Always an impressive dish, a whole chicken provides plenty of protein, little saturated fat, and good amounts of B vitamins and zinc. A meal like this is perfect for noteworthy occasions, or just a simple family dinner.
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus whole sprigs for stuffing
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 whole chicken, about 1.5 kg, without giblets
1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 onions, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
450 ml reduced-salt chicken stock
4 cups dry herb bread stuffing
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Preheat the oven to 220°C. Mix the thyme, sage and pepper in a small bowl. Gently separate the chicken skin from the breast and insert a third of the herb mixture and lemon slices under the skin. Sprinkle another third of the herb mixture in the cavities and over the chicken.
Lightly coat a large nonstick frying pan with nonstick cooking spray and set over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions and celery until soft, 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining herb mixture. Pour in 1 cup stock and 1 cup water. Bring to the boil. Add the stuffing and toss until the liquid is completely absorbed. Remove from the heat.
Loosely stuff the chicken cavities with stuffing, top the stuffing with the thyme sprigs and tie the legs together. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a rack in a roasting pan. Pour in the remaining stock and 1 cup water. Roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side up. Reduce the temperature to 180°C. Roast the chicken, basting every 20 minutes with the drippings, until the juices run clear, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the stuffing to a bowl and discard the thyme. Let the chicken stand for 10 minutes before carving. Discard the lemon slices and skin before serving.
To ensure a juicy bird, start roasting it breast side down so that the juices flow over the breast. Finish roasting it breast side up, basting the bird frequently to add extra moisture. Cook with the skin on to seal in the juices, but be sure to discard it before eating, since most of the fat is found in the skin.