Thursday, January 01, 2015
One or more free-range organic chickens, 2-2.5kg each
50-100g soft butter
Salt and ground black pepper
Fresh bay leaves (if available), torn in half
2-3 large sprigs fresh thyme
1 whole head garlic, broken into cloves and roughly bashed
About 200ml white wine
About 200ml water
Remove the bird/s from the fridge at least an hour before cooking so it/they can come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. If there are any, put the giblets in the fridge for making stock later. (Separate the livers from the giblets because they'll make the stock bitter. Fry them up for nibbles, or use them in the stuffing - see below.)
Untruss the bird’s legs and give them a tug and a wiggle to separate them a bit from the body, and then place the bird/s in the largest roasting tray you can fit in your oven. Make sure there's as much space around it/them as possible and enlarge the opening of the cavities with your fingers, so hot air can circulate inside the bird/s. Smear the bird/s all over with the soft butter, then season generously all over. Put a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, a couple of slices of lemon and a few whole garlic cloves inside and under each bird.
Place in the centre of the hot oven, roast for 30 minutes, then baste with the buttery juices, turn down the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, pour the wine into the tin (not over the birds) and roast for another 40-60 minutes, depending on their size. Test they are done by poking a knife where the thigh joins the breast - the juices released should run clear. Tip the birds on end so any juices in their cavities run into the tin, then transfer to a large, warmed dish and cover with foil. Leave to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. This gives you time to finish all the trimmings, and make the gravy.