Roast dinner hacks
BBC Good Food cookery expert Miriam Nice gathers her favourite tips and tricks to take the stress out of making Sunday lunch.
Foolproof roast chicken
- Sit your chicken in a roasting tin. Ease the skin away from the breast so you can push a knob of butter (about 30-40g) underneath the skin. Tuck a couple of fresh sage leaves in there too.
- Sprinkle the skin with some sea salt or chicken salt (mix salt, powdered chicken stock and dried thyme), then pour water into the bottom of the roasting tin to about 1-2cm deep.
- Cover with foil and roast for 1hr at 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Take the foil off and continue to roast for 20-30 mins until the skin is golden, the chicken is cooked and all the juices run clear. Pour the juices into a jug and use in gravy. Put the chicken on a board, cover with foil and a clean towel or tea towel. Rest while you finish cooking the sides (about 15-20mins), then carve.
Checklist for the best roast potatoes
- Scrub and peel your spuds but keep the peelings and chop the potatoes into chunks no bigger than a lime.
- Absolutely boil them first but not for more than 10 mins. If you’re bringing the water up to the boil from cold then they only need a couple of mins once boiling, but if the water is hot from the kettle go with about 8 mins.
- Drain well, leave them to sit for a bit to steam-dry.
- Meanwhile, put a tray of fat in the oven to heat up. I use a mixture of sunflower oil and butter, because when the butter has melted I know it’s hot and the oil stops the butter from burning.
- If I can be bothered I’ll dust the potatoes with flour (and I sift it in so it doesn’t clump on one spud), but it’s not essential.
- Give them a gentle shake to rough up the edges before using tongs to carefully add them to the hot tray, turning them in the fat.
- Roast until deep golden wonderment is achieved, turning occasionally.
Easiest ever vegan gravy
This gravy is fantastic with lentil-based dishes, or nut roasts and possibly the easiest gravy recipe ever. It adds a salty, umami flavour punch to perk up roast roots and steamed greens.
- Per person, heat 1 tsp brown miso paste in a saucepan with about 1 teacupful of water (approx. 200-250ml) whisk to dissolve the paste and bring to a simmer.
- Mix 2 tsp cornflour with 2 tsp water until smooth, then stir a little of it into the miso, let it bubble and thicken. If it’s not thick enough, add a splash more until you’re happy with it. For extra richness add ¼ tsp nut butter per person, or to taste.
Tip: I use brown miso paste, but if making it for 1 or 2, instant miso soup sachets do a decent job.
Lump-free Yorkshire puds
The key with Yorkshire puddings, just as with roast potatoes, is making sure the oil is hot when the batter hits it. Pour the oil or fat you’re using into the tin and put it in a hot oven to heat through.
If you’re pushed for time and space when making the batter - which I always seem to be - you can skip the step of adding the eggs and milk gradually to the flour by whizzing the ingredients up together in a blender, or with a stick blender in a jug – giving you perfectly smooth batter in a flash. If you’re using a stick blender, stir the mixture briefly with a spoon before blitzing so you don’t get covered in flour!
See the full recipe for our best Yorkshire puddings.
Vegetable peeling crisps
Love your leftovers
If the hungry hoards are descending but your roast potatoes aren’t quite glassy crisp and the meat still needs to rest; stick a couple of bowls of these homemade snacks on the table and a satisfied silence will descend. Plus, they’ll help you feel virtuous in your battle against food waste.
They couldn’t be simpler to make; just spread clean, scrubbed peelings (from potatoes, carrots, parsnips, or butternut squash) out in one even layer on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, drizzle with oil, season with sea salt and vinegar, or a few pinches of your favourite spice mix, and bake in the oven for 25-30 mins at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 until crisp. Wispy leaves from broccoli stalks work well too.
Watch our easiest ever video on how to make potato peeling crisps:
Serve it hot
For less than four people, I serve everything up in the kitchen, but for more I’ll put it all in lidded serving dishes so everyone can help themselves.
Buy yourself some time by filling your vegetable dishes with freshly boiled water, pop the lid on and only drain it out when you’re ready to put the food in. That way they’ll stay hot, however long it takes your loved ones to argue about who sits where.
And a fried slice?
Make it special
A really classic way of serving small game birds like pigeon or woodcock is to roast them on a piece of bread so the meat juices soak into it, resulting in a deliciously meaty crouton. This isn’t practical with roast chicken but, to give it the extra-special flourish it deserves, serve with a fried slice.
Once cooked but before resting, drain the meat from the roasting tin into a heatproof jug. In one or two minutes the fat will start to rise to the top of the jug. Gently pour the fat layer into a frying pan, keeping the meat juices for gravy. Cut one or two slices of bread into triangles and put them in the pan with the fat, turn them over quickly to coat, then fry on both sides until deep golden brown and crisp, season well and serve with your roast. A particularly excellent addition if you’re having mashed potato with your roast and want to add a little piece of outrageously decadent crunch!
Free vegetable stock
Once your carrots or green vegetables are cooked, drain their cooking water into a heatproof jug instead of down the sink. Use it to thin your gravy, or keep for up to three days for use in soups, stews or a risotto.
Make storecupboard stuffing
Not only does everyone love stuffing, it can be a great way to use up odds and ends.
The basics of a simple stuffing is onion, breadcrumbs and flavourings like fresh herbs bound with egg. But, to help clear the shelves, you can try replacing some of the breadcrumbs with oats, add nuts and seeds or vary the herbs and dried fruit depending on what you need to use up.
Just remember that the roast will also generate some wonderful leftovers, so the more space you clear the better.
- Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Fry 2 large onions in 2 tbsp oil or butter in a large deep frying pan until soft. Turn off the heat and add 50g chopped nuts or a mixture of nuts and seeds.
- Stir in 150g chopped dried fruit (apricots work best with chicken and pork, but with stronger flavoured meats like game, lamb or beef, you can get away with richer flavoured fruit like sultanas or a mix of raisins, figs and dates – whatever you have). Now add 175g breadcrumbs, or 100g breadcrumbs with 75g oats.
- Chop 20g fresh herbs and add those – sage is a good shout, but parsley would work or a mix of thyme, parsley and chives. Or if you’ve got some rocket or watercress in the fridge that needs using, go ahead and use that.
- Stir really well then mix in 1 beaten egg, salt and pepper. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, start scrunching it up so it’s really well mixed and sticky then shape into 9 balls. Bake in a greased tray for about 30mins or until golden.
Chicken skin for the win!
Make it special
Don't waste the chicken skin. Crisp in a dry pan or roast between two baking trays and season well. Wonderful broken into pieces and scattered on top of a chicken risotto or pasta dish, or just served like scratchings with a beer.
See the full recipe for chicken crackling.
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