For the chicken – free range chicken approx 1.6kg, 2 red onions peeled and cut into wedges, 2 carrots peeled and cut into chunks, 2 sticks of celery cut into chunks, 3 garlic cloves unpeeled, 1 lemon, a small bunch of thyme, a few bay leaves
For the stuffing – 6 rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon chopped, 2 red onions peeled and finely chopped, 1 stick of celery finely chopped, a few sprigs of thyme, a handful of dried apricots chopped, 1 apple cored and finely diced, 1 orange, 6 good quality sausages, 2 handfuls of brown breadcrumbs, 1 large free range egg, beaten
For the gravy – 500ml scrumpy cider or apple juice, 2 tablespoons of plain flour
Method – Preheat the oven to 200 C / 440 F / Gas 6 and take your chicken out of the fridge so it’s not too cold when it goes in the oven. First make the stuffing. Put the bacon into a frying pan and cook until it starts to go brown, then add the onions and celery and cook for 10 minutes over a low heat, until soft. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalks, add and cook for another minute or so.
Take off the heat, and stir in the apricots and apple. Finely grate in the zest of the orange. Next squeeze the sausage meat out of their skins and add to the mixture, then add the breadcrumbs and beaten egg and give everything a really good mix. Roll the stuffing into ping pong sized balls and put them on a roasting tray.
Back to the chicken. Put all the veg into a large roasting tray and add the unpeeled garlic cloves. Place your chicken on top and season it well on all sides. Cut the lemon in half and stuff it inside the chicken, along with the thyme and bay leaves. Roast for 45 minutes, then put the tray of stuffing balls into the oven and roast for another 45 minutes.
After the chicken has been in the oven for about an hour and a half, it should be perfectly cooked. Check by sticking a fork into one of the legs. If it’s cooked, the juices should run clear.
Remove the roasting tray from the oven. Leaving the vegetables in the tray, transfer the chicken to a plate or wooden chopping board and cover with foil. Then make the gravy.
Place the roasting tray on a high heat, spooning off anything that looks oily. Get the whole lot heated up, then use a potato masher to mash all the veg that you cooked with the chicken to a pulp (remembering to squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skins). Add a couple of tablespoons of flour and stir for a minute or so, until the flour is starting to brown. Pour in 500ml scrumpy cider or apple juice and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the gravy is as thick as you want it to be, then pour into a jug.
Serve your roast chicken with the gravy, stuffing balls, roast potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli!
Thank you to Innocent for another recipe from their book ‘Hungry?’