Bird of paradise: Skye Gyngell's heavenly roast-chicken dinner

Roast chicken was a firm favourite of Skye Gyngell's childhood. And it's no less popular with her own brood

I grew up on roast chicken – we had it at least once a week, always with mashed potatoes, often with peas. And now I make it at home once a week for my own children and, just as when I was little, I always serve it with mashed potatoes – though instead of peas, we have roast butternut squash – and my children love it just as much as I did. (I wonder whether their children will too.)

It is important that chickens are both free-range and organic. I read recently that it is now official that organic food neither tastes better nor is better for you. But I cannot hold to that, whatever any document says – I just feel that food grown close to home, lovingly reared, is both better for the Earth in general and for ourselves. And, quite simply, it tastes purer, cleaner, more of itself. Below is my recipe for the perfect chicken meal.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, tel: 020 8605 3627,

Roast chicken

Roast chicken cooked in this way does not require a traditional gravy. It is succulent and tender and just right the way it is. I prefer instead to serve it with a jus by deglazing the pan with a little white wine and reducing it slightly.

Serves 4

50g/2oz unsalted butter, softened
4 good-quality anchovies in oil
1 small bunch of marjoram, leaves only, roughly chopped
1 unwaxed lemon
11/2kg/3lb free-range, organic chicken
3 fresh bay leaves
1 dried red chilli
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by heating the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas6. Place the soft butter into a bowl, finely chop the anchovies and add to the butter along with the chopped marjoram. Slice the lemon in half and squeeze a little of the juice into the butter mixture. Stir together really well using a wooden spoon.

Using your fingers, gently separate the chicken's skin from its flesh. Spoon the flavoured butter under the skin. Place in a roasting pan and put the lemon and bay leaves into the cavity. Crumble the dried chilli over the top, generously season with salt and grind over just a little black pepper. Using a small, sharp knife, score the legs not quite to the bone and place on the middle shelf of the hot oven.

Cook for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature to 180C/350F/Gas4 and roast for about a further 45 minutes. At this point, turn the heat off and open the oven door two to three inches and allow the chicken to rest in the oven for 15 minutes. Now remove from the oven and carve.

Serve alongside the roasted vegetables and purée of potato (see below).

Roasted butternut squash, fennel and courgettes

The sweetness of roasted butternut squash is delicious with the slight salty heat of the roast chicken. Cooking vegetables in one pan simplifies everything and the flavours mingle together nicely. When cooking accompaniments, always make sure that you repeat the flavours to some extent so the total meal is harmonious.

Serves 4

2 bulbs of fennel
1 butternut squash
5 courgettes
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
The juice of half a lemon
1 bunch of marjoram, leaves only
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the tough outer leaves from the fennel then cut into quarters. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise – it is important to use a sharp knife for this – scrape out the seeds and slice into generous chunks. Wash and pat dry the courgettes and slice on the bias in one-inch pieces. Now place all the vegetables into a bowl and pour over the olive oil, squeeze over the lemon juice and add the marjoram and garlic. Toss together well and place into a roasting pan. Cover tightly in foil and place on the lower shelf of the oven about five minutes after you have turned the oven down to 180C/350F/ Gas4 as the second part of cooking the chicken. Roast for 20 minutes then remove the foil, gently toss the vegetables and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve alongside the chicken.

Purée of potatoes

Although at the restaurant we never serve potatoes, at home it is different. My children love mashed potatoes, creamy and smooth, especially with roast chicken – it is the perfect accompaniment with which to mop up the delicious pan juices.

The variety I find best to use is Desiree – a potato that is buttery, light and creamy all at the same time. Look for potatoes that are smooth, firm and heavy for their size.

Serves 6 or 4 large portions

8 medium Desiree potatoes
Sea salt
300ml/10fl oz milk
60g/21/2oz unsalted butter
To finish, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a small knife, peel the potatoes, removing any eyes as you go. Now cut into one-inch cubes and place in a saucepan of cold water. Add a good pinch of salt and place the saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down slightly so that the water is just simmering. Cook the potatoes until the water is cloudy and the pieces of potato fall apart when gently pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

Using the same saucepan, pour in the milk and add the butter. Turn the heat to low and warm the milk; once the butter has melted, return the potatoes to the pan, and mash until all the lumps are removed and the potato is completely puréed and smooth – the warm milk will make this process much easier. Season well with salt and pepper and serve alongside the chicken and vegetables.

Suggested Topics
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick