I add these juices to my mushroom and sherry sauce, which makes the perfect accompaniment for roast chicken.
  • I would serve this with roast potatoes of course. With something green - perhaps savoy cabbage or peas, yes definitely peas. And to add some additional colour probably a mash of carrot and swede. 


Donkey said...

I normally like my chicken plain roasted, but this sounds lovely and one I will have to try very soon.

o cozinheiro este algarve said...

This sounds delicious...packed with flavour and moistness.I shall have to try this for the annual casa rosada medieval banquet this August,Thank you for sharing this gem.

Cro Magnon said...

There are so many wonderful ways of roasting a chicken. That looks good!

Maggie said...

This chicken is in a league all of it's own and I was pleased to see you had used mace, it isn't used nearly enough.