- 2 free-range roasting chickens, around 1.3kg (3lb) each
- 2 bunches fresh lemon thyme
- 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
- 4 whole black peppercorns
- 1 stick celery, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 7tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4tbsp crème fraîche
- 100g (4oz) mature Cheddar, finely grated
- 2tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 100g (4oz) fresh breadcrumbs
Place the chickens side by side in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add one bunch of lemon thyme, the onion, peppercorns, celery and carrot. Bring to the boil then simmer for 1 to 11/2 hours. Cool slightly before transferring chickens to a large dish.
Strain the stock into a clean pan. Bring to the boil and reduce to 750ml (11/4pt) – this will take about an hour. Pull the chicken off the bone, discarding the skin, and put in a large gratin dish. Add any meat juices to the stock. Cover and leave in a cool place.
Stir the remaining thyme, mustard and crème fraîche into the stock. Bubble this mixture, whisking to combine before pouring over the chicken. Cool rapidly. One way is to put the dish in a roasting tin of ice. Cover and chill in the fridge overnight. The stock will set.
To serve, preheat the oven to 200 C, 180 C fan oven, 400 F, gas 6. Mix the cheese and parsley with the breadcrumbs and spread over the top of the chicken in a thin layer. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Serve with a leafy salad.