Roast chicken with preserved lemon

I adopted this easy chicken roast from the Guardian sack full of treasures. Once i did get hold of the whole, free range, chicken in Warszawa (not a trivial task, believe me!), the task was pleasantly easy and satisfying. Even the concept of basting every now and then seemed to come without much frustration. I had to watch my fingers while holding the roasting pan, but it demonstrated to me that roasting the European way, directly in the roasting pan rather than on the roasting rack, does have its points..

So – i do recommend it highly. The bird was well cooked, moist, tender, and nicely lemony. I have no picture, as the whole production was cut and consumed so eagerly, we forgot to document it properly. Next time!

Serves four, with leftovers…

  • 70g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp thyme leaves (in my prototype i used dry thyme, worked OK)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 small or half of a large preserved lemon, pips discarded, flesh and skin roughly chopped
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 1½ tbsp juice, to drizzle
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2.0 kg free-range chicken
  1. Heat the oven to 190C/375F.
  2. Put the butter, thyme, garlic, preserved lemon, lemon zest, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper in a food processor. Blitz, then set aside while you tackle the bird.
  3. With the chicken’s legs pointing towards you, use your hands to loosen the skin from the breasts.
  4. Spread most of the butter mixture evenly over the breasts, under the skin, then smear the remaining butter over the legs. Do not be discouraged if it does not come out smooth and lovely, the taste will make up for the appearance.
  5. Put the chicken in a high-sided baking tray. Make sure the whole chicken fits INSIDE the roasting tray, otherwise you risk some unwanted flares and burns inside the oven.
  6. Now drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper.
  7. Roast for about 90 minutes, basting every 15 minutes or so, until the skin is golden-brown and crisp, and the juices run clear (stick the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the thigh to check; if the juices are still a little pink, just give the bird five to 10 minutes more cooking).
  8. Remove from the oven, leave to rest for 10 minutes, then carve and serve.
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