Roasting garlic mellows and sweetens its flavour and makes the cloves soft enough to mash. Combined with a creamy ricotta and sage mixture, they help to keep this whole roast chicken particularly juicy.
- CourseMain meal
- Prepare30 mins
- Cook2 hrs
- Total time2 hrs 30 mins
- Pluscooling, resting
Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Slice the tops off 2 garlic bulbs to just expose the flesh. Put in the centre of a sheet of foil, drizzle with ½ tbsp oil, then wrap loosely in the foil to create a parcel. Roast for 40 minutes until the flesh is very tender, then carefully unwrap and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Remove the outer papery skins of the garlic bulbs, then squeeze the roast flesh into a bowl and mash with a fork. Finely chop ½ of the sage leaves and add to the roasted garlic with the grated cheese, ricotta and lemon zest. Mash well until combined, then season.
If necessary, preheat the oven again to 200°C, gas mark 6. Carefully work your fingers under the skin of the chicken at the neck end, releasing the skin from the meat to create a pocket on top of each breast. Using a teaspoon, push the garlicky ricotta mixture under the skin of the chicken to generously fill the pockets, smoothing the mixture as far up the breast as you can. Cut the zested lemon in half and put into the cavity with the sage stalks, then sit the chicken in a roasting tin. Rub 1 tbsp oil over the skin and scatter with the sea salt flakes. Cut the remaining garlic bulbs horizontally in half, if using, and set aside.
Roast the chicken for 1 hour- 1 hour 45 minutes, basting halfway. Add the garlic bulb halves, if using, to the roasting tin with tbsp oil for the final 25 minutes. Check the chicken is golden, cooked through, the juices run clear and no pink meat remains, cooking it for longer if required – a meat thermometer inserted into the centre of the bird and the thickest part of the legs should reach 75°C.
Remove the chicken from the oven, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 20- 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and fry the remaining sage leaves for 1- 1½ minutes until slightly darkened. Use tongs to transfer to a plate; set aside to crisp up. To serve, carve the chicken, spoon over the resting juices and scatter with the crispy sage leaves.