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Half roast chicken with a lemon, saffron and cream sauce recipe

Photo: Roast chicken with lemon and saffron

Photo: Roast chicken with lemon and saffron

“How about a poussin tonight, marinaded in lemon, thyme and olive oil?”
D was enthusiastic.
“That would be wonderful and quick to cook. It’s not really a proper roast is it?”
Danny has been great about our “no Sunday roast for January” challenge and this seemed like a good compromise for the final Sunday.

That was before I went shopping.

The poussin were so miniscule that it took me a good ten minutes to spot them on the Tesco shelves. And they were £2.79 for a 450g bird (£6.20 a kilo). The Tesco Finest Corn-Fed Free Range chickens were £4.08 per kilo. So I slipped a corn fed bird into my trolley and immediately thought of ways to make this bird stretch as far as those rubber ones that you find hanging in joke shops.

I remembered that Mark Hix wrote an excellent article about how to make a 1.5 kilo chicken stretch to four meals for two people. As he says, “economy isn’t the same as cheapness. It’s about making the most of the finest ingredients you can afford.”

His ideas and recipes are always good, I thought, as I picked my way through the puddles back to Danny’s car. When I returned home and checked his article I decided that I didn’t want to be cooking from scratch every evening.

So I looked further afield and read Jamie Oliver’s take on how to get the most of a chicken.

Jamie sometimes simmers the chicken whole to make a stock and serves some of the simmered chicken and vegetables as an initial meal. He uses the rest to make a selection of other recipes.

Or he roasts the chicken. Boils up the cooked bones as a stock for the basic sauce for the leftovers.

There is a very handy table for the amount of time different vegetables need to be simmered with the chicken to cook perfectly.

I didn’t find my answer with either Jamie Oliver or Mark Hix.

There is nothing better than stock made from a fresh carcass. Roast chicken is one of our favourite meals.

So, after a lot of dilly dallying, I cut the chicken in half. Half to roast and the other half to simmer, hopefully producing a succulent stock and meat for at least two other meals, along with Cock-a-leekie soup. We ate a superb Cock-a-leekie soup on Saturday at an early Burn’s night with Miles and Jocelyn. Her soup was to die for and included prunes. It didn’t taste pruney just packed with flavour.

”Have you ever made Cock-a-leekie?”, asked D.
”No. But I’m going to add some barley along with prunes.”

I also marinaded the to-be-roasted half chicken for an hour before popping it into the oven. It was roasted in an aluminium parcel along with the marinade. This produced a very tangy sauce which I pepped up with a large pinch of saffron and thickened it with four heaped teaspoons of thick cream.

This fed two hungry people with the bonus of chicken sandwiches for lunch the next day. I wonder how far I can strech the other half!

Half roast chicken with a lemon, saffron and cream sauce recipe


  • Half a chicken weighing approx 750g
  • 4 tbsp of water

For the marinade:

  • 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice (from a quarter of a lemon). Slice the lemon thinly and reserve for roasting.
  • Half a tsp of garlic granules (or a small clove of garlic chopped fine)
  • 2 tsp of fresh thyme leaves
  • Half a tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 6 drops of chilli sherry

Extra ingredients for the final sauce:

  • 1 large pinch of saffron
  • 4 heaped tsp of thick cream


  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together. Put the chicken in a plastic bag (the ones that the supermarket provide for fresh vegetables are ideal). Pour over the marinade and rub it into the chicken. Tie and fold the bag so that the chicken is covered in the marinade. Leave for an hour. Rubbing the marinade in, every now and then.
  2. Take a large sheet of aluminium foil. Fold it roughly in half. Put one half in the bottom of a baking dish. Pull up the sides to make a nest. Lay the lemon slices on the foil and add four tbsp of water. Put the chicken skin side up on the foil and pour over the marinade.
  3. Make a lose parcel by folding over the top and crimping the sides. Bake for an hour at 210c (190 c fan) opening the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the bird. Test the thickest part of the thigh to see if the juices run clear. It may need another 10 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, remove the bird to a warm place to rest.
  4. Meanwhile make your sauce. I used a fat and lean sauce boat (chilled in the fridge) to remove the fat. Or skim off the fat.
  5. Pour the fat free sauce in a small sauce pan over a low heat, add the saffron and allow this to infuse for five minutes or so. When my vegetables were nearly ready I added the cream and increased the heat to medium, stirring to let the cream thicken – let it simmer but not boil. Serve with the lemon slices and the sauce poured over the chicken.

  Leave a reply


  1. I’m going to give this a whirl!
    Again..thanks :0)

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hello KarenO

    Apparently the feet and legs (usually discarded) make the stock even better.

    I wish that I had a local butcher like yours.

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