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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. Our local organic farm that supplies us with most of our chickens includes the giblets & I’m sure if we wanted to go HFW style he’d leave on anything else we asked him to. He rings or emails me sometimes when they are about to cull chickens or beef. He’s a bit of a drive away down an obscure lane about 10 miles away but that’s the joy of the freezer; I can stock up while I’m out. I found him by buying his chicken from another farmer at a local farmer’s market & his details were on the label. The taste is just so different from anything else. My son, son-in-law & hubby are all avid fans of pate so I use the heart & liver to make it. Your recipe sounds delicious – I think a trip to the farm is in order!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Kate (uk)

    Thanks for this. 8 Meals! And all sound delicious.

    Hi S.O.L.

    Five meals! I’m impressed. We still have the fat- skimmed off from the simmered half.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    Fred our old butcher used to supply just the Sutton Hoo Daiper Chickens (not available in supermarkets). They were so tasty and cheaper than the supermarket ones. Sob!

    Have you ever tried making stock with fresh bones. Fred used to give us his carcasses (Sutton Hoo) and the stock was to die for.

    Hello Lindsay

    It was delicious!

    Hi Amanda

    Thanks for the tips! I reckon that stripping the chicken from the carcass can make another meal for two.

    Hello KarenO

    I didn’t know that the chicken bones secret something to prevent colds. We do this and, touch go we rarely have colds. Sometimes I do return with the start of a lurgy but two hotties the Min Pins and a bit of TLC seem to diffuse this overnight.

    Hi Natasha

    We still haven’t found a butcher that supplies great chicken. So giblets are out of the question ATM. Roll on an improvement.

  3. if you get a lovely chicky from your butchers, with the giblets, you can make another meal by reserving the liver (make giblet stock with the other bits) fry it in a little garlic and serve mashed on toast – my favourite treat!!


  4. We always try to make our chickens go the week. We like to buy organic from our local farmer so we need to justify the cost. (Although the taste alone does this). I’ve never thought to half it before cooking though, or to boil it. We use every scrap of roast meat then boil the bones to make a huge pot of ‘stew’ with potatoes, swede, carrots and red lentils as a minimum. Any limp veg or Sunday roast leftovers get thrown in as well. Years ago we read that chicken bones when boiled release Proline which is very good for preventing colds, so we now ring them out after we’ve boiled them and then pick off any meat we may have missed. Nothings wasted. The birds get the scraps of fat & bones that are left. (We have seagulls – they eat anything)

  5. …and I meant to say that sauce sounds delicious!

  6. I sometimes pot roast with veg underneath, use for that meal, then strip the chicken when it’s cool, put the meat aside for other dishes and boil the carcass for stock/soup.

    I sometimes open roast, then do the same as above.

    Whatever happens I always try to strip the chicken once it’s cooled, that way I always seem to get more meat off.

  7. thanks for recipe – sound delicious – but I will leave out the chilli bit!

  8. magic cochin

    We usually follow Kate’s sequence of chicken dishes – roast, cold, pie/stew, risotto with the stock. I’ve always been pleased with stock from a roast carcass.

    This week bought a ‘Sutton Hoo’ free range chicken from the butchers in Clare. I chopped in in half and put half in the freezer. We roast half last night and there’s loads of meat left on the bones for tonight. The half carcass will make stock. It also had giblets which made stock at the weekend – for risotto on Saturday evening and soup for my lunch yesterday. Easily 6 meals for two people plus three lunches for one 🙂


  9. Definately pot pie, with lots of veggies. small amount of torn shreds in chicken stock with vermicelli. thigh and leg meat in curry with lashings of veg added in the sauce.

    4 more meals for 2 people I think. I dont think I could stretch it any further, unless you make rendered the fat down, but you have anleady simmered it so that will have gone….

  10. kate (uk)

    We’re on day two of our chicken- roast surrounded by veg yesterday with a lemon up its backside, cold today with cauliflower cheese and banana chutney. Pie with leeks tomorrow and stock for risotto on Wednesday.Always worth looking for offers on free range chickens- they make much better stock quite apart from everything else.

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