I reckon we get caught in a roasting on Sunday mentality – saving the sounds and sensations for the seventh day. But roasting up anytime can really bring cheer to the kitchen and makes wonderful leftovers. And if you take your own lunch to work, you can show off your homemade sandwiches and soup.
For this you need a good chicken. The best. Always. From someone you trust. Whatever; you should hunt. And that makes you greedy, which is when it’s good to eat.
You need to start with halved fennel bulbs which you slice roughly and place in the roasting dish, the bird roosting on top. I use Le Creuset stoneware, they look good when they come out of the oven. Then grate the rind of a lemon over the skin and rub it in, making it wince. Carefully separate the skin from the flesh, sliding thin lemon slices over the breast. Same with the legs.
Cut the garlic cloves in half. Stab the chicken with a small knife and insert the garlic (skin on or off), lather in butter and season the whole with salt, pepper and something to give good aroma, rather lavishly shaken on top.; you might try lots of nutmeg or ground cumin seeds.
Pop in the oven high for about 20 mins until the lemony skin is bronzed. Pour a generous glass of wine or two to simmer the fennel and turn the heat down a bit. Not ‘cooking’ wine. Just what you’re drinking. A decent bird deserves at least that. Cook for another hour or so until the juices run clear.
Take out and sit for a while. Make sure everyone gets lots of the skin and lemon slices which should be deliciously crispy – and juices with the fennel. Serve with saffron buttered basmati rice (that’s another story).