Back to basics: The Essential Roast Chicken

by | Aug 19, 2022 | At Home

An easy and cost-effective classic that satisfies every time.

Serves 6 (if served with plenty of vegetables)


1 x free-range chicken (size 14)
50g butter, softened
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, plus 3 extra small sprigs
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper

Sage stuffing
25g butter, softened
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2–3 thick slices sourdough bread
2 tbsp fresh walnuts, very roughly chopped, or use toasted hazelnuts

Jacket Potatoes

6 medium roasting potatoes, scrubbed
oil and salt for rubbing

Chicken gravy

2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups chicken stock or more if needed (you can also use vegetable cooking water to replace stock)
salt and pepper



Heat the oven to 180°C.  Pat the chicken dry using kitchen paper.

In a small bowl, combine the butter, herbs and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.

Gently work your fingers under the skin of the chicken to loosen it, being careful not to tear it. Nudge the butter and herb mixture into the chicken, rubbing all over the breast meat and then down towards the leg joints, then put your hand on the outer skin and smooth and tease it out so the mixture is spread as evenly as possible.

Make the sage stuffing, in a small bowl. Combine the butter, garlic and chopped sage leaves. Spread the butter over the bread slices then cut into cubes.

Put the chicken in a roasting dish and stuff the bread cubes into the cavity along with the walnuts or hazelnuts. Squeeze the lemon juice over the skin of the chicken and sprinkle with a little salt. Pull the legs together and tie with kitchen string. Tie the wings to the breast or simply tuck them under. Scatter the sage sprigs around.

Rub each potato with oil and salt and put around the chicken. Put in the oven and roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting a couple of times by spooning the juices over the chicken. You can check if the chicken is cooked by piercing the thigh with a small sharp knife. The juices should run clear.

Remove the chicken from the oven and put on a warmed plate. Cover with foil and a clean tea towel and leave to rest for 10 minutes while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy, add the flour to the roasting dish and put over medium heat. Cook until the flour begins to colour, stirring with a wooden spoon to release any sticky and crispy bits left from cooking the chicken to add flavour and colour to your gravy. Gradually pour in the stock or vegetable water, stirring continuously to prevent lumps forming until lightly thickened and glossy. Season with salt. (If you have a few lumps, strain the gravy through a sieve into a warmed jug for serving.)

Serve with oven-roasted jacket potatoes or kumara and plenty of vegetables.

Tip – any extra stuffing can be put into a small dish and roasted until crisp in the oven.

Cooking tips 

You can turn the chicken during cooking for extra-moist breast meat. Cook the chicken for 15 minutes on its breast then turn every 15 minutes. Finish with the breast upwards to brown.

Tying the legs together with string helps the chicken to cook more evenly.

You can add wine to your gravy – splash some wine into the roasting dish and let it boil to remove the alcohol. Scrape the bottom and sides of the roasting dish at the same time to scrape up all those delicious sticky, crusty bits that will add an awesome flavour.

Recipe and Images Kathy Paterson

Used with permission from Nourish magazine

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