Sometimes I wonder why I rarely share the bits about our life on this Irish farm that aren’t so pretty and delicious. My instinct is to look on the bright side of things….namely, the tasty treats of Ireland. I suppose it is makes life easier to focus on the good instead of the not so terrific.

If I am to be honest, it’s not all roses. I’m sure this comes as no surprise. That’s life. Whether it be the 7th gray day in a row, witnessing an animal die during childbirth, or, worse, the loss of a friend taken by the act of suicide which seems to occur at an alarming rate in this small country

….while there are moments of absolute splendor, there too are dark days in this quiet, pastoral setting.

I may be stating the obvious or the immaterial, depending on who you are, but for me, food, has become tremendously healing during difficult times at Dunmoylan. By healing, I don’t mean bingeing on pints of pecan praline ice cream or making not one, not two, but three chocolate chip cookies in a cup, though there is that on occasion…I’m human after all.

I am talking about the mere act of tying on an apron and stirring up my son’s favourite pot of macaroni and three {Irish} cheeses, baking an airy Victoria sponge with plenty of homemade jam and freshly whipped cream to treat the hard working crew after their dinner at the farm, or simply picking fresh vegetables and herbs to go with farmer’s cheese for Sunday evening omelettes….washed down with tumblers of Tempranillo.

Somehow standing in my kitchen with a spoon in hand goes a long way to ease moments of melancholy. Previously unbeknownst to me, I have discovered that the act of nourishing yourself and others can be quite the perfect way to find balance when the scales of my life seem to be tipped. Cooking is restorative. Making butter becomes Baddha Konanasana. Baking bread breathes faith into this no-matter-how-long-I-am-here-will-it-ever-not-feel-new-life. Sharing my bounty through this blog fills me with a sense of purpose and pride. It heals the hard parts. It can soften sad days.


Nonetheless, food does not complete me. I do not live for food. Rather, I eat to live. Like everyone else. In a world filled with hunger, we are lucky enough to have the resources to purchase food, and better yet, to have the faculty to grow and raise our own on this Irish farm. Not only is food comforting, but we can take pleasure in its plentiful bounty. That, I do not take for granted.

Yes, I will absolutely gush over trying a new restaurant, recipe, or reading the new issue of Bon Appetit. But, what I really love is how food can inject such comfort and joy into an unassuming, ordinary…perhaps heartbreaking moment in time. A conversation with friends over drinks and a meal at a tea-lit restaurant buzzing with the din of laughter and life.  Photographing a slice of pie that sings….especially close up. Feeding my family every day. Working creatively with others to promote a local food event. Writing a blog post. Hosting an outlandishly decadent Sunday lunch…just because. Meeting an artisan food producer. Sharing a recipe. Going to a butchery class. Foraging for whatever fruits we can find. Making a film about Irish food.

When there is havoc at home, I turn to the rythmn of roast. When served, it will always bring a comforting smile to all faces around a table. A yankee pot, a rib of beef, a leg of lamb…..or, without question, the best: simply roasting one of our chickens and surrounding it with crusty roast potatoes and a big scoops of carrot-parsnip mash, all blanketed in velvety herby chicken gravy.

Which foods comfort you and bring you close to home?

Comforting Roast Chicken

1.5kg whole free-range or organic chicken

1 lemon, halved and zested

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, marjoram, chervil, tarragon, thyme or any fresh herbs

1 teaspoon olive oil

100 ml dry white wine

Sea salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 220°C. Lightly grease a roasting pan. Place a wire rack into roasting pan. Rinse chicken (including cavity) under cold running water. Pat-dry with paper towels. Season cavity with salt and pepper.

Gently squeeze the juice from half the lemon over chicken, rubbing juice into skin. Place both lemon halves into chicken cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen string.

Place lemon zest, fresh herbs and butter into food processor and blitz into a paste. Massage under the skin of chicken.

Brush both sides of chicken with oil. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Place, breast-side up, onto rack in roasting pan. Pour wine into bottom of roasting pan. Roast for 1 hour or until juices run clear when chicken thigh is pierced with a skewer. Stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Serve with roast potatoes, parsnip and carrot mash.

Photo and styling by Imen McDonnell 2013. If you suffer with depression or know someone who does, please get help. In Ireland you can contact Pieta House or Samaritans. Also, if you are concerned about someone who may be suicidal, here are some warning signs from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

53 Responses to “Comforting Roast Chicken”

  1. Keri says:

    Thank you for this beautiful recipe! I am planning on making this today…here in Iowa its a windy, snowy, cold day and I am sure this roasted chicken will hit the spot!

  2. […] en Cocotte with Bacon and Mushroom Sauce, via Saveur magazine | Roast Chicken, via Imen McDonnell of […]

  3. Isn’t roast chicken the most comforting thing ever? It truly is one of those timeless foods that really makes you feel safe and warm.

  4. Imen, funny, your feeling of “no-matter-how-long-I-am-here-will-it-ever-not-feel-new-life.”(which is completely understandable for anyone not living in their native country). Maybe it feels like that to you but reading your blog makes me appreciate our Irishness more and that comes through your writing. So maybe without realising it your more settled than you think. We are certainly lucky to have you here.
    PS Roast chicken is also one of my all time favourite comfort foods.

    • imen says:

      Thanks so much for that note Cliodhna, perhaps you are correct….I know some days it feels like that for sure. I suspect if you were my neighbour, there would be more days like that as well! Meet you soon =) Imen x

  5. Lany Donovan says:

    I just happened to run across your website looking for a certain recipe and lets just say I been here for an hour reading and checking out your recipes I cook and am a baker and I am quite enjoying your website and will be saving this to my faves :p Would sure love for you to share recipes from you’re Pretty Food page thou 😉 tysm

  6. We are all just cooking our way through the darkness and light, one dish at a time. Cx

  7. what a beautiful post and a gorgeous bird. I can one hundred percent relate to so much here- a loss through suicide, the restorative effect of holding a wooden spoon in front of a hot stove, and the never-ending act of getting used to being an American living in Ireland. sending good thoughts your way x

  8. Niamh says:

    So sorry for your loss. It has touched my life too, and is devastating. Thinking of you x

  9. Just found your blog through Sarah Kieffer. Just beautiful – the post and the bird.

  10. sarah says:

    Such a beautiful post. xo

  11. Kit Mitchell says:

    So lovely and well said. A pause for reflection after reading your heartfelt words.
    Peace. kit

  12. An Cailín says:

    This is so beautifully written, I don’t know what to say. I’m so sorry for your loss and the hard times.
    And everything you’ve said is all so true. Thank you.
    Tabhair aire. x

  13. Natasha says:

    I feel especially comforted by the simpler meals–a bowl of porage or a bed of arugula tossed with lemon juice or an apple crisp or a roast chicken such as this. These types of food just taste honest to me, which I appreciate more and more lately. Gorgeous words and photos and post as always!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this very real story. I know that it can be very difficult to not always just share happy news or the prettier side of life. I’m very sorry for your loss..may it be a reminder to always give thanks for those whom we hold dearly in our lives.

  15. Krista says:

    I’m so sorry for the grief you are experiencing, Imen. XO I lost my cousin to cancer last week and it was so devastating. Baking and cooking was a comfort to me too. I loved what you wrote today, and will carry it with me as I head out to feed the animals. XO

  16. Some loss and hard times are just too private to share, I find. I lost my nephew to suicide just five months ago, and have found myself incapable, or not wanting to, let people into that private part of me. Thank you for your honesty!

  17. Parisbug says:

    Am so sorry you have had to go through the loss of a friend, it is never easy, no matter the cause. But I feel comfort for you in that I imagine your family network, your home family and all that makes your life there on the farm, provide the care and love you need.
    The negative, I believe, is there to help us find the beauty in the positive, life in France has taught our family that in every bad there is a good. I find myself actively looking for that good when struggles and challenges present themselves, which they so often do here, and when I find it, I move on happily.
    I love what you’ve written here, wishing you peace and always, Bon Appetit!
    xx L

    • imen says:

      Laila, thank you so much for your thoughtful words….yes, I know that for all of these challenges, there is a lesson to be learned…a positive to be gained somehow. Now, let’s plan Oslo! Imen x

  18. Angela says:

    Beautiful words. So true and important. Finding a solace in simple, everyday moments (and food) is a real gift. And this recipe looks so tasty. Take care.

  19. Fiona Dillon says:

    I hope you can feel the ginormous hug I’m sending you right now….

  20. Aisling says:

    Thank you for this post!
    I also find calm in cooking & baking, but don’t have a big enough household yet to cook large meals – it’s just the two of us for the moment.

    • imen says:

      Thanks Aisling….the 1.5 kg chicken feeds three with a small bit of leftovers for chicken salad =) xx

  21. Elizabeth says:

    I am sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. You write beautifully of the comfort that can come with making and eating good food. A simply seasoned roast chicken is a favorite in our home too.

  22. Caitriona says:

    Imen, thank you for putting how I feel about cooking, providing & nourishing far better than I ever could.
    Sending love & light your way. X

  23. Jonena says:

    Lovely and sweet and honest. Thank you.

  24. Renee says:

    Well said. Thank you for this.

  25. Christine says:

    What a beautiful Blog, I really admired the lovely honest way you wrote this. I have to be honest at times when I am feeling sad and down, Imen reading blogs like yours do help to lift me up and while I was once someone who lived for food I am now learning to turn comfort eating into a shared delightful experience 😉 just can’t quite get that light sponge down just yet but will get there eventually 😉 thanks again xx

    • imen says:

      Thanks Christine. It’s been a long time coming actually. Beat a lot of air into the sponge…that’s the trick. Maybe I should post my recipe. xx

  26. Maggie says:

    What an amazing gift you have – thank you for sharing this wonderfully written prose – and also the roast chuck – i have never put wine in my chicken roasting dish before but am next weekend! Thanks again!

    • imen says:

      THank you! How nice of you to say Maggie. The wine adds to the flavour of the gravy…let me know if you like it =) x

  27. Stephanie says:

    Beautiful Imen. So true, just perfect. xo Stephanie

  28. Such an honest and beautifully written post, thank you for sharing.

  29. Lisa says:

    Beautifully written. Sad, but honest. Funny how something as simple as cooking a meal can be therapeutic. Your creations look & sound pretty amazing too!

    • imen says:

      Lisa, you always comment on my hard to write posts. Thank you for that. Will def see you this summer. x

  30. S says:

    What a lovely post. The giving & sharing of food is so redemptive, so powerful.

  31. Freddi says:

    You’re so lucky to be able to have chickens! Always love your posts, I have an image of your farm in my head and it makes me happy to think I could eventually live like you!

    • imen says:

      Hi Freddi, thanks so much for your lovely comment. It’s nice to have table chickens…..and farm life can be idyllic, especially when there is balance. Imen x

  32. Thinking of all you have written tonight – and how true and real it is. Some things are similar no matter what country you live in. Take care –

    • imen says:

      Hi Elizabeth, I did receive your email, Welcome! Will write soon. Thanks for your comment, hopefully see you soon. Take care, Imen x

  33. s says:

    i love the honesty of this post. a beautiful piece. x s

· · · ◊ ◊ ◊ · · ·

Leave a Reply

Saveur Sites We Love
Recent Posts