The Cottage Smallholder

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Sunday Roast: Best roast chicken (or turkey) with piquant automatic gravy recipe

plump roast chickenOne happy day, Danny opened the small box that holds the Tobasco bottle and pulled out a slip of paper. It was a recipe suggestion for roast chicken baste or a marinade for barbecued chicken. There was just a list of ingredients (no amounts or method). The list intrigued him, it lay beside his place for a couple of days and was studied as he sipped his coffee and tucked into supper. Finally he announced:
“I’m going to try this. Can you get a free range chicken from Fred’s for next Sunday, please.”
Fred Fitzpatrick, (Exning Road, Newmarket) only sells free range chicken and they are always excellent and much cheaper than the supermarkets.

I was a bit suspicious. Cooking from a list of ingredients without a method didn’t seem promising. Although an offer to cook Sunday lunch was not to be sniffed at. I beetled out to the butchers and bought a plump free-range chicken. From this point he was on his own.

I don’t know whether it was beginner’s luck or inborn genius but the chicken he cooked tasted fabulous. Spurred on by this, he has tweaked the ingredient volumes over the years and added his own. He clearly hasn’t heard the slacker’s phrase, “If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it well.” He now has total responsibility for developing recipes for Sunday Lunch and any applause for this section of the blog should be pointed in his direction. Meanwhile I have become a master in the art of mixing a spectacular G&T.

One Christmas Danny cooked roast turkey using this recipe. It was wonderful. Even the best cooks at our table chortled and pestered D for the recipe. Basically the meat tastes similar to a normal roast bird but with an extra subtle vooomph. It’s the automatic gravy that is piquant, intriguing and amazingly good. If you are going to try this with turkey, double the amount of ingredients and cook the turkey for the normal allocated time. We’ve always used Delia as our guide for cooking turkey. The timings are here.

Best roast chicken or turkey recipe with automatic gravy

Ingredients to serve 4 to 6:

The measures of ingredients are approximate. Don’t be overly concerned about accuracy.This recipe is for chicken. It works just as well with turkey.The secret is in enclosing the bird in foil to keep it surrounded with moisture during cooking, and to prevent the juices from boiling off. The last 30 minutes, when the foil cover is opened, roasts and browns the skin of the bird nicely.

  • 1 medium chicken, approx 1.5 kg
  • 6 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • half a cup of any white wine (we use a wine box for cooking)
  • 1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • About 1 metre of kitchen foil (we use turkey foil) to make a generous parcel, allowing air to circulate.

Ingredients for the gravy base:

  • 3 tbsp mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • half a cup ruby port (or sloe sherry or sloe gin)
  • 50 ml of light soy sauce
  • 12 drops Tabasco sauce


Set the oven to 210c (190c fan-assisted)

  1. Make up the gravy base. Combiine the mustard powder and brown sugar into a mug. Mix them well. Make the mustard and sugar into smooth paste by gradually adding small amounts of the soy sauce and kneading with the back of a teaspoon. By the time you have added all of the soy sauce, you should have a lump-free paste. Top it up with the port and stir well. Add the Tabasco by holding the bottle top-down over the mug and applying a sharp fingertap to the base of the bottle for each drop.
  2. Prepare the chicken.
  • Put the foil in a baking tray and mould it so that it has sides like a mini-baking tray.
  • Pour in the wine and the Balsamic vinegar.
  • Place your bird in the middle, breast upwards.
  • Slice the lemon in half. Squeeze some of the juice over the bird and place both halves in the bird’s cavity.
  • Now pour the gravy base over the bird. Try to cover as much of the skin as possible because the marvelous flavour will adhere to every part that is covered. Use a spoon to ladle it over the thighs and wings.
  • Lay the slices of bacon over the breast, beginning with the head end, so that the bacon forms a protective layer that entirely covers the breast.
  • Pull the rest of the foil over the bird and nip the edges together to form the foil into a reasonably airtight enclosure. Try to leave a few inches over the bird as the legs will stretch during cooking. Place it in the middle shelf of your pre-heated oven and cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  • Remove it temporarily from the oven, open the foil and push it back to the edges of the roasting dish. Remove the bacon to a small ovenproof dish and place it in the bottom of the oven to crisp. With a sharp knife, make a deep cut between each thigh and the body so that the thighs can be pushed away from the body. This is the thickest part of the bird and needs to cook further. Put the bird back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  • Remove the bird and the crisped bacon from the oven. Throw away the bacon fat – do not be tempted to add it to the chicken juices. That does not work! Allow the bird to relax for 30 minutes by pulling the foil over it again and covering it with towels to retain the heat.
  • When it’s time to serve, just carefully pour the gravy juices into a saucepan and bring to the boil while you carve.

Tips and tricks:

  • Gravy. We have a fat and lean sauce boat (sometimes called a jack sprat). This is a great investment. As it enables one to pour fat free gravy.
  • Don’t forget the bread sauce. If we’re in a rush we use Scwartz.

  Leave a reply


  1. Sounds interesting, have to try this,does the Tabasco English mustard not make the gravy ‘hot’?
    How do you thicken the gravy? Can’t imagine this with Yorkshire Puds,potatoes veg, you’ve got me puzzled with this one, think I’ll try it out mid-week with roasted veg first! I’m a coward really.
    I have great faith in all Dannys recipes,must be the Tabasco that’s puzzled me……
    Thanks OdelleS.

  2. mark wilson

    Tried this a few weeks ago, my wife (the gravy expert!) said this was the best gravy ever, the chicken turned out to be one of the most succulent that we have cooked. Sunday today and cooking it again!

  3. Greetings,
    This recipe will be used for our Christmas BBQ!
    Hamish has a flash new hooded barbecue and we will make the needed adaptations, but basically it will be your recipe, used for a Kiwi Christmas barbie!!

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