- 1 free-range chicken
- vegetable oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 100g duck fat (or vegetable oil, but duck or goose fat is by far the best)
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme or rosemary
- 2 whole heads of garlic, each split in half so that the cut cloves are exposed about
- 125ml water soft fresh herbs – any of the following: flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, sage or oregano, chopped
- 1 lemon
Set the oven to 225ºC. Remove the legs from the chicken. This is very easily done and takes about 10 seconds: simply pull the leg forcefully from the crown and run a sharp knife between the two to release the skin. Once you have done this, you can easily pull the leg right down towards the board at right angles to the crown. Pick the whole chicken up and dislocate the thigh bone from its socket at the base of the bird. Once this is done, simply run the knife along the leg to release the whole from the crown. Repeat with the other leg.
Place the roasting pan over a brisk heat and get it really hot – 3 minutes or so. Very lightly oil only the crown with a little vegetable oil – a pastry brush is ideal for this. This simply gives the skin some stickiness for the seasoning to adhere to. Season the crown liberally with salt and pepper both on the skin and inside the cavity. Also season the legs on both sides.
Put a heaped dessertspoon of duck fat into the pan followed immediately by the crown, breast down, and the legs, skin-side down. Using tongs, turn the crown on to the other breast when the first is beautifully golden. Turn the legs over at the same stage. This browning process will take 10 minutes or so.
Turn the heat down a little if it is too fierce and beginning to scorch the side of the pan. When the chicken crown and legs are evenly coloured on both sides, turn off the heat and remove the pan from the hob. Carefully place the thyme or rosemary evenly under the chicken and add some to the cavity. Place the garlic around and make sure both legs are in direct contact with the pan and are skin-side down. Place the whole lot in the oven for 30 minutes, basting twice.
When basting, make sure that the garlic gets a generous helping of fat or the cloves may burn. After half an hour, take the pan from the oven and flip the legs over so that the skin side faces upwards. Cover loosely with foil and rest in a warm place for at least half an hour.
Just before serving, transfer the chicken and legs to the chopping board. Remove the garlic from the pan and keep warm. Discard the roasting herbs, which will be scorched. Tip up the pan at one end so that the juices collect at the other end and skim off some of the fat, but not necessarily all of it.
Put the pan back on a gentle heat, add the water and whisk well as the liquid boils. Ensure that all the residue is scraped up from the pan into the sauce. Pass the whole lot through a sieve into a small pan. Check the seasoning, add the chopped herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice. Keep warm.
Carve the breasts from the crown, cutting down towards the board between the neck end and the wing bone. This will ensure a complete breast with the wing bone attractively attached. Repeat with the other breast. Cut each breast in two, one half slightly bigger than the other.
Locate the joint between drumstick and thigh and cut between the two, thereby leaving four leg pieces. Serve the smaller drumstick with the slightly bigger breast piece and the smaller breast piece with the larger thigh joint. (Otherwise there may be dispute at the table.)
Spoon the herb gravy over and serve immediately with the roasted garlic.