Sunday dinner has long been the highlight of my week. From being something to enjoy whilst hung over after a hard night out (thanks Mum!) to something I really enjoy cooking myself, in all its permutations, a good roast has always been one of my favourite meals.
Roasting a chicken seems to have gotten a lot easier, what with supermarket chickens having pretty good instructions printed on the packaging, but there are ways of making it even better. First off, I would always go for a larger chicken than you think you will needs. This is for two reasons - larger chickens are less likely to dry out during cooking, and left-over chicken is so versatile - using it in curries, pies, soups or even just a humble sandwich, and bigger birds mean more left-overs!
In fact, it can be easier and cheaper to buy a whole chicken for any recipe that needs chicken meat, and strip the carcass, then freeze what you don't need before cooking it. It's not that hard to get the meat off the bone with a sharp knife and it will save quite a bit of money too - often a whole chicken costs as much as 2 fillets!
So, cooking the chicken. It's so easy, but I'm always surprised by how many people get it wrong or just think it's too much hassle. Pre-heat to oven to around 190ºc. Get an oven dish big enough to fit your bird in comfortably, the peel and chop a few carrots, onions, sticks of celery or fennel and spread them over the dish. Get a lemon and prick it a few times to get the juices flowing and put it, along with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and oregano, into the chicken cavity, then cover the whole thing in foil and put in the oven.
Cook the chicken for 1 hour per kilogram and 30 minutes extra, and take the foil off for the last half hour, but baste the chicken a couple of times in that last half hour just to keep it moist, and also to give the chicken a lovely golden skin. It's all about not letting the bird dry out, and the kitchen will be filled with a wonderful smell of roasting meat.
Check the meat is cooked through, by pricking it and making sure the juices that run out are clear of blood, then put the chicken on a plate, wrap with the foil again and leave to stand for 10 - 15 minutes before carving. And when it comes to carving, you can put as much effort in as you want. Personally I more or less tear the meat off and put it on to the plates.
But of course, cooking the chicken is only half the battle in preparing a Sunday Roast. The rest is the vegetables, and when it comes to them, timing is key, so keep an eye on the clock and try to make sure everything is ready at the same time
I love roast potatoes with my roast dinners, but there are as many vegetables that go with a roast as there are cooks who prepare them. If anyone has any interesting suggestions, I'd love to hear them, so feel free to pass them on in the comments section below, and in the meantime, enjoy your chicken!