Chicken roasted with barberry butter

Chicken roasted with barberry butter

Mark Roper

It’s no big secret that roasting a chicken with a herb-or spice-flecked butter underneath the skin is a simple but effective way of keeping the breast meat moist and infusing the flesh with extra flavour. The magic is all in the way you combine ingredients, of course, and this sour–sweet barberry butter with a hint of aniseedy chervil provides a real lift. Because of the butter, with this method you won’t achieve very crisp skin over the breast, but the succulence of the meat more than makes up for this.


Quantity Ingredient
2 x 1.4kg free-range chickens
2 limes, cut into quarters
8 sprigs thyme
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 long red chillies, split and seeded
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
rice and salad, to serve

Barberry butter

Quantity Ingredient
1/2 cup dried barberries, stems removed
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon sea salt
200g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 lime, finely grated zest
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1/3 cup roughly chopped chervil sprigs or tarragon leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. To make the barberry butter, soak the barberries in cold water for 2 minutes, then drain and pat dry. Crush the garlic with the salt. Heat a knob of the butter in a small frying pan over a low heat and fry the barberries and garlic for 4–5 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the lime zest and icing sugar, then remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.
  2. Put the remaining butter into a bowl. Tip in the cold barberry butter and add the chervil and pepper. Beat vigorously to combine.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Wipe the cavities of the chickens thoroughly with paper towels, and pat dry all over.
  4. Working from the neck-end of each bird, carefully insert your fingers underneath the skin that covers the breast meat. Ease it gently away from the flesh to create a pocket, being careful not to tear the skin. Work back as far as you dare – even over the drumsticks, if you can. Push knobs of the barberry butter deep into the pocket, again as far as you can, until it covers most of the meat, then smooth it evenly over the surface with your fingers. Gently pull the breast skin forward again, so that the meat is covered.
  5. Divide the limes, thyme, garlic and chillies between the birds and stuff them inside the cavities. Sprinkle in a generous amount of salt and pepper. Tie the chicken legs to the parson’s nose as firmly as you can, then sit the birds side by side on a rack set inside a large roasting pan. Rub the skin with the oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Roast for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160ºC and roast for a further 30 minutes, turning the chickens around and basting them every 15 minutes or so to ensure the skin colours evenly.
  7. After 50 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the chickens to rest for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and pierce the thighs with a skewer to check that the juices run clear. If not, return to the oven, turn the heat up to 180ºC and cook for a further 10 minutes.
  8. Serve with your choice of rice and salad.
Middle Eastern
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