wow your guests with sen­sa­tional sea­sonal fare

Living Etc - - CONTENTS / ETC -

For the brine

* 200ml dry cider

* 100g de­mer­ara su­gar

* 2 tbsp rock salt

* 1 tbsp whole black pep­per­corns * 2 thyme sprigs

* 3 fresh bay leaves, crushed * 1 large, free-range chicken (about 2kg), un­tied, any giblets re­moved

For the roast

* 50g but­ter, soft­ened * 10 shal­lots, halved and peeled * 4 fresh, small bay leaves

* 5 thyme sprigs, plus ex­tra leaves to serve * 1 small pump­kin or round squash, de­seeded and cut into wedges

* 3 small pears, halved and cored * 2 tbsp olive oil

* 150ml dry cider

Start with the brine. Mix the cider, su­gar, salt, pep­per­corns, thyme and bay leaves with 200ml wa­ter. Put the chicken in a large zip-lock food bag and pour in the brine. Seal the bag and put in the fridge (in a bowl or dish in case of leaks), for 6-24 hours, turn­ing oc­ca­sion­ally.

Pre­heat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Re­move the chicken from the brine (dis­card this), rinse briefly un­der cool wa­ter and pat dry. Pop four shal­lot halves in­side the chicken with a bay leaf and a thyme sprig. Care­fully work your hands un­der the chicken breast skin and lay two bay leaves on each breast, along with a pat of but­ter. Spread the re­main­ing but­ter on top of the breast and leg skin.

Put the chicken in a large roast­ing tin or dish, cover loosely with foil and roast for 20 min­utes. Now un­cover the bird and add the pump­kin, pears, re­main­ing shal­lots and re­main­ing thyme sprigs to the dish so that they sur­round the chicken. Driz­zle with oil and sea­son. Add the cider to the dish. Turn the oven down to 180°C/gas mark 4 and roast for 50 min­utes more, cov­er­ing the chicken breast with a sheet of foil if it browns too quickly. Test the chicken is cooked by in­sert­ing a skewer into its thigh – the juices should run clear, not pink. Cover and re­turn to the oven for 10 min­utes if not quite cooked.

Rest the bird on a board, tented with foil, for 10 min­utes be­fore carv­ing. Serve with the veg­eta­bles and fruit in the pan (scat­tered with a lit­tle fresh thyme), any pan juices and some but­tery mash.

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