Heat the oven to 220 C, 200 C fan, 425 F, gas 7. Mix the lemon zest through the ricotta and season well. Remove the chicken from its packaging, but leave it trussed. Pull the loose skin around the neck end up and, with your fingers, work under the skin from the front to the back of the breasts, loosening the skin from the meat and creating 2 pockets on top of the breasts.
Spoon half the ricotta mixture into the neck end and work it down to the bottom of the breasts until the whole of the breast is covered evenly with a layer of ricotta. Cut one of the zested lemons in half and place in the cavity at the other end - it will scent the bird while it cooks. Spoon the rest of the ricotta mixture into 1 or 2 small, oiled tins and wrap securely with oiled tinfoil.
Rub the chicken skin well with olive oil and season thoroughly. Place in a roasting tray and cook on the top shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, then turn the heat down to 190 C, 170 C fan, 375 F, gas 5 and cook for a further hour, adding the ricotta cakes for the last 45 minutes. After this time, insert a skewer into the thickest parts of the breast and leg of the chicken - the juices that run out should be clear and not at all pink.
When cooked, remove the chicken and the ricotta cakes from the oven. Cover the chicken with tinfoil and leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving. Serve with the cakes and our Pea and artichoke pilaf.
- 2 lemons, with their zest
- 500g (1lb 2oz) ricotta
- 1 free-range chicken, approx 1.6kg (31⁄2lb)
- little olive oil
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