Inserting butter under the bird's skin helps to baste the chicken and the thyme adds a delicious flavour to the gravy.

Serve 4

Ingredients

1 chicken, about 1½ kg or two smaller ones
50 grams (2 ounces) butter, softened
bunch fresh thyme or lemon thyme
4 garlic cloves, 1 mashed, the other 3 left whole but squashed
2 lemons, halved
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1-tablespoon plain flour
1-cup chicken stock

Preparation

Heat oven to 200ºC (400º F). In a small bowl, mash the butter with one-third of the thyme leaves, the mashed garlic and the juice of half a lemon. Mix everything together with some seasoning and set aside. Use your hand to loosen the chicken skin away from the breasts, then push most of the butter mix into the gap. Rub the rest of the butter all over the outside of the chicken, then stuff the cavity with the lemon halves, remaining thyme leaves and stalks, and the garlic.

Scatter the chopped carrot, onion and bay leaves over the base of a small roasting pan. Sit the chicken on top, breast-side up, and roast on the middle shelf for 1 hr 15 minutes, basting with the buttery juices after about 30 minutes. When the chicken is dark golden, crispy-skinned, remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes. Remove the lemons, garlic and thyme out of the cavity and into the pan. Lift the chicken up, letting any juices run into the pan, and transfer the chicken to a serving platter to rest for at least another 15 minutes.

To make the gravy, squeeze the juice out of the cooked lemon halves and discard the skins. Place the pan on a low heat, stir in flour and sizzle until light brown. Gradually pour in the stock and cook for a few minutes until boiling. Strain the gravy into a jug and serve with the chicken.