Sunday Lunch: Roast Chicken and Apple Crumble

Sunday Lunch: Roast Chicken and Apple Crumble

I could be wrong but I get the impression fewer people are doing a roast on Sundays these days. Some of my emptynester friends say they only bother when their offspring return home or if they have guests. Even after my youngest went off to university last year I continued to cook a Sunday roast, partly because it’s the one occasion each week when we haul my frail and elderly mother-in-law upstairs from her flat below to join us and partly because, well, it’s delicious. My children tell me they’ve always enjoyed the weekly ritual and this pleases me because it means it’s worth the (not necessarily huge) effort. When I was pottering about in my kitchen, one recent Sunday morning, it struck me that one doesn’t have to spend very long preparing the roast and that simple does not have to mean dull. And of course if you are too busy during the day pursuing the leisure activity of your choice, you and your family can have this meal in the evening rather than try to fit it in at lunchtime.

So this post is about proving that it needn’t be hugely time-consuming or arduous and outlining how I made roast chicken and apple crumble in two hours flat. It is also to show you that not all Aga cooking is long and slow, which is not to say that slow roasting isn’t an excellent way of making the most of an Aga: you can put your joint of meat in the simmering oven before bed on Saturday night or bright and early on Sunday morning and have meltingly tender meat for lunch or supper on Sunday. I did this recently with a pork belly and it was one of the best roasts we’ve ever had.

On this particular Sunday I took the bird out of the fridge about an hour before I wanted to cook it, to let it come up to room temperature, and then, having popped out to buy the Sunday papers, I started on the lunch preparation. I roasted the potatoes around the chicken. They absorbed the buttery garlicky juices and the flavour and texture were superb. I love them done this way (and it saves time and washing-up) but they were not crisp. If you want crisp, you’ll have to par-boil them for 5 minutes and then roast them in very hot duck or goose fat in a tin on the floor of the roasting oven for about thirty minutes.

Roast Chicken


  • 1 whole free-range chicken weighing about 1.5kg
  • Unsalted butter
  • Several (quantity up to you but a minimum of 8) garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • About 8 bay leaves
  • A sprinkling, ie to taste, of Lakeland Herb Sea Salt
  • Potatoes: one or two per person, peeled and chopped into large chunks. I used these red potatoes on this occasion but any variety will do. In the summer I use new potatoes: just halve the larger ones and there’s no need to peel them


  • Place your chicken in a roasting tin with enough room around it for the potatoes
  • Spread butter generously all over the bird and sprinkle with the herb sea salt or if you don’t have any, just salt and pepper
  • Place one garlic clove and one bay leaf in the cavity
  • Slide the tin onto the second rung of the roasting oven and leave it there for 20 minutes before removing it, basting it with the buttery juices and placing the potatoes and remaining garlic cloves and bay leaves around it, turning them to coat them in the butter too
  • Return the tin to the roasting oven, this time on the fourth rung, for about an hour. Half way through, turn the potatoes and give the chicken another baste
  • The chicken is done when a thigh is pierced with a sharp knife and the juices run clear
  • Remove the bird to a large plate or board, keeping it near the Aga and maybe covering it with a clean tea-towel. Discard the garlic and bay leaves and place the potatoes in a serving dish in the simmering oven to keep warm while you make some gravy
  • All I do for this is deglaze the roasting tin with some white wine on the simmering plate and then pour all of this through a sieve into a small pan to bubble away for a few minutes, adding more wine or some stock and whatever else you fancy: for example, you could whisk in a little crème fraîche. Decant this into a small jug and keep it warm on the back of the Aga while you get everyone to the table and find someone to carve your bird
  • I will leave the choice of accompanying vegetables to you but the other day I served ours with steamed Savoy cabbage tossed with a little butter and lots of black pepper added

Apple Crumble

(Serves 4-6)

You can be making this while the chicken is roasting. This is the basic recipe; feel free to add cinnamon and/or some raisins to the apples; or reduce the amount of apple by 25 per cent and replace with blackberries when in season.


  • 4-5 cooking apples
  • 110g/4oz unsalted butter
  • 110g/4oz plain flour
  • 110g/4oz ground almonds
  • 110g/4oz golden caster sugar plus an extra heaped tablespoon
  • A heaped dessert spoon of demerara


  • First make the crumble by placing the butter, flour, almonds and sugar in a large bowl and using your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. You can of course do this in a food processor
  • Peel and slice the apples, putting the slices straight into the dish you want to bake the crumble in. Add some lemon juice to stop the apples from turning brown
  • Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top, smooth it over and then press it down with the back of a spoon
  • To finish, run a fork lightly over the surface and sprinkle over the demerara
  • Bake in the baking oven, with the rack on the fourth rung, for about half an hour until golden brown on top and the apples feel soft when a knife is inserted into them

Fricassée of Chicken with Tarragon




This morning I tweeted a line I’d read in the Sunday Times about the Sunday roast being on its way out but that this wasn’t the case in my house.  Wonderfully, the replies I received confirmed that my family is not the exception.  It doesn’t have to be eaten at lunchtime (everyone’s Sundays are busy) but I believe it’s a ritual and tradition worth preserving.

When I was a student and sharing a flat with three friends, where cooking was concerned we had the typical student repertoire of the era, comprising 1001 things to do with mince. But believe it or not, one of our staples was also chicken fricassée.  I’m afraid I can’t remember the recipe in detail but it wasn’t like the dish I made for Sunday lunch today. Our student recipe involved sautéeing pieces of chicken and mushrooms and then adding a little flour, stock and milk (and possibly some cream) to make a white sauce.  We used to serve it with rice.

The origin of the term “fricassée” is French, possibly from “frire” (to fry) and “casser” (to break in pieces), which might explain why all the fricassée recipes I found in a quick Google search this afternoon used chicken pieces rather than a whole bird.  The one I made for lunch today, based on this recipe by Michel Roux which I read in the Times during the week, is the only one I’ve seen which involves roasting a whole chicken.  (Apologies if you’re not a Times subscriber and the article is behind the paywall.)

Anyway, we really enjoyed it; the tarragon sauce is delicious.  Sometimes it’s good to return to a simple classic.  We don’t need always to be finding the next fashionable thing to cook.

I made changes to the Roux recipe; very brave of me, I thought, considering his chef’s credentials and renown, but I honestly didn’t think we needed quite that much cream and also, when you have a roasting oven as hot as the Aga’s, why would you need to brown the chicken before putting it in the oven?


  • 1 whole chicken (mine weighed 2kg)
  • Butter
  • 3 shallots
  • Tarragon vinegar (I didn’t have any so used good quality white wine vinegar)
  • About 100ml white wine
  • About 100ml chicken stock
  • About 150ml double cream
  • Handful of tarragon leaves (adjust amount according to your preference)


  • Place the chicken in a roasting tin, spread butter all over it and season.
  • Roast in the roasting oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, basting a couple of times during cooking.  I placed mine on the rack on the third set of rungs for the first 20 minutes, then moved the rack to the bottom of the oven with the tin on the fourth set of rungs.  The cooking time will obviously depend on the weight of your chicken.
  • Remove the chicken, place on a dish and leave to rest (perhaps on the warming plate of your Aga)
  • Pour off most of the fat, add a knob of butter and sweat the shallots gently for about 5 minutes.  Add 1tbsp vinegar and the white wine and let it bubble up for a few minutes.  At this stage I poured everything into a small saucepan: easier than continuing in the roasting tin.
  • Add the chicken stock and boil until reduced a little.  Add the cream and repeat.  Check for seasoning.  Add the tarragon leaves at the last minute.  Pour into a jug for serving.  We ate our fricassée with new potatoes, broccoli and carrots.