Choose the most expensive bird you can afford; an organic chicken will give a thick crisp skin, flavourful meat which does not fall apart when you bite into it, and very good stock when you boil up the carcass.
Remove any excess fat from the body cavity. Spike the bay leaf with the cloves, and tuck this into the cavity. Rub the bird all over with the cut lemon, squeezing the juice over the bird, and then put the half-lemon inside. Lightly season inside and out, and place the chicken on its side on a rack in the roasting tin.
Roast on its side for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Turn onto its other side, and roast at the same temperature for 20 minutes. Finally, turn the chicken on its back, and roast for about 15 minutes to brown it nicely. Juices, which are released when you pierce the inner thigh with a skewer, should be clear and not pink. A real free-range chicken may take up to an hour and a quarter to cook. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter.
With a simple gravy, skim and discard the fat from the pan juices, and transfer them to a saucepan. Add a splash or two of the wine you will serve with the chicken, simmer for 5 minutes and, if you wish, thicken with a little potato flour or cornflour.
For a cream gravy, add the milk in which the stuffing ingredients are cooked. While the bird is roasting, the stuffing can also be cooking in the oven.
© 2000 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.