Roast chicken with fennel, apples and bacon Recipe

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Chicken & Eggs River Cottage HandbookThe combination of the sweet/sharp crunch of the apples, the salty bacon and the gentle aniseed of the fennel with the chicken is simply stupendous. Try with quince in place of the apples too.

  • Yield: 4 to 5 Servings


  • 1 chicken, about 1.6 kg
  • 3 medium fennel bulbs
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
  • 50 g butter
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • A handful of lemon (or regular) thyme
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon, derinded
  • 6 crisp eating apples
  • 100 ml white wine
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
How to Make It
  1. Take the chicken out of the fridge an hour or so before cooking to bring it to room temperature, if necessary. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5.
  2. Trim and finely chop the feathery tops from the fennel. Set the fennel bulbs aside. Mix the chopped fennel leaves with the garlic, butter and a good grating of nutmeg. Work your fingers under the skin of the chicken from the neck end, freeing it from the flesh, then smear the fennel butter all over the breast under the skin.
  3. Put the thyme sprigs inside the bird’s cavity. Smear the skin over the breast with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper. Lay the bacon across the breast and place the chicken in a roasting tray. Place in the centre of the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Once the bird is in the oven, quarter the fennel bulbs and cook in a steamer for about 10 minutes until just tender. Cut each of the apples into 6 wedges, removing the pips.
  4. After 20 minutes, take the chicken out of the oven and baste it. Scatter the fennel and apples around the bird and pour in the wine. Return to the oven, lower the oven setting to 170°C/Gas mark 3 and roast for another 40 minutes. The chicken should be nicely golden. To check that it is cooked, insert a skewer or knife into the thickest part, where the leg joins the body – the juices should run clear. If they are at all pink, roast the chicken for another 10 minutes and check again.
  5. Once the chicken is cooked, turn off the heat, open the oven door and leave the bird to rest for 15 minutes. Joint or carve to serve.

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