Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking
Of all the traditional UK dishes, none has the mystique of a roast. Master this quintessentially British dish and you will be revered around the world. People think there’s something difficult and even magical about this.
There isn’t. It’s a piece of cake.
As always, ideally, try it out just for yourself once or twice before doing it for other people.
A chicken (small if it’s just for you, larger for two, huge for lots of people)
Preheat the oven to about 190C (gas mark 5)
Each oven has its own characteristics, so unless you really know yours inside out, you need to play it by ear as regards temperature and time.
Check the chicken’s cavity in case there is a bag of giblets in there. (Giblets are parts of the chicken that you can use to make gravy if you like. If you’re not interested, throw them away.)
Put an onion, some carrot, or a lemon in the cavity (optional: they just add a little something to the overall flavour, especially of the juices, but if you don’t want to do that, it doesn’t matter. And as for stuffing, we’ll leave that till another day.)
Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the chicken, plus some Worcestershire sauce if you feel like it.
Place the chicken on a baking tray/in a baking dish big enough to take the bird plus the potatoes.
Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks. They crisp up better if peeled, but if you don’t want to, just scrub any soil off and put them in. They will cook fine in the two hours or so you’re giving the chicken. If you like, parboil them first (boil them for a few minutes to get the softening process going).
COWBOY TIP: Give them a few minutes in the microwave before roasting – it’s quick and does the trick.
Drizzle (cookery term) some olive oil over bird and spuds.
Put in oven and give it a couple of hours or so. Check after an hour or 90 minutes to see how it’s doing. Better to cook it less hot but longer than to burn the outside and not cook the flesh.
When you think it’s ready (skin nice and brown, juices flowing) poke it behind a leg with a thin, sharp knife, skewer or fork and see what the juices look like. If you see blood, it’s not ready.
If the potatoes are burning, take them out early and keep them warm.
CHICKENS CAN HAVE SALMONELLA, SO MAKE SURE IT’S REALLY COOKED.
For some easy gravy, either use the powdered stuff or, when you’ve taken the chicken out of the pan, light one or two hobs, put the pan on, slosh in a little red or dry white wine , stir with a wooden spoon to get the good stuff off the pan, add some water and a stock cube and make your own.
And that’s about it. Boil some frozen peas and Bob’s your uncle.
Remember. Know your oven, pay attention to how the chicken is coming along, make sure you don’t poison anyone. Then bask in the adulation.