I’m having a bit of a roast dinner epiphany. My new found love for them is perfect timing I guess, what with christmas just around the corner. I’m still really fussy about crispy spuds and decent veg, but I’m enjoying them more which means I cook them more (much to the husband’s joy). And I love the combination of a lazy Sunday walk and a huge dinner as reward! My roast dinner this weekend was fairly epic, even if I do say so myself. Here are the highlights.
I still had pork left in the freezer from the half pig we bought at Brogdale Butchers. Meat decision made. The cut was belly, one of the cheapest and in my opinion, the tastiest. And it’s so easy to cook. Plus it makes the most amazing crackling. To prepare, score the skin and rub with salt. Better still get the butcher to score the skin as it’s really hard to do yourself. Remember to pre-heat the oven. I did this to 160c but my fan oven is notoriously hot, so you may want to go up to 170-180c. Place the pork belly on a wire rack over your baking tray. This lifts the meat and lets the air circulate around it, making it succulent and evenly cooked. Plus you can use all the wonderful pork fat that collect underneath in your roasties. Bonus! So depending on the size of your piece of belly you will want to cook at this temperature for at least an hour, possibly 90 mins. After that time, crack up the heat for another 30-45 minutes. I’d say roughly 200c. This also gets your oven hot and ready for your tatties. When you take the meat out, let it rest for the hour you roast your potatoes. Whatever meat you choose, resting it after roasting really is essential because you don’t lose as much juice when you carve. The rule of thumb is to rest meat for half the time you roast it. Seriously, it makes such a difference.
I used this time to make some roasted brussels with cheese sauce – a sort of variation on cauliflower cheese – which my Dad loves. This is really easy too and worked fabulously with the pork. I’m not a big fan of brussels and usually have the obligatory 3 with my christmas dinner, but I actually ate a whole serving of these they were so nice. Prep is easy. Give your fresh brussels a good wash and then trim the base off and cut them in half. Put them in a small roasting dish, drizzle with a little oil to coat and season with a crack of S&P. Roast them for about 15-20 until they just start to colour. In that time make your cheese sauce. Now, for those who can’t make a basis roux (white sauce), feel free to buy a packet sauce. However, if you crack making this sauce you will forever more be able to make a million variations that will serve fish pies, lasagne, macaroni cheese, chicken pies…..the list is endless. So, here’s how. (I’m not sure this counts as a recipe as I’m not giving any measurements!). In a decent sized saucepan, melt some butter. I go for about 1/3 of a block of butter or approximately 80g. Keep the heat low – don’t let it burn! As soon as it’s melted, mix in some plain flour a spoon at a time, until you have made a thick paste. I’d say the consistency of ….. lemon curd maybe? It needs to leave the sides and base of the pan clean when you stir. Speaking of which, keep stirring at all times! You want to give this a couple of seconds to make sure the flour is properly combined and not at all grainy, otherwise your sauce will be lumpy. Now slowly add some milk, mixing all the time. It takes a while to make it smooth but do NOT stop stirring. I’d say you’ll need approximately 2 standard cups of milk. Obviously using full fat milk will give a creamier finish but it’s not essential. In fact if you run out of milk you can use a mixture of milk and water. I’ve also used a mixture of stock and milk before too, which gives extra depth of flavour. Anyway, keep stirring over a low heat until all the milk is combined. The sauce will slowly start to thicken. You might want to add a little more milk, but as soon as you’re happy with the consistency take it off the heat. This is it – a basic white sauce! Easy peasy. To make it cheesy, just add some grated cheese. I used cheddar and parmesan but you can use whatever you have in your fridge. Continue to stir over a low heat until all the cheese has melted, then pour over the brussels and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until golden and bubbling on top.
Yorkshires. What most people class as the most technically challenging part of a roast. And I would agree. Until recently mine were generally a total disaster. But then the baking goddess Mary Berry came to my rescue and ever since, I have been producing mammoth yorkies! I swear this recipe will work every single time. Just don’t open the oven until they are cooked or they will collapse. As they did in the post photo – I was fuming!
- 100g/3½oz plain flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 large free-range eggs
- 225ml/8fl oz milk
- sunflower oil
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7 (200C fan).
Measure the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and a little milk. Whisk until smooth and gradually add the remaining milk. This can be done with a wooden spoon, but is easier with an electric hand-held whisk. Pour the mixture into a jug.
Measure a dessertspoonful of oil into each hole of the 12 bun tray, or a tablespoonful in each hole of the four hole tins, or three tablespoonfuls into the roasting tin. Transfer to the preheated oven for five minutes, or until the oil is piping hot.
Carefully remove from the oven and pour the batter equally between the holes or the tin.
Return the batter quickly to the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes (35 if making the Yorkshire pudding in the roasting tin), or until golden-brown and well-risen. Serve immediately.
Everyone has their own way with roast tatties. Mine is quite simple. Par boil the spuds and when you drain them, give them a little shake to make the outsides rough. If they break a little, so much the better. This will give you gorgeous little mini crispies which are entirely the cooks privilege! Allow them to sit in the drainer and steam a couple of minutes, to make sure all the moisture is out. The crucial bit is making sure your roasting fat is really hot and duly taking care when tipping the spuds in. Fat splash is not nice for you or your clothes! If you have some meat fat to add, so much the better. If not, don’t worry. In terms of fat, my mum taught me to use a mix of butter and lard for roast potatoes. But I don’t often buy lard, so I tend to use a combo of butter and oil. Roast in a really hot oven (200c) and don’t touch them for at least 20 minutes! Then turn and baste. Repeat again. Total cooking time is about an hour. Don’t forget to rescue your little crispies as soon as they are ready. They are your fuel for dishing up!