Roast Chicken with Gravy and Watercress Stuffing


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • For



Appears in

Cooking at the Merchant House

By Shaun Hill

Published 2000

  • About

If the same effort that is put into complicated dishes is directed towards cooking something simple, the results can be a revelation. Here is a good example: free range chicken, carefully roasted so that the thighs are completely cooked but the breasts not overdone, and a sauce made from pan juices and roasting tray residues rather than commercial bouillon cubes or gravy mixes.


  • 1.75kg (3lb 14oz) chicken
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chervil
  • 1 teaspoon tomato passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • salt and pepper

For the Stuffing

  • 25g (1oz/2 tablespoons) ready-to-eat dried apricots
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 25g (1oz/¼ stick) butter
  • 4 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons chopped watercress
  • 25g (1oz/½ cup) ground hazelnuts


To make the stuffing, heat the apricots in 1 tablespoon of water for a few minutes, then chop them. Sweat the chopped shallot in the butter. Place the remaining stuffing ingredients in a bowl, add the apricots, then the shallot and butter in which it cooked. Mix well. Roll into a sausage shape and wrap in kitchen foil.

Heat the oven to 220°C (425°F/Gas 7). Remove the chicken’s wishbone. Paint the bird with olive oil, then the butter, being generous. Season with salt and pepper and rub with the crushed garlic and chervil.

Place the chicken in a roasting tray with 100ml (fl oz/½ cup) of water. Roast for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190°C (375°F/Gas 5) and continue roasting the chicken for another 50 minutes. Halfway through cooking, turn the bird upside down to help the thighs cook properly. Baste with pan juices and add the stuffing to the roasting tray at that point.

Take the chicken from the oven and leave it in the roasting tray to rest for 10 minutes. Carve the chicken into breasts and legs, then halve each piece. Pour any juices that escape from the bird back into the roasting tray.

Skim half the fat from the roasting tray, leaving the remainder to flavour and thicken the gravy. Add the tomato passata and 400ml (14fl oz/ cups) of water. Bring the mixture to the boil, whisking, then strain the gravy into a sauceboat for serving with the chicken and its stuffing.