John Williams, the revered executive chef of The Ritz, cooks The Duchess of Cornwall's favourite dish: Roast chicken with tarragon and cream.
‘When you live your life like me, you’re tasting a lot of very, very rich food. So when I’ve got time off, I eat really simply — that’s what your body tells you it needs,’ says John Williams, Executive Chef at The Ritz in London, in the 13 July 2022 issue of Country Life magazine, guest-edited by The Duchess of Cornwall.
‘On a Sunday, I’d say probably 50% of the time I’ll roast a chicken. That’s been my routine for a long time, 30 years at least.’
The recipe chosen by The Duchess for this week’s issue — chicken roasted with tarragon and lemon, finished with a good glug of double cream — is, therefore, one that immediately appealed to him.
‘It’s not showing off in any way. It’s proper, good food.’ Roast chicken means home and hearth, family and friends, generosity without extravagance, convivial kitchen suppers and leftovers that last the rest of the week.
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Countless chefs from Simon Hopkinson to Nigella Lawson agree and have talked at length about the delight of a classic roast — but the addition of tarragon really lifts this dish.
‘It’s one of the most beautiful things to put with chicken,’ John enthuses. ‘The aniseed notes really enhance the flavour of the meat.’
A handful of the herb in the chicken’s cavity, as per Her Royal Highness’s recipe, is really all you need — but if you have any left over, Mr Williams has a cheffy trick up his sleeve. ‘Lift the skin away from the breast, then tuck a few leaves underneath — you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.’
You can read the full interview with John Williams in the 13 July 2022 edition of Country Life, guest-edited by The Duchess of Cornwall.
Recipe: Roast chicken with tarragon cream
- 1 medium chicken (free range and preferably organic)
- 1 large lemon
- 2 handfuls of tarragon
- A good glug of double cream
- A cupful of chicken stock
- Salt and pepper
- A large lump of butter
Squeeze one half of the lemon over the chicken and cut the other half into slices. Put the butter, a handful of tarragon and the lemon slices into the chicken’s cavity, seal with the squeezed lemon half and season.
Put the chicken in a baking tin and roast in a hot oven for an hour or 1¼ hours, depending on its size.
Leave the chicken aside to rest. Reduce the cooking juices, add a cupful of chicken stock and another handful of chopped tarragon.
At the last moment, stir in the double cream and season — then pour the sauce over the chicken and carve.