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Waitrose sells a selection of fresh chickens, all reared in the UK. The range includes standard, free range, traditional corn fed free range and organic birds. If you want the best flavour choose a free range or corn fed bird. A free range chicken has been allowed to roam freely, allowing the flavour of the meat to develop, while a corn fed bird has golden flesh and rich flavour. If you choose a frozen chicken it must be completely defrosted before cooking - ensure that there are no ice crystals in the cavity.
How to make Gravy:
Drain all but 3 tbsp of the juices from the roasting tin. Set the roasting tin on a hob and reheat the juices. Sprinkle in 2 tsp of plain flour and stir well with a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in 300ml chicken stock. Bring to the boil, stirring until thickened and smooth. Season well. If the gravy is bland add a little mustard and a splash of soy sauce. For a special gravy, some of the stock can be replaced with red or white wine.
Carving the Chicken:
Hold the chicken steady with a fork, then insert a large sharp knife between the body and leg. Cut off the leg. Divide the leg in half at the joint to give a drumstick and thigh portion. Cut away the wing on the same side. Carve down the breast in thick slices. Repeat on the other side of the chicken.
Add More Flavour:
Sprinkle the breast with any of the following before roasting:
2 tsp dried mixed herbs or oregano
1 tsp paprika and a good pinch chilli powder
1 tsp each mustard seeds and cumin seeds
You need a roasting tin large enough to take the chicken comfortably, kitchen string, kitchen paper, pastry brush, two forks, fine skewer, foil, measuring jug, teaspoon, wooden spoon, large plate, carving knife and fork.
This recipe was first published in May 2001.