Belinda Jeffery

Roast Chicken With Oodles Of Herbs

I must admit this is a very general recipe, as I tend to just wander out to the herb garden and pick whatever happens to be flourishing at the time. Mostly I use thyme and rosemary, and always but always tarragon when it’s in season. (Although I know tarragon, with its powerful anise flavour, tends to be one of those love-it-or-leave-it herbs, I think it goes particularly well with chicken.)

In the warmer months, I serve this with a simple salad (some sliced tomatoes drizzled with good olive oil, and scattered soft goat’s cheese and tarragon or basil leaves) along with a bowlful of tiny mint-flavoured new potatoes. Or, if the weather is cooler, I’ll sit some parsnips, pumpkin, potatoes and onions around the chook as it cooks and we’ll have a ‘proper’ roast with all the trimmings.

  • Serves 4


  • 140g unsalted butter, softened
  • Sea salt flakes, to taste
  • A bundle of fresh herbs (tarragon, thyme, rosemary and sage all work really well – you want to end
  • up with 2-3 tablespoons of chopped herbs, with some leftover to scatter on top)
  • 1.8 – 2kg organic (or free-range) chicken
  • 1 lemon, halved

Preheat your oven to 230C.

Put the butter and sea salt into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to thoroughly beat them together and lighten the butter a little. Add 2-3 tablespoons of chopped herbs to the butter and thoroughly mix everything together.

Pat the chicken dry, then carefully slide your fingers between the skin and the flesh at the neck end. Gently loosen the skin all over the breast, thighs and drumsticks. Take your time as you do this, and try to avoid piercing the skin if you can. (Having said that, I should admit that I do this occasionally, particularly if I’m rushing, and it is no big deal if you do – just close it over as best you can. You can even use a bit of the loose neck skin to patch it if necessary.)

Now scoop up some of the herb butter in your fingers (you may like to wear prep gloves to do this) and spread it onto the flesh under the skin you have loosened. It’s a bit awkward to do, but you soon get the hang of it. Do this all over the chook, reserving any leftover butter. When that is done, sit the chicken in a roasting tin that fits it comfortably.

I rarely truss a chicken – I find it enough to loosely tie the drumsticks together at their base with a bit of kitchen twine and tuck the wingtips under the neck. Once you’ve done this, spread any remaining butter over the outside of the chicken, then pick off leaves or tiny sprigs from the leftover herbs and scatter these all over the top. Squeeze on the juice from the lemon then tuck the lemon halves and any leftover herbs into the cavity.

Place the tin in the oven and roast the chicken for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 205C and continue to cook it for another 50 minutes. If I remember, I baste it every now and then, but many’s the time I have just left it be and still ended up with a very delicious chicken.

When it’s ready – and it will look and smell divine at this stage – remove the chicken from the oven. Leave it to settle in a warm spot for at least 15 minutes before carving it. While it’s settling, I usually tip the herby, lemony juices left in the roasting pan into a jug and let them sit for a bit, then spoon the fat off the top. Serve the juices with the chicken. (You can also make gravy if you like, using these juices to make up some of the liquid, however, I rather like just spooning on the flavourful juice.)

I’m not the world’s best carver, by any means, so I tend to carve the chicken in the kitchen where no-one can see my efforts! However, if you happen to have a good carver on hand, it does look very beautiful served whole on a big platter with fresh herb sprigs tucked around it.