Lemon and thyme roasted chicken

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Meat mains

Lemon and thyme roasted chicken

Main Serves 4 1h 25 min
This is a simple but effective way to keep chicken breasts tender on a whole roasting bird. For the less meat campaign, carve the two chicken breasts to serve 4 for a roast dinner, with a pile of healthy veg. There's plenty of meat to go round, with leftover chicken legs and carcass to use in another meal.

Cook's notes

Skim off the extra fat from the leftover juices and use the chicken juices as a simple, tasty little gravy on its own, or make more liquid and finish it into a full on gravy by adding a little flour to thicken, stirring it with the leftover juices in the pan for 2 minutes on the hob (check your tin is flameproof!), then add a splash of white wine to deglaze the tin, followed by a little stock or water simmered for a few minutes to make more liquid.


  • 1 onion or leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium Riverford chicken approx 1.6kg
  • 75g butter, softened
  • 1 good tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 lemon
  • oil for roasting e.g. sunflower or light olive
  • salt and pepper


Prep time: 10 min
Cooking time: 1h 15 min
  • Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Lay the onion (or leek), carrot and celery in the bottom of a roasting tin, one that will hold the chicken fairly snugly (the veg helps keep the chicken moist and adds flavour to your gravy).
  • Step 2

    In a small bowl, squidge the butter together with the thyme and a good teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest. Divide the butter into two lots. Carefully pull the skin on the breast up, using one finger to ease underneath to stretch the skin slightly, making two little air pockets between the skin and breasts.
  • Step 3

    Gently push the butter in between skin and breast, then massage the skin, pressing the butter so it spreads out a little. Take care all the time not to break the skin.
  • Step 4

    Pull the skin back into place (if it looks a bit loose near the top, cocktail stick it together.
  • Step 5

    Rub the chicken all over with oil and season inside and outside of the bird. Squeeze over a little lemon juice, about half a lemon (this helps the skin crisp up). If you like, stuff the squeezed lemon skin into the chicken cavity.
  • Step 6

    Place the chicken on top of the veg, nestling it in so it sits well. Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes, basting it with the cooking juices a couple of times.
  • Step 7

    Test the thickest part of the chicken, the bit between the inner leg and breast, by inserting a sharp pointed knife or skewer. Make sure the juices run clear.
  • Step 8

    Allow the chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving the chicken breasts to serve between four, saving the rest of the chicken for use in other meals.

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