Firstly, we suggest you read the whole recipe before you start cooking, as you will need to prepare different parts of the meal while others are cooking!
Stuffing the chicken
Combine all the stuffing ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Place it in a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate until needed.
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 / 190°C / 170°C Fan.
To stuff the chicken, create a pocket between the breast meat and the skin at the neck end by gently loosening the skin.
Gently pack about a third of the stuffing mixture into this pocket, taking care not to overfill. Then shape it neatly.
Tuck the loose flap under the chicken’s back.
Secure with a small skewer. Place the remaining stuffing inside the cavity.
Roasting the chicken
Place the chicken in a roasting pan.
Using your hands, rub the softened butter all over the chicken.
Then season it with the salt and pepper.
If using the bacon, now arrange 7 of the rashers across the breast. Cut the 8th rasher in half and lay along each leg. The bacon will help keep the flesh from getting too dry.
If you prefer not to use the bacon, cover the chicken loosely in foil.
Place the chicken in the oven on the middle shelf.
Roast for 20 minutes per lb / 450g plus an extra 10 – 20 minutes. A 2.25kg / 5 lb chicken will therefore take 1 hour 50 minutes – 2 hours, a 2.7kg / 6 lb will take 2 hours 10 minutes – 2 hours 20 minutes.
Baste the chicken by spooning over the cooking juices several times during roasting. This will keep the flesh moist.
About half an hour before the end remove the bacon which should now be crispy.
Keep warm to serve with the chicken.
If you have not used the bacon, remove the foil.
For the last 15 minutes of cooking time raise the oven temperature to Gas Mark 7 / 220°C / 200° Fan, to crisp the skin.
It is important to ensure that chicken is thoroughly cooked (but not overcooked and dry!)
To check that the chicken is cooked pierce the thickest part of the leg with a skewer. The juices should run clear.
Once cooked, the chicken should be removed from the oven, removed from the baking tin, covered with foil and left in warm place to rest before carving.
Reserve the cooking juices to make gravy.
Roast Potatoes and Other Vegetables
Have a large saucepan of salted water ready.
Peel the vegetables. Use small potatoes whole, cut larger potatoes into the same size.
Use small parsnips whole, cut large parsnips in half lengthwise.
Use artichokes whole. Use the onions whole. Place them in the pan.
Add the bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, place the fat in a roasting tin and place in the oven. For crispy potatoes the fat will need to be hot when you put the potatoes in.
The timing of this is important. The vegetables should take 45 – 55 minutes at high temperature.
I would put them in the oven when I raise the heat for the last 15 minutes.
After the potatoes etc have simmered for 5 minutes, drain them, reserving the cooking liquid. (Part of this liquid can be used to make gravy, the rest will keep, covered, in the fridge for a few days and can be used to make soup).
Discard the bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme. Put the vegetables back into the pan, steam dry briefly over low heat, then shake the pan vigorously. The idea is to roughen the edges of especially the potatoes which will result in crispier roasties.
Remove the pan of hot fat from the oven.
Place the par-cooked vegetables in the hot fat, turning them to coat them.
Return the pan to the oven.
Turn the vegetables from time to time. They will remain in the oven at the higher temperature and continue cooking once you have removed the chicken to rest.
Transfer the chicken cooking juices to a small saucepan. Heat. Stir in the flour quickly.
Keep stirring to avoid lumps. Add the root vegetable water a little at a time until your gravy has the consistency you like.
Pour into a jug or gravy boat to serve.
Serve the roast chicken and roasted vegetables with your choice of steamed vegetables ------ broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, peas, beans, courgettes would all work well.
Serve cold chicken and stuffing with baked potatoes and salad or coleslaw.
Make a curry with small pieces of chicken, onion, and your favourite curry paste. You can add a variety of vegetables too.
Make a fricassee with small pieces of chicken, shallots, sliced mushrooms, and leftover gravy. Serve with rice or mashed potato, and a steamed green leafy vegetable.
Place the carcase in a large saucepan and add water to cover. Add a peeled onion, a couple each of celery sticks and peeled carrots, a bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, salt and freshly milled pepper. Boil on low to medium heat for at least an hour, ensuring it does not boil dry. Strain and take (and reserve) any remaining meat off the carcase. Turn the resulting stock into soup. Add tiny pasta until cooked. Add the reserved chicken at the end to warm through. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.