When I first moved in with my boyfriend, who later became Husband, I only know how to cook a handful of very simple dinners. The idea of cooking a proper roast dinner felt very intimidating. When I eventually gave it a try, I relied on pre-made roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings and even then, I found it really difficult to get everything ready and hot all at once.
Fast forward five years and about a hundred roast dinners and I think I’ve gotten the hang of them now. I’ve realised that what I really could have used all those years ago was a complete ‘How To’, not just a collection of recipes for each component. So here it is! This is a complete schedule and recipe for an entire roast dinner, including the chicken, roast potatoes, yorkshire puddings, mashed potatoes and vegetables. The only thing I still use from a packet is gravy and I always make sure to get the low salt version – it honestly does taste exactly the same, I’ve done blind taste tests on an unknowing Husband. Yes, I know. Packet gravy is lazy. Seriously though, it tastes fine and not in the way that people say packet mashed potatoes tastes ‘fine’ which is obviously doesn’t. If you want to make your own gravy, by all means go and look for a recipe for it and add it into your schedule.
For the schedule, I’m timing everything based on a chicken weighing about 1.5kg. If you’re chicken weighs more or less, there’s a simple way of working out how long to cook it for. It needs 20 minutes for every 450g, plus an extra 20 minutes. So divide the weight (in grams) by 450, times by 20 then plus 20. You’ll probably get a number with a lot of decimal places, just round up to the nearest minute.
You want to begin cooking two hours before you want to serve.
1. 00:00 Make the Yorkshire pudding batter. To make six fairly big Yorkshires, mix 100g plain flour with two eggs using a fork. Once that’s combined, gradually add 250ml milk, stirring constantly to make a smooth batter. Pour this mixture into a pouring jug then cover it and put it in the fridge.
2. 00:15 Prepare the chicken. Your chicken needs to cook for an hour and 30 minutes and you need to start preheating your oven about ten minutes before that. Preheat to 190 degrees celsius. Get your chicken out of it’s wrapping then give it a thorough wash under the tap, including the inside cavity. Then pat it dry with a piece of kitchen roll. Put it in the roasting tin and then rub a bit of butter (or lower fat butter spread thats suitable for cooking) onto the skin. After that you can whatever herbs you fancy – I often go with thyme as it does go so well with chicken. if you wish to, you can also pop half a lemon in the inner cavity to give the whole chicken a nice citrus taste. A lot of people add salt but I really try to avoid adding any additional salt to my cooking. I know also that some people put some flour on the skin to make it extra crispy. I don’t but again, it’s personal choice. Put the chicken in the oven once it’s preheated.
3. 00:40 Roast potatoes. I generally make three roast potatoes for each adult, less for children (Pip just has one). Peel and either use small potatoes whole or chop larger ones into smaller pieces. Put them in a pan of boiling water an hour and twenty minutes before you want to serve. Boil for about 15 minutes, then drain off the water and give them a very gentle shake, just to roughen the edges a bit – this helps them get nice and crispy. Add the potatoes to the roasting tin (01:10) and, very, very carefully so as not to burn yourself, tilt the tin a little bit and use a spoon to scoop up the chicken juices and drizzle them over the potatoes.
4. 01:10 Mashed potatoes. I use about one large potato for each person. Peel and slice into fairly small chunks. Put in a pan of boiling water over a high heat. When the water starts to boil again, turn the heat down a bit and leave to gently boil.
5. 01:15 Vegetables. You can do whatever vegetables you like really. Carrots, broccoli, cabbage, peas and green beans are all favourites for us. You can use fresh or frozen, it makes very little difference to cooking time. Prepare them and then put them in a pan of boiling water. Again, start off on a high heat then turn it down once the water starts boiling again. You can cook your vegetables for a bit less time than me – due to Husband’s preference for very soft vegetables, I do admit that I cook them until they’re losing molecular integrity.
6. 01:20 Cooking Yorkshire Puddings. Turn the oven temperature up to 210 degrees. Take this opportunity to drizzle chicken juices over the potatoes and chicken again. Take a 6 hole muffin tray and pour a little oil (I use vegetable or sunflower oil) in each hole. Put this is in the oven for the oil to get nice and hot. Take your Yorkshire pudding batter out of the fridge and give it a little stir. At 01:30, take the muffin tray out of the oven and pour some of the batter into each hole, to fill each by about a third. Put the tray back into the oven and then do NOT open it again for at least 20 minutes.
7. 01:30 – 01:50 Lay the table and get plates ready.
8. 01:50 Mashed potatoes. Start boiling the kettle for the gravyDrain the water off of the potatoes then add some butter (or low fat butter spread) and milk. I’m not going to be more exact than that because I think everyone likes their mash a little different. If you’re unsure, add a little at a time then mash and add more if you think it’s needed. Mash really well. Lumpy mash is horrible, you don’t want that. I use a ‘serve as you go’ method so I put mashed potato on the plates as soon as I’m finished making it. You could do this differently or even put each of the components into serving dishes and let everyone serve themselves. I usually only do this at Christmas when I make a bigger variety of foods.
9. 01:55 Serve. Take the roasting tin and muffin tray out of the oven. Serve the Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes. Carve and serve the chicken. Drain all of the water from the vegetables and serve those too. Make the gravy. I would advise adding a little more granules than the instructions suggest but then we like fairly thick gravy. It’s personal choice really. Serve dinner. Enjoy dinner. Then go back to the hell that is now your kitchen. My last piece of advice is to do the washing up straight away, otherwise everything will dry up and be very difficult to clean.
I hope this has proved useful. When you have finished eating your delicious meal, do NOT throw away any leftover chicken or it’s carcass. Use it for sandwiches, soups or one of the other thousands of recipes that can use it. I’ll be posting a recipe for leftover chicken stew very soon!