Ben Bulger's Roast Chicken, Spelt, Nettles & Lemon

Ben Bulger's Roast Chicken, Spelt, Nettles & Lemon

A photo of chef Ben Bulger's roast chicken, spelt, nettles and lemon dish.
This chicken recipe with nettles and lemon will make your taste buds go 'zing'!


2 teaspoon Fennel seeds
1 lemon, grated zest and juiced
Pinch dried chili flakes
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs thyme
150g pearled spelt
500ml chicken stock
A handful of wild nettle leaves blanched and chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley and tarragon chopped
1 large chicken (2-2.5kg), at room temperature
Sea salt & freshly milled black pepper


Toast the fennel seeds in a small frying pan over a medium heat for a minute or so, until fragrant. Grind using a pestle and mortar to a rough powder.

Take ½ of the chopped nettle and mix with the softened butter the ground fennel seed lemon zest, chili flakes, salt and freshly milled black pepper.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and thyme then fry for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the spelt. Pour in the stock and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the grain is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed – this will take 20–25 minutes . If the mixture begins to look dry, top it up with boiling water. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining nettles, chopped parsley and tarragon season with salt and pepper to taste.

Undo any trussing on the chicken, take out the giblets if they’re inside (save them to make stock) and pull the legs away from the body a little to help the hot air to circulate. Carefully lift the skin, rub half the butter over the breast working it down to the thighs, then stuff the chicken with about half of the hot  spelt mixture – the cavity should be no more than two-thirds full, as the stuffing will expand in the oven. Put the chicken into a roasting dish, massage the remaining butter over the breast and legs and season with salt and pepper.

Pour a glass of hot water into the dish, cover loosely with foil and place in an oven preheated to 200°C. Roast for 30 minutes, then uncover, baste the chicken with the buttery juices and return to the oven. Turn down to 170°C and cook for a further 45 minutes-1 hour, increasing the heat for the last 10 minutes if you want the skin a little browner and crisper. Check that the bird is cooked by piercing the thigh close to the bone with a sharp knife – the juices should run clear. Leave to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes before carving.

Scoop out the stuffing and mix with the juices and the remaining spelt, warm through gently.

Serve each portion of chicken with a generous spoonful of the stuffing, some wilted greens or a salad.

Tuck in and enjoy the sensations on your palette!