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Fast-roast Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon

Here is a revolution in the best way to roast a small chicken. The flavourings can vary in any way you like – crushed chopped rosemary leaves, sage leaves or thyme can be used, or a mixture of herbs, and you could replace the garlic with a couple of finely chopped shallots. It's a great recipe for adapting to whatever you have handy.

 Fast-roast Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon

  Serves 4

 1 x 3 lb (1.35 kg) free-range chicken
 ½ small lemon, thinly sliced and the slices halved, plus the juice of the remaining ½ lemon
 2½ level tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves
 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
 ½ oz (10 g) softened butter
 1 dessertspoon olive oil
 10 fl oz (275 ml) dry white wine
 salt and freshly milled black pepper
 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 8, 450°F (230°C).
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You will also need a solid-based, flameproof roasting tin measuring 9 x 11 inches (23 x 28 cm), 2 inches (5 cm) deep.

This recipe is taken from How to Cook Book Two and The Delia Collection: Chicken


Begin by taking the chicken from the fridge about an hour before you intend to cook it (obviously if it's a hot day give it about 30 minutes only), and remove the string that holds the legs of the bird together so that the joints are loose – this will take the chill off the bird and help it to cook in the shorter time.

Now make a garlic and herb butter by placing the garlic, 2 tablespoons of the chopped tarragon leaves and the butter in a bowl and combine them with a fork, adding some salt and pepper.

Then place the herb butter inside the body cavity of the bird, along with the halved lemon slices. Smear a little of the olive oil over the base of the roasting tin, place the chicken in it, then smear the rest of the olive oil all over the skin of the bird. 

Lastly, season well with salt and black pepper and then pop the roasting tin into the lower third of the oven. Now let it roast for 45 minutes without opening the oven door.

When this time is up, remove the bird from the oven. Next put a wooden spoon into the body cavity and, using a spatula to hold the breast end, tip the chicken and let all the buttery juices and slices of lemon pour out into the roasting tin, then transfer the bird on to a carving board, cover with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a tablespoon, skim off the excess fat from the juices in the roasting tin, then place the tin over direct heat, add the wine and lemon juice and let the whole lot bubble and reduce to about half its original volume.

Now add the remaining tarragon, then taste and check the seasoning.

Carve the chicken on to warm plates and add any juices to the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.


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