Roast chicken makes a great Sunday meal but sometimes you might want something a little different. This recipe is a tray bake so it’s the easy all-in-one approach to a roast lunch. The difference is that the chicken thigh fillets or breasts are rolled snugly in blankets of streaky bacon so that they get all the lovely bacon flavour and never dry out. In the centre of each blanket is a little parcel of herby flavour. For this dish I used new potatoes, cauliflower, shallots and red peppers to roast with the chicken. But fennel, sweet potato and young carrots would work equally well. The chicken roasts in a shallow bath of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and wine creating a wonderful juice to make gravy if you wish, though the tray bake is actually perfectly fine just as it comes
The roasting dish needs to be just big enough to accommodate the chicken and vegetable in a single and not too crowded layer
Tip of the day: letting the denser vegetables have five minutes of pre-cooking in boiling water helps with texture and flavour.
Half a cauliflower
4 medium new potatoes
2 red peppers
Fresh sage leaves – about 12
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 garlic cloves
150ml balsamic vinegar
150ml olive oil
150ml red wine
4 large skinless chicken thigh fillets or 2 fat skinless chicken breasts
Half a 250g packet of very thinly sliced smoked, dry-cured streaky bacon
A little flour, butter and stock to make gravy (optional)
Pre heat the oven to 170c
Cut 6 big florets from the cauliflower. Slice the unpeeled new potatoes into halves. Par-boil the potatoes and cauliflower for 5 minutes. Drain and let them steam in the colander. Trim the stalk, seeds and pith from the peppers and cut them into quarters. Strip the skin from the shallots, trim the pointed end but leave the roots intact then cut each shallot into two through the root to help keep them together during the cooking.
Strip the leaves from the herbs. Fine chop them. Set aside a little of the sage for garnish.
Peel and crush the garlic cloves. Whisk the balsamic vinegar, wine, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper together.
Flatten the chicken with a rolling pin. Cut the thighs into two. If you are using breasts rather than thighs, carefully fillet the breast into two thin pieces by holding it down with your fist while you take a very sharp knife to create two skinny fillets. Divide the herb mixture between the chicken pieces – with thighs, keep the smooth side on your worktop. Roll or fold them and then wrap one piece of the streaky bacon around each and space them out in the roasting tray. Arrange the vegetables around the chicken.
Pour the vinegar mixture carefully over the chicken and vegetables.
Put the tray in the oven. After half an hour, gently baste the chicken and vegetables. Raise the temperature to 180c and leave the chicken and vegetables to bake for another 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables look well roasted.
If you want to make gravy, start it 10 minutes before the end of cooking with some flour beaten into melted butter, adding some stock and letting it thicken. Arrange the roast on a warmed serving dish or individual plates, scattering a few of the reserved sage leaves over the chicken. Quickly pour the pan juices into the gravy, bringing it to the boil before pouring it into a serving jug.