Updated: Oct 9, 2021
As a service to my readers, food & feast posts will always feature the recipe first, with history, folklore, and cooking tips toward the bottom of the page. For background on this recipe and helpful hints for navigating technique, scroll down! Otherwise, dive right in with the recipe below.
photo by Frances F. Denny
lemon lavender roast chicken
from "The Feast of Virgo", The Witch's Feast
Serves 4-6 guests
Contains meat, dairy
Prep time : 10 minutes
Cook time : 1 hour
1 whole chicken
4 tablespoons fresh or dried lavender buds
Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
6 tablespoons butter, softened
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Wash your bird and, working from the cavity toward the neck, use your fingers to gently loosen the skin away from the flesh. Stir your lavender and thyme into the softened butter and use it to liberally coat the chicken, both under and over the skin, as well as within the cavity.
Slice your lemon in half crosswise and, working from the centre, slice 6–8 thin slices of lemon from the widest part. Slip these slices under the chicken skin, so that they show through elegantly. Quarter the lemon ends which remain, and place these inside the cavity of the chicken. Season with salt and pepper, then roast for 45 minutes to one hour, or until golden and cooked through.
Excerpt from The Witch's Feast :
"As summer begins her turn toward fall, we encounter the mutable earth sign, Virgo; the virgin, symbolized by a young woman holding a stalk of wheat. This image comes from the Greek goddess Astraea, daughter of the titanic dawn goddess Eos, who ruled over justice, precision and purity. Astraea shared the wheat symbol with Virgo, giving us the sign’s first ingredient – whole grains, breads and wheat flour. In medical astrology, Virgo governs the abdomen, digestive system, intestines and spleen – the discerning, sorting aspects of the body, which extract nutrients from our food and discard the unnecessary. As such, we find that the ingredients of Virgo are simple, natural foods: raw fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and superfoods like quinoa, blueberries and açaí. However, we can be sure that Virgo’s feast won’t feature your average blasé “health food” menu – with Mercury as their ruler, this sign takes an experimental, exploratory approach to cooking, while it’s earth-sign designation hints toward a certain refinement and preference for traditional praxis. In the kitchen, you can expect Virgo to learn and experiment with every tool in the book, so that they can use them to break the rules and rewrite the entire game, as these unstoppable perfectionists are wont to do. "
This roast chicken is an elegant addition to the birthday feasts and celebratory suppers of Virgo season. While you may be surprised not to see Virgo's trademark ingredient, wheat, featured here, this recipe highlights the flavors and herbs of Virgo's planetary ruler, Mercury- lemons, thyme, and a generous helping of lavender. If you'd like to highlight this traditional Virgo ingredient, consider pairing this recipe with a side of farro or chicken gravy and crusty whole-grain bread. As earth signs and lovers of tradition, Virgo also feels at home with a simple dish of roast chicken- a timeless showstopper, and a mouth-watering crowd pleaser, given a Mercurial makeover with the inventive addition of lavender. Certainly not your grandma's roast chicken, but one you will return to again and again, until you master it with a determined, Virgo-like perfection.
Detail from the Cielo de Salamanca, Fernando Gallego, 15th Century