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  • Writer's pictureGary Mack

Sissinghurst's Roast Chicken

Having just learnt to drive we now feel a greater sense of freedom. To be able to jump in the car and be in the countryside in just over an hour (possibly less but this time it was 1hr and 10mins). We headed to a beautiful tiny (from the outside) cottage right beside Sissinghurst.

We wanted to stop for the weekend, hibernate and not have to eat out. This can always be a challenge when hiring a self-catering cottage. You have to think just that little bit more. Using different ovens, different knives (sometimes there are no sharp knives!), will there be roasting dishes? It's a bit like pot luck. Thank goodness our little cottage was perfect. 

Friday evening arrived, and thankfully Jonathan had managed to get away on time. I headed to the station to collect him, then we went food shopping. Organic chicken, organic carrots, potatoes, lemon, garlic and a little thyme that is growing in a pot. We also picked up some delicious wines and a few naughty treats!

The idea was to hunker down on a Friday night then have a long lovely walk on the Sat.

Jonathan is an expert cottage shopper! He can spend hours browsing all the holiday let sites. Never have we had a duff let. This little magical cottage happens to be one of the best. From the outside, it looked tiny. When inside it was the perfect size for two.

Shoes off, wine open, music on and book out. I may re-reading for the fifth time. One of my favourite books. It's called the Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler. It was the perfect choice for our autumn weekend. It's all about flavour, it's about cooking with every part of the vegetable or meat you buy. Every time I read this book, it inspires me to be more creative in the kitchen. Jonathan has pre-ordered her new book coming out April 2018 called Something old, Something New by Tamar Adler.

So onto the chicken. Oven on full, get it good and hot. The hotter, the better. You want to blister the skin for 20 min before turning the heat down to keep the chuck succulent and juicy.

While the oven is heating up its time to prepare the chicken for the oven. This evening will have lemon, thyme and garlic chicken.

Everyone has there own way of roasting.  Here is mine. I always start by preparing my stuffing.  Not your bread stuffing but a light herby, gingery are lemon stuffing that I push between the skin and breast. I even push the stuffing across the breast and around the legs. This takes a bit of practice and some firm fingers. Start at the neck (this is the not the side that has a large gap!)  push your fingers up, between the skin and breast. Keep pushing until the skin rips from the breast. Now find your way further and further up the breast and down over the legs.

My top tip is to pull the lumps of fat that you will find attached to the skin flaps either side of the chickens larger open cavity. This fat is ideal to push up and under the skin. This will baste the breasts as the chicken cooks. If you chicken has had a good life, there should be a nice bit of fat on her.

Lemon, thyme and garlic are a chicken's best friend! I peeled the lemon and cut it into tiny little slithers. Same with the garlic and chopped up the thyme.  I salted the pile and mixed it up. This mixture was then pushed and coaxed up into the bird. I then squeezed half of the lemon into the cavity and chopped the other half and scattered it around the chicken with a whole broken up Clove of garlic. Chicken oiled, seasoned and thrown into the pre heated oven. 20 mins on super high then I added introduced a good few cups of water. This helps make the chicken juices go a little further. After 20 mins turned down to 160/170 for 40 to 50 mins. When the chicken went, I started with the potatoes. Roast potatoes and chicken.  Heaven. It reminded both of us of Jonathan 40th birthday meal. Such a happy, beautiful memory. What a lovely evening. An early night ready for what ever tomorrow would bring.

With half a chicken demolished we still had the other half to feed us tomorrow. What to have I wonder! Read about our Saturday in Sissinghurst and what happened when we came face to face with a thousand chickens!

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