Summertime Roast Chicken

Roast dinner tends to be associated with chilly winter days when you need something hearty to warm you up, but I also love a summertime roast, served in the garden with plenty of sunshine. In this warm weather version, golden roast chicken flavoured with lemon, thyme and garlic is served with crispy new potatoes and roasted peppers and tomatoes. Not only do these accompaniments provide a burst of sunshine flavours, but they're also really quick & easy to prepare, so you spend the minimum of time stuck in a hot kitchen.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, about 1.3kg
1 lemon
A bunch of fresh thyme
Butter (I find a spreadable butter mix like Lurpak is really good for this job)
2 fat garlic cloves
Coarse sea salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
For the potatoes:
About 750g new potatoes
Lard
Coarse sea salt
A little of the fresh thyme from above
For the peppers:
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
2 or 3 large tomatoes
2 fat garlic cloves
Dried oregano
A splash of lemon juice

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 190C (180C fan).

Start by preparing the chicken. Check the label to see whether the giblets are included - they often aren't, these days, but if they are they'll be in a plastic bag inside the cavity, so it's very important to take them out! The chicken will probably be trussed up with a piece of elastic, so cut this with a pair of scissors and take it off. Cut the lemon in half and push one half inside the chicken, followed by half the bunch of thyme (stalks and all) and then the second half of the lemon.

Lay the chicken in the centre of a roasting tin, with room around the outside for the potatoes, which you'll add later (if you only have small tins, you can do the potatoes in another one - it just gets a bit of the flavour from the chicken this way). Use a knife to spread a generous scoop of butter over the breast of the chicken, and pop a little bit on the tops of the legs as well. Peel and finely dice the garlic and sprinkle over the chicken, with about half of the remaining thyme (strip the leaves off the stalks), a couple of good pinches of salt and a bit of black pepper.

Place the chicken in the oven. The cooking time depends on the weight - for a 1.3kg bird, I'd suggest 80 minutes in the oven and 20 minutes to rest, although obviously you must check it's properly cooked at the end. There is often a suggested cooking time on the packaging these days, but if there isn't, you can work it out yourself - just allow 20 minutes per 450g, plus 20 minutes to rest. The resting time allows the meat to relax a little after the heat of the oven, so that it's juicier and more tender when you serve it.

Once the chicken is in the oven, set a timer, and then start on the potatoes. New potatoes don't need peeling (win!) so just slice them up into bite-sized chunks and pop into a pan of boiling water for five minutes, just to soften up the edges. Drain the potatoes and then, keeping them in the pan, add a generous scoop of lard, pop the lid back on, and give them a shake, to fluff up the edges and coat all the potatoes in the melted fat. Sprinkle with a good pinch of sea-salt and the remaining fresh thyme leaves, and then transfer the potatoes to the roasting tin with the chicken. Spread them out in one layer (if they're on top of each other, they won't crisp up) and pop back into the oven. Potatoes are quite forgiving in terms of how much time they need - at least an hour, but they will happily sit in the oven crisping up for another twenty minutes or so while the chicken rests, so don't worry too much.

Finally, do the vegetables. Deseed the peppers and cut into narrow strips, and chop the tomatoes into chunks. In an ovenproof dish, mix with a good sprinkling of oregano and a drizzle of lemon juice. Peel and crush the garlic and mix that in too, and then finish with a generous slug of olive oil. Place in the oven with about forty minutes left on the timer. Now you can nip outside and sit in the sun until the timer goes off - not bad eh?

When the timer goes off, remove the chicken. To check that it's done, insert a sharp skewer or the point of a knife and check that the juices run clear and golden. Then transfer to a plate and cover with tinfoil to rest, putting the potatoes back in the oven. If you feel like they're getting too crispy, you can always turn the oven off and just leave them in to keep warm while the chicken rests.

To carve the bird, begin by taking off the legs - stretch them out one at a time and with a knife find the soft joint between the bones and cut them off. Do the same with the wings. To carve the breast, find the breastbone down the middle and then cut away from this at an angle on each side, to create nice slices. It's much easier than people often think it is - trust me! Finally, serve with a nice cold bottle of white wine and enjoy at a leisurely pace - bliss.