Butterflied and roasted, the humble chook has never tasted so good. Be sure not to overcook the roast chicken; as long as the breast is perfect, you can fix the rest. If the legs are still a little pink on the bone, remove them and finish cooking in a pan.
2kg free-range chicken
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
small bunch thyme
few sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 lemon, cut into sixths
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For chipotle-lentil sauce
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp chipotle chilli powder
400g can brown lentils, washed and drained (If you don't have lentils, the sauce can be made using any tinned legumes.)
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
Remove the bird from the refrigerator 2 hours before cooking. Cut off the neck and wing tips and remove the wish bone and parson's nose. Stand the bird up with its bottom facing you and, with a sharp knife, cut down each side of the backbone and remove it. Flatten the bird out so it is butterflied, and season the outside with sea salt.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Place the herbs and lemon wedges on a lined oven tray. Place the bird on top, rub with olive oil, and place the tray in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, then drop the oven temperature to 150ºC and cook for a further 35 minutes. Remove the tray and cover with foil and two tea towels (to aid the resting). Rest for 15 minutes
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat, and add the onions, garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Cook slowly until tender (about 30 minutes), stirring from time to time. Add the chilli powder and cook for 1 minute, then add the lentils and heat through. Add the yoghurt and remove from the heat. Allow to cool slightly, then blitz with a hand blender until smooth, adjusting seasoning to taste.
Place the chicken skin-side up on a chopping board. Holding the drumstick and thigh where they meet, pull away from the centre of the chicken - it should break off at the joint. Cut the drumstick and thigh where they meet. Slice the chicken down the middle, cutting through the breastbone. You should now have 2 breasts with the wings intact. Cut the wings off where they join the breast and cut each breast on an angle into 2 pieces.
Squeeze the lemon wedges over the roasting pan, add a good dash of olive oil, and mix into the chicken juices, trying to lift all the intense flavours from the bottom of the tray. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Dress the chicken pieces with the pan juices, and serve with chipotle-lentil sauce and freshly cracked pepper.
On 4 large plates place a pool of sauce, place a leg and a breast piece on top. In the roasting dish is a beautiful sauce, so squeeze the cooked lemons in, add a dash of extra virgin olive oil, stir and spoon these juices over the chicken. FInally, give a grind of pepper and serve with the lentil sauce.
* Boil some new potatoes until almost cooked and then roast them with the chook, great flavours it picks up; it's very simple and something you can whip up in a jiffy.
Photography by William Meppem. Food styling by Hannah Meppem. Food preparation by Nick Banbury.