Classic Roast Chicken with Sage and Onion stuffing
A chicken is everyone’s favourite Sunday dinner. There are so many ways of cooking it, but after many decades of practising we find this is the best method and really reliable We’ve included two of our favourite stuffings here, so take your pick.
- 4 - 6
- 1 x 1.5–1.8kg chicken, giblets removed and trussed
- 25g butter
- ½ lemon
- 100ml white wine or vermouth (optional)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sage & Onion Stuffing
- 15g butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- zest of ½ lemon
- 5 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, or 1 tsp dried sage
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
Sausage Meat Stuffing
- 15g butter
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 200g sausage meat
- 1 apple, grated
- a few sprigs of thyme, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp flour
- 100ml white wine
- 300ml chicken stock
- 1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
- 500ml whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 mace blade
- a few peppercorns
- 30g butter
- 30g plain flour
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- pinch of cayenne
- 100g Cheddar or Gruyère, grated
- sea salt and white pepper
If you have time, the day before you roast your chicken, take it out of any packaging, put it on a plate and sprinkle it inside and out with salt. Leave it in the fridge overnight, loosely wrapped in kitchen paper. An hour before you want to start roasting the chicken, remove it from the fridge so it can come up to room temperature.
To make the sage and onion stuffing, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the onion and cook it over a low heat until it’s very soft and translucent. Tip the onion into a bowl and let it cool, then add the lemon zest, sage and breadcrumbs. Season well with salt and pepper, then add the egg and mix thoroughly.
If making the sausage meat stuffing, melt the butter and fry the onion as above, then add the sausage meat, apple and herbs.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 200°C/Gas 7. Weigh the stuffing and add it to the weight of the chicken so you can work out the cooking time. The chicken will need 20 minutes for every 500g, plus 15 minutes at the high temperature to begin with. Fill the cavity of chicken with your chosen stuffing, making sure you leave a little space between the stuffing and the top of the bird, just to let the air circulate. If you have any stuffing left over, put it in the neck end.
Put the chicken in a roasting tin, rub the butter all over it, season, then squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the top. Add the white wine or vermouth with 100ml of water, or simply use 200ml of water.
Put the chicken in the oven and roast it for 15 minutes. Turn the heat down to 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4 and continue to roast for the time you’ve worked out. You can test for doneness in a variety of ways. If you have a probe or meat thermometer, the stuffing and the thickest part of the chicken should be 75°C. Or if you pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer, the juices should run clear. The legs should also feel loose when you wiggle them.
Once the bird is cooked, remove it from the tin and cover it with foil to keep it warm while it rests. Pour the juices from the tin into a jug and strain off any fat, then set the juices aside.
To make the gravy, sprinkle the flour into the roasting tin and place the tin over a low heat. Stir the flour into the scrapings at the bottom of the tin to make a roux, then pour in the white wine. Let this bubble up, then gradually add in the defatted pan
juices and the chicken stock. At this point you can transfer the gravy to a
saucepan if you like – the roasting tin should look clean. Simmer until you
have a thin, tasty gravy to serve with the chicken and all the trimmings.
For the Cauliflower Cheese.
This is cooked in the oven at 180°C/Fan 160°C/Gas 4, so it can go in with the chicken or you can pop it into the hot oven while the chicken is resting.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add salt. Add the cauliflower and cook it for 4 minutes until it’s tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the cauliflower thoroughly and put it in an ovenproof dish.
Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the bay leaves, mace and peppercorns. Place the pan over the heat and bring the milk almost to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and leave the milk to infuse for a while, or at least until you’ve made the roux.
Melt the butter in another pan. Add the flour and stir in the mustard powder and cayenne. When you have a smooth roux, keep stirring for a minute or so to cook the flour a little. Strain the milk into a jug and add it to the roux, very gradually to start with and making sure you stir it to a smooth paste with each addition. When the texture is like a liquid sauce, you can add the milk in larger quantities, continuing to stir constantly until it is all incorporated. Add 75g of the cheese and stir until it has melted. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, preferably white, if necessary.
Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Put the dish in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is brown and bubbling. Serve with the roast chicken.