Years ago, when we all still lived in London, a group of friends and I developed a ritual: Every Sunday, we would meet at one of their houses for “family dinner”, which consisted unvaryingly of a roast chicken and potatoes.
All of us lived far from family and these casual dinners quickly became a lifeline, a way to come together to enjoy a simple and comforting meal at the end of the week. The company was excellent, and the chicken was, too – juicy and moist every time, fresh with lemon and herbs, but never fussy. When I finally asked my friend where she got her recipe, she pointed me to one by Jamie Oliver, which he describes as “perfect roast chicken”.
Our “family dinners” have long since elapsed, but I’ve made the recipe several times since and each time, it’s been flawlessly good (particularly if you’re able to get a high-welfare, slow-reared chicken – I recommend Fosse Meadows Farm). It requires no unusual ingredients or uncommon preparations, no salting the bird overnight, no waiting for ages, nothing inconvenient. In his version, all you need to do is shove some fresh herbs and oil between the skin and the breast, season well all over, pop a lemon in the cavity, and roast alongside onions and garlic (which later make the base for a truly great gravy).
Here, I use an herby compound butter instead, made with basil, parsley and a few big bunches of peak-season wild garlic, which is then squidged under the chicken’s skin; it adds flavour and keeps the bird unfailingly moist, and you can see the greenery through the skin as it starts to crisp and turn translucent. To add to the springy feel, I garnish with fresh mint (which goes with more than just lamb), and serve the chicken alongside roast potatoes and asparagus.
Years ago – back when I paired lamb chops with wild garlic chimichurri and a Citra-driven IPA – I discovered how well wild garlic and hops go together. New World hops especially have an earthy pungency that can verge on oniony, while their fruity sweetness makes a foil for those savoury notes. That's just as true here, with Latvia’s Arpus Brewing Co in the starring role. Its juicy, deeply hazy TDH Strata x Nelson x Galaxy IPA is pillowy and potent, as aromatic as that herb butter. Together, it's the kind of stress-free, wildly tasty roast dinner I can see myself making every weekend without complaint.
Spring Chicken with Potatoes and Asparagus
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
For the compound butter:
250g salted butter, softened
30g wild garlic, roughly chopped
30g assorted fresh, leafy herbs (I used basil and parsley), roughly chopped
Flaky salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the chicken and gravy:
1 1.8-1.9 kilo chicken
Flaky salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 yellow onions
1 head garlic
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
For the vegetables:
1 kilo baby potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky salt, such as Maldon, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
30g fresh mint
1. First, make the compound butter. Add the butter to a food processor, alongside the wild garlic and herbs. Blend on high, pausing to scrape down the sides with a spatula, until uniform and airy in texture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and blend just until incorporated.
2. Preheat the oven to 220°C, arranging so you have space to use the top and bottom shelves. Place a medium or large roasting tin on the top shelf to warm. Remove the chicken from the fridge and leave to warm at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Season generously, inside and out, with flaky sea salt and black pepper. Then, place the chicken on the counter, breast-side-up with the top of the bird facing you. Ease a thin spatula between the skin and the breast on each side to separate the two, ensuring the skin doesn’t tear.
3. Take ⅔ of the compound herb butter and, using the spatula, scoop under the skin and push it down until it covers as much of the breast as possible. Try to get as much butter down the sides of the bird as possible. If any excess remains, add to the cavity.
4. Pierce a whole lemon several times with the tip of a paring knife and microwave for approximately 1 minute, or boil in water on a stove top. Once hot, slip inside the cavity of the bird. Using a sharp knife, slash the legs 3-4 times to ensure they cook quickly.
5. Turn the chicken so it is breast-side-up and its cavity is facing you, and place a long piece of kitchen twine horizontally under the lower half of the bird. Tie the legs together so the cavity is mostly sealed before bringing the ends of the twine around the tops of the thighs and, flipping the chicken, across its back. Fasten over the wings so they are secured, and tie a knot. (See a demonstration here.)
6. Quarter the onions and break the garlic head into cloves, but don’t bother peeling either. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and place the chicken in it, breast-side up. Scatter around the onion and garlic, and drizzle the olive oil over the chicken. Place in the oven and cook for approximately 1 hour and 10–15 mins, or until the juices run clear. (To check for doneness, cut into where the drumstick meets the thigh; cook until it is no longer pink.) Tent the chicken loosely with foil if the skin starts browning too quickly.
7. Meanwhile, prep the potatoes. Line a large baking tray with foil. Halve or quarter any larger potatoes so that they’re the same size as the smallest, add to the tray and season with flaky salt and pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and toss to combine. Separately, break off and discard the woody ends of the asparagus, and cut into roughly 1.5-inch-long pieces. Reserve.
8. Once the chicken is halfway through roasting, transfer the potatoes to the lower shelf in the oven. Roast for 20 mins before adding the asparagus. Roast for 8-10 minutes more, or until the potatoes are completely fork-tender, and the asparagus is just tender and not mushy. Remove from the oven and tent with foil.
9. When the chicken is fully cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board, allowing the juices to drain back into the roasting pan, and leave to rest for a few minutes. To make a quick gravy, place the roasting pan directly on the hob on medium heat. Sprinkle over the flour and mix through; use a potato masher to squish the onions and garlic so they start dissolving into the liquid. After a few minutes, remove from the heat. Place a sieve over a saucepan in the sink, and pour over the contents of the roasting pan, pressing on the onions and garlic with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible before discarding.
10. To finish the gravy, place the saucepan over medium heat. Thin out with boiling water if needed, or add additional flour, and whisk until thick and glossy. Adjust seasoning if needed.
11. To serve, transfer the potatoes and asparagus to a serving bowl. Top with the remaining herb butter and mix through until it starts melting. Garnish with fresh mint. Meanwhile, slice the chicken and transfer the gravy to a pouring vessel. Divide the chicken and roast vegetables between plates or bowls, and pour over any gravy, if desired. Serve immediately.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus beer reviews and expert tasting notes with up to 12 world-class beers - like this one - every month.