Takes: 2 and a half hours
These old-fashioned reared chickens live, as the label says, for 100 days minimum, some up to 114 days, compared to a commercial bird which only lives for 40 to 45 days. Our 100 day birds live outside, running about. Two things happen – the muscles are laid down slower, especially in the thigh and leg, which means cooking has to be at a slightly lower temperature and for a little longer period than their short-lived cousins – and a little fat is laid down under the skin. Both these affect the cooking time when compared to a commercial bird.
The average 100 day chicken will weigh around 2.8 to 3.2 kg, check the giblets are not tucked inside the body cavity, and then place the bird in a roasting tin, breast-side up. If you have the time, lay a few rashers of streaky bacon over the breast, and then a loose-fitting piece of foil over the top and just covering the legs. This will stay in place for about an hour and will just stop the breast and thighs from drying out.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 (less if it is a fan oven), top right of the AGA. Pop the chicken in and leave at that temperature for 30 minutes, then reduce down to 160 for the next 90 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time – ie one hour – remove the foil to allow the skin to become golden and crispy, the extra maturity of the bird, together with the sun on its back, and the little bit of fat which is under the skin, guarantees the old-fashioned crispy finish.
To check the chicken is ready, gently pull the thigh away from the body and if it “gives” all is well. If not, give it another 10 minutes uncovered.
Take the bird out of the tin, sit it on a warm plate, whilst you make some proper chicken gravy. To do this, tip all the cooking juices to the corner of the tin and spoon off the fat which will sit on top of the meat juices. KEEP THE FAT! I normally spoon the fat into a mug, and I would expect to harvest around half a mug-full. This fat is full of chicken flavour, and if you want to do anything with the leftovers, onions fried in chicken fat give you a head start. Back to the gravy, if your preference is for a thicker gravy, work a little cornflour into a dessert spoonful of fat at the end of the tin and then gradually draw in the meat juices over a very low heat until everything begins to thicken. If you have been preparing a few vegetables to go with the bird, add the vegetable water to the pan, if not a bit of chicken or vegetable stock will work. Bring the whole pan to a very gentle simmer until the gravy is at the required consistency.
Crispy roast potatoes, a few parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli and mashed swede all go well with the chicken, and most importantly a very buttery bread sauce, which really should have nearly as much butter as bread.
Whole Ginger Pig 100 Day Chicken
Spoonful of cornflour
Potatoes for roasting
Purple sprouting broccoli