Roast chicken

Roast chicken

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
1 chicken, about 1.35 kg
20g butter, softened
8 chipolata sausages
8 rashers streaky bacon
1-2 teaspoons plain flour
300ml Chicken and veal stock
freshly ground black pepper
Bread sauce, to serve

For the stuffing

Quantity Ingredient
20g butter
1/2 apple
large handful herb sprigs, such as sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary, oregano
1/2-1 lemon
80g coarse fresh white breadcrumbs
1/2 large onion
or 1 small onion


  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC. Remove the wishbone from the breast, if you wish, to make carving easier.
  2. To make the stuffing, peel and finely dice the onion. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onion, cover and sweat until very soft and translucent. Turn the heat up to medium, remove the lid and allow the excess moisture to evaporate, taking care not to brown the onion. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Peel and grate the apple. Finely chop enough mixed herb leaves to give you 2–3 tablespoons. Finely grate the zest of the lemon. Add the apple and chopped herbs to the cooled onion with the breadcrumbs and lemon zest. Taste and season with salt and pepper and a little more herbs or lemon zest if necessary.
  3. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper. Loosely tie the legs together with a piece of string (see note on trussing). Stuff the chicken from the neck end, carefully using your fingers to release the skin covering the breast for the filling to be spread over the breast beneath the skin and making sure the breast is well plumped. Draw the neck skin flap down to cover the stuffing. Secure with a skewer if necessary and place in a roasting tin.
  4. Rub a little softened butter all over the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Place a double piece of buttered foil over the breast to prevent the skin from burning and roast in the oven for about 1¼–1½ hours, occasionally basting with the roasting juices.
  5. Meanwhile, make each chipolata into 2 cocktail-sized sausages by twisting it in the middle and cutting in two. Derind each bacon rasher and cut into short lengths, stretch them a little, and loosely roll them up.
  6. After the chicken has been roasting for 45 minutes, add the sausages and bacon rolls to the roasting tin, wedging the bacon rolls so they don’t unroll.
  7. When the calculated roasting time is up, check the chicken is cooked; the legs should be wobbly and the juices should run clear when the thigh is pierced with a skewer. If the breast has not browned, remove the foil for the last 5 minutes of cooking. When the chicken is cooked, lift it out of the roasting tin onto a board set over a tray (to catch the juices) and leave to rest for 10–15 minutes. Remove the sausages and bacon rolls and keep them warm.
  8. To make the gravy, carefully pour off and discard all but 1–2 teaspoons of the fat from the roasting tin, reserving the juices. Place the roasting tin over a medium heat, add the flour and stir for 1–2 minutes, browning the flour a little until straw coloured. Gradually add the stock, reserved roasting juices and any resting juices, and bring to the boil, stirring. Turn the heat down and simmer for 3–5 minutes until the gravy has developed a good flavour. Season with salt and pepper and strain before serving.
  9. Carve the chicken and transfer the slices to a serving dish with the sausages and bacon rolls. Serve the gravy and warm bread sauce separately.


  • Thyme roasted chicken: Omit the stuffing, chipolatas, bacon rolls and gravy. Place a small bunch of thyme in the chicken cavity before tying the legs. Spread 15 g softened butter over the chicken, season it well with salt and pepper and roast as for the main recipe, for 1 hour. Melt 50 g unsalted butter over a low heat and add ½–1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 15–20 minutes. Strain and reserve the thyme and butter separately. Baste the chicken with the thyme-infused butter at least 3 or 4 times during cooking. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven, add the reserved thyme back to the remaining butter and baste the chicken again.

    Five spice, soy and honey roasted chicken: Omit the stuffing, chipolatas and bacon rolls. Smear the chicken all over with dark soy sauce and then drizzle with a little oil. Put 1 cinnamon stick and 2 star anise in the cavity and roast for 1 hour. Mix 2 tablespoons clear honey with 1 teaspoon five-spice powder, ½ teaspoon chilli powder and 1 tablespoon sesame oil. Brush the mixture over the chicken and roast for the remaining time. If you want gravy, add 20 ml mirin (rice wine) or dry sherry to the tin after pouring off excess fat, and simmer for at least 2 minutes. Serve with stir-fried vegetables.

    Provençal roast chicken: Omit the stuffing, chipolatas, bacon rolls and gravy. Cut a garlic bulb in half horizontally, rub the surface of one half over the chicken skin, then place inside the cavity with a small handful of mixed herb sprigs such as basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, or 1 tablespoon dried herbes de Provence. Rub 30 g softened butter over the skin, put the other half of the bulb cut side down in the tin and roast for half the calculated time. Pour 200 ml red wine into the tin and roast for the remaining time. This gravy can then be strained and left thin.

    French roast chicken: Omit the stuffing, chipolatas, bacon rolls and gravy. Rub 30 g softened butter over the non-breast side of the chicken and season well with salt and pepper. Place breast side down in a roasting tin and add a 2 cm depth of water to the roasting tin, along with ½ onion and ½ carrot, both peeled and sliced, and some parsley stalks. Roast at 200ºC for 30 minutes, then carefully turn the chicken over, rub another 30 g softened butter over it and season well. Return to the oven for a further 30–45 minutes. Once cooked, allow the chicken to rest. Strain and taste the cooking juices; they should be savoury and buttery; reduce a little to intensify the flavour if required. Discard the onion, carrot and parsley. Joint rather than carve the chicken and serve with the sauce and some watercress. Roasting the chicken this way helps to retain the moisture in the breast and creates its own sauce while cooking.

A note on trussing...

  • Trussing chickens before roasting pushes the legs and thighs close to the body, which prevents hot air from circulating around them and cooking them properly. Instead, we simply tie the legs together loosely to help keep the shape of the chicken. As game birds can be served rare to pink, they can be trussed fully and will keep their shape that way.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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