The great British roast dinner, is the very heart of British food and cooking and I love it. It's a great opportunity to gather friends and family AND if there’s a chill in the air now the seasons have changed, then let’s make the most of it!
Admittedly a traditional roast dinner can be a challenge juggling all the different elements, and getting the timing just right is what makes it great! Here’s a few tips for you to pull it off to perfection.
The number one tip is, whatever meat you’re choosing for your roast dinner, buy the best that you can, grass fed will give a better taste but if you can’t go for that (it’s not always an easy option) then be sure to follow the guidelines below for each option and you should be just fine.
A definite crowd pleaser is a succulent roast chicken, kids usually love it too and what you’re aiming for is a crispy skin and juicy meat.
The traditional choice, there are a few different cuts to select from, a rib or fillet are expensive options and so Topside is a good bet, it has a good flavour and is great roasted. If you’re buying from your butcher, ask for it with a layer of fat on the outside to help keep it tender and for basting juices.
Lots of recipes call for spiking lamb with slivers of garlic or Rosemary and I love these strong flavours but not everyone does. If you don’t, then a sprinkle of sea salt and crushed black pepper can work well.
Moist pork and crispy crackling – who can resist!
The perfect gravy
The gravy rules are more or less the same whatever the meat, and the most important tip is to get rid of the fat in the juices you use – especially lamb fat, which can leave a bit of an unpleasant greasy feeling in the mouth.
Once your meat of choice is cooked, remove it from your roasting tin and put your meat in a warm place to rest for 15 minutes or so. Cover it with a layer of tinfoil and a tea towel and put aside while you make your gravy.
Pour any liquid from your roasting tin into a jug. Put the roasting tin on the hob and pour in 300ml water or stock, plus a splash of wine if you fancy it. Bring to the boil, stirring and scraping, to loosen and dissolve any bits in the tin. Pour this into your jug as well.
Now you’ve captured all the flavour, you can continue to use the roasting tin (saving on washing up!) or transfer to a saucepan to make the gravy. Either works well.
Spoon 2 tbsp. fat from the top of your jug into your roasting tin or pan, and put it on the hob. Stir in 2 tbsp. flour, and cook until the flour begins to brown. This is the time to spoon off any extra fat that has risen to the top of your juices in your jug. Little by little, add the juices from your jug, whisking as you go to make a smooth gravy. If necessary, add more stock or water to get the right consistency.
If your gravy does go lumpy don’t panic, or if you want a really fine gravy, strain it through a sieve, pressing it through with a wooden spoon to extract all the delicious juices.
The perfect Yorkshires
Can you dare have Yorkshires with anything other than Beef?
If you think it’s sacrilege to drink red wine with fish, then you may have a tricky time with it! And if not, then go right ahead and tuck in!
The rules for amazing Yorkshires are:
A lighter batter makes for a better pudding and this is obtained by making your batter ahead of time (the day before is fine) but if you can’t that’s fine too, follow these tips:
The fat you cook them in needs to be pretty damn hot so get it on the verge of smoking by either heating it in the tray on the hob or in your oven.
If you want to go for one mega Yorkshire pudding made in a large tin then the result may be a little squidgy in the middle and crisp outside, where individual Yorkshire puddings will be lighter and crispier.
What are the definitive rules of a golden roastie?
Floury, starchy spuds such as Desiree, King Edwards and Maris Piper work best – Pipers are pretty reliable but they can be a little heavy and dense depending on the fat used, which takes us to…
The fat you cook your spuds in needs to sit comfortably with your meat. So if you’re cooking a light roast Chicken then using beef fat for your potatoes may not balance! Options are - goose fat (great with King Edwards), lard used from your roast, so use the pork fat, and lard and dripping from your beef or Chicken, and Duck fat gives a stronger, more luxurious flavour. If you want a less rich roast potato choose a simple vegetable oil, sunflower, rapeseed or groundnut for light and lean crispy spuds. Or combine olive oil with a few nobs of butter for a sweeter taste.
Timing…is everything :-)
In my experience roast potatoes always take longer than you imagine they will and you absolutely want the crispness so give them plenty of time:
8-10 minutes to parboil.
45 minutes’ minimum to roast from at least 180C/350F/gas mark 4 or as hot as your oven will go.
The secret to the crisp
This is where there are a dozen varying opinions on how to get the desired outer crisp and sumptuous soft inner. I definitely rough up my par-boiled potatoes – I give them a thorough shake in a large pan with the lid on, be VERY careful that they don’t end up as miniscule bits, go steady but firm! Let them cool before roasting, then baste in a tray of hot fat and leave them be to form a nice crust and turn them after 40 mins or so - have a rest, have a drink, and check in on them after 40 minutes. And finally all you need is some flaky sea salt.
Wow, my mouth is watering!
Finally, warm your plates, dish up with your chosen veg and condiments and enjoy!