Sage and onion stuffing in a packet is all very well, but it is hardly interesting. You can stuff a chicken in two ways, either by placing the stuffing under the skin at the top of the breast, or by stuffing the cavity. You can cook the chicken breast side down as well as up, so why not experiment and see which way you prefer?
Most stuffing contains breadcrumbs, so you need to use fresh bread and then crumble, it or whizz it in the food processor. You will need about 2 handfuls of crumbs.
Don’t forget to check the cavity and remove the plastic bag before you stuff and roast the chicken.
2 handfuls of breadcrumbs
2 tbsps of fresh herbs of your choice (try rosemary, oregano, lemon zest, thyme and sage)
1 egg, beaten
1 finely chopped onion
1 finely chopped clove of garlic (optional)
2 celery sticks finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
You will need a good slug of olive oil in a frying pan, and when it is hot fry the onion and celery sticks for about 10 minutes. Add the finely chopped garlic and stir for about a minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Mix well and then stuff the chicken cavity.
Cooking the stuffed chicken
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C (gas mark 7) and place the chicken in the oven. I like to put the bird breast side down on a rack and cook it this way for 30 minutes, although you don’t have to. Cook it this way for 30 minutes and then turn it over so that it is breast side up.
Rub olive oil over the breast and turn down the heat to 150°C (gas mark 2) and cook for another hour and a half. You should baste it every 20 minutes with the juices from the pan and do this until it is cooked through.
You can tell if the bird is cooked by sticking a skewer into the thickest part of a leg. If the juices are clear, your chicken is cooked.
Garnish the chicken with some sprigs of fresh herbs and lemon wedges.
An alternative way of roasting a chicken (and my preferred way) is to place a whole peeled onion in the cavity with 4 ounces of butter. Place some butter under the skin on the breast and cover it with slices of streaky bacon. Cover the tray with foil and roast in an oven pre-heated to Gas Mark 5, or 190 degrees C, and cook for about an hour and a half.
Remove the foil and bacon and cook for another 15 – 20 minutes so that the skin becomes a crispy golden brown.