The Good Old Fashioned British Sunday Roast

Roast Chicken

Let’s talk about the Sunday roast. Funny thing about true indigenous British cuisine is how sparse and rare it is. Even that great traditional British dish of Fish and Chips is a Portuguese/Jewish import apparently.

We do other people’s cuisine like Indian and Cantonese pretty well and you won’t starve with Italian, French and so on restaurants abounding. There are some niche things: we do meat and fish really well. Lamb, beef, cod, haddock, mussels, lobster. We do some decent cheeses whether it’s Cheddar, Lancashire, Caerphilly and so on. We have some nice faux Bries and Stilton or similar of course.

I think the one dish that’s survived the centuries is the Sunday Roast. Take a slab of meat, chicken or duck, throw it in the oven, cook roast potatoes, some vegetables, probably carrots, some greens like cabbage or Brussels sprouts and something like celeriac, swede or parsnips. Chicken skin I like powdered with paprika, dried garlic, salt and pepper. Pork crackling with just salt. If your crackling doesn’t crisp up, at the end, separate it from the meat, crank up the oven to 230C, put on a tray and roast some more. Beef might be dusted with salt and dry mustard.

Don’t forget stuffing. You can get really creative with this.

The second most important part is roast potatoes. I’ve wrestled with many minor variations. First up, choose a potato variety. I favour King Edwards. They have a lovely flavour. Pretty much any variety will do though. Maris Piper, Rudolph, some random Welsh white or red should be fine. Peel and parboil for 10-15 minutes. While that’s going on, put fat into a roasting tray and pre-warm in the oven at 200C.

A big question is what fat to use. Recently I’ve been using a mix of butter and olive oil, but you can just as easily use duck or goose fat or rapeseed oil. After the potatoes are par-boiled, drain them and let them dry. Give them a good shake to fluff up the edges. Take the roasting tray out of the oven, add the potatoes, cover with oil and put back in the oven. They should take between 45 minutes to an hour to emerge as fluffy, golden goodness awaiting sea salt.

THE most important part is the gravy. Hopefully you’ve made the stock yourself with onion, garlic, carrots, celery and any other vegetable trimmings. Or just use a good quality stock cube or stock pot. Add wine of course, and some soy sauce for umami. Take the tray you roasted your meat in, hopefully there’s lots of fat that escaped the meat while cooking. Add flour to make a roux. Cook that a little, then slowly add possibly more wine, then the stock you made until you have nice thick gravy oozing with flavour.

Don’t forget salt. Salt makes everything better. And let the meat rest! 10-15 minutes will let the meat relax and reabsorb some juice. Or emit more juice you can put in the gravy.

Serve everything up, drown in tasty gravy and enjoy! Give credit to Maillard where it’s due and enjoy the tastiness.

The flexibility of a chicken

Roast chickenSometimes you’re walking past the last day shelf in Tesco and a chicken for £2.50 just leaps out at you, you just can’t avoid it!

You think “I can get at least four meals out of it for the two of us!” And you do! As an example meal plan:

  1. A proper Sunday roast. Beautiful crispy roast potatoes, some fresh seasonal vegetables or two. I still haven’t cracked the secret to lovely crunchy potatoes here, but given a variety like King Edwards, they will still be tasty. It’s summer so we just picked up some broad beans from the farmer’s market. Don’t forget the gravy! I should pontificate at length on gravy at another point.Leftover chicken
  2. Then do something with the leftovers. In this case a chicken pie but I was too lazy to make the lid ? This one had some frozen peas, and chopped red pepper in. And obviously, that thing that makes everything better, sweetcorn. You can put in pretty much anything you like. Chop up a leek or throw in left over vegetables. Swede on the side is a nice touch, and fry up left over roast potatoes. Obviously, with the bones, you’ll get between a pint and a litre of stock. You can either just boil the bones or throw in some garlic, chopped onion, carrots, celery, herbs and so on.
  3. Then, with that stock, make soup! Possibly with some leftover gravy added for extra flavour. This soup has noodles, an egg mixed in, some veggies and a soft boiled egg. We get through the eggs in this house! Cantonese chicken and sweetcorn has been perpetrated in this house and that’s good too,
  4. Last but not least, you’ll probably have a chicken breast left over. That’s easy to dispose of: a chicken sandwich. Me, I like nice fresh bread and mango chutney. That’s the right combination of solid and savoury. The other option is to load it up with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and mayonnaise. Either way.On the bread note, we mostly make our own. Either from the components or supermarket mix, and throw it in the bread maker. Good fresh bread for half the price.

And that’s how you get four meals out of some discounted chicken!

Some good links out there:

There’s plenty you can do with a chicken: lemons, put vegetables in the roasting tin. Me, I put smoked paprika and garlic salt on the skin before rubbing with olive oil. The skin is the best bit. Or just buy the thighs and roast them!

HelloFresh recipe box – review, tasty

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 21.14.54There was a half price bargain to be had, so we took the plunge and got a couple of HelloFresh boxes at half price. Tuesday morning they arrived by truck incredibly well packed. The refrigerables packeded in insulated bags and all the other ingredients portioned into little boxes of a size appropriate to the recipes, or in some case more.

Over two boxes, the recipes we got were:

  • Paprikás Csirke – a Hungarian paprika chicken dish. A dash of honey and soy sauce at the end, lifted the dish somewhat.
  • Beef Enchiladas – There were enough tortillas left over, we had this again for lunch again the following day. Probably my favourite.
  • Pan Fried Chicken with tarragon sauce – a simple sauce of tarragon simmered in crème fraîche.
  • Honey mustard sausages with read onion gravy – the sausages were tiny and the gravy a cheaty version of the one I do, but the real revelation here was cabbage that was quartered, fried lightly then baked in the oven in stock. This I will cook again!
  • Jamie’s grilled chicken with green bean salad – fairly classic, lemony Jamie.
  • Salmon baked on a bed of walnut-herby mushrooms with cerleriac fries. Sorry, there’s nothing to commend celeriac, it’s a vegetable of winter desperation. The mushrooms however, were awesome.  The texture of the nuts and the flavour of lots of fresh herbs. Amazing.

So there we have it. Would I do it again? Probably not. The recipes were easy enough but nothing you couldn’t do with a recipe book and a supermarket. I think my expectations were for more umami and more exotic flavours. Good enough though and if I were a busy executive with a career, wife and mistress, it might be tempting. 3/5.

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Tomato Soup

Tomato SoupA neighbour is going on holiday and gave us some tomatoes.

So I made soup.

Gently fry an onion and a medium carrot in olive oil for ten minutes, add 1lb of chopped tomatoes and a pint of stock (boullion in my case), a squirt of tomato puree and a small handful of basil leaves. Simmer for ten minutes then blend. Salt and a small amount of sugar to taste. I topped it off with freshly made garlic-y croutons, more basil and a quick grate of parmesan for umami.

It was good!

Making Stock: The 10 commandments

chicken stock

Apparently I’d been doing it wrong all these years. These are the rules for making stock:

  1. Thou shall use only the finest ingredients
  2. Thou shall not over cook thy stock
  3. Thou shall not sin by adding salt to thy stock
  4. Thou shall not cover thy stock with a lid
  5. Thou shall not boil thy stock for the chef loves the simmer
  6. Thou shall remove all iniquities and scum as they form
  7. Thou shall not stir thy stock
  8. Thou shall not corrupt the flavour of thy stock with strongly flavoured spices or herbs
  9. Thou shall cool and store thy stock correctly

Keep these precepts and thou will prosper and find favour with thy chef and flavour in thy stock

I have a screen grab of this on my kitchen wall. I almost always make fresh stock for the gravy for a Sunday roast.