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How to cook a Roast Chicken Dinner . . . by cheating

Roast chicken dinnerWhilst driving this morning I was listening to the radio and the presenter was going on about the unwillingness of so many people to cook proper meals and the over indulgence in fast foods as a substitute. I suppose he was right, many people do eat far too many takeaways.

It made me think. Do I eat healthy meals? I suppose on the whole I do but I still like my chips and will have the occasional takeaway. The last takeaway must be a couple of months ago so it does not really count as part of an unhealthy lifestyle, just an occasional treat or break from cooking.

There is nothing quite like home cooked food. I am not talking fancy restaurant food but your everyday meals, the type of meals your mother or grandmother used to cook when you were a kid. If people remember them so fondly then why are there so many people not cooking their own meals? I would guess those that do not cook fall into two or three categories. The first category is those what are just too lazy to bother. The second and third categories are those who do not know how to cook simple but tasty meals or claim they are too busy and therefore do not have the time, or they are just too tired when they get in from work.

"Another great
bonus, there is
no need to carve
your roast chicken!"

You can forget those who fall into the category of being too lazy as they are a lost cause. Those who say they are too tired after a day's work could also be borderline lazy. I feel tired after a day's work but cooking for me is a complete change and relaxing so I do not have a problem with putting an apron on (I am a messy person) and getting down to cooking a tasty meal. I suppose it boils down to whether you want a tasty home cooked meal or not – if people do then they will work around it by planning and preparing meals ahead.

For those who do not know how to cook the answer is simple. Learn how to cook. Easy for me to say? I suppose it is after all the years I have been cooking but then I started knowing very little. I did not hang around my mother or grandmother when I was young watching them cook and learning from them . . . I was far too busy causing mayhem one way or another. So when I left home I had to learn for myself and back then there was no internet or the plethora of cookery books to help. Thinking about it there may be too many cookery books these days and some of those are pretty scary even for the experienced cook, not to mention most do not teach you to cook simple everyday meals.

Cooking a Sunday roast

To get yourself started you have to think simple so let's have a look at doing a Sunday roast. There is no excuse for not cooking a good family meal on a Sunday as most of us still have it as a day off . . . and if you do not then do a roast on your day off.

Chicken breast quarterOne of the great comfort foods is roast chicken so that is where we will start.

Now the problem for a lot of people is the time it all takes and the amount of washing up at the end. So the first thing is to make this easy which means no whole chicken. What you require are chicken breast quarters, one each for the number of people you are cooking for.

The chicken quarters will only take about an hour to cook in the oven. Line your roasting tray with tin foil and add a little oil (I prefer rapeseed oil). Roll your chicken portions in the oil and then cook in a preheated oven for an hour on about Gas Mark 5 / 190°C. You do not have to worry about them coming out of the oven after exactly an hour but an hour will make sure they are properly cooked.

Roast Chicken Dinner Checklist :

  • Chicken portions
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetable
  • Stuffing Mix
  • Yorkshire Puddings
  • Gravy

That is the chicken under way so what are we going to have with it. In our house we like to have roast potatoes, a vegetable, Yorkshire puddings, stuffing and gravy. Remember we want to keep this easy.

The roast potatoes are the hardest thing to cook as they will require a little more effort than everything else. You can buy frozen roast potatoes but the problem is they require cooking at a far higher temperature than the chicken so either you will spoil your chicken or not cook your roasts properly. My answer is to do my own roasts but again I like to keep it quick and simple, none of your basting and turning your potatoes.

To make your roast potatoes you need a fluffy potato. I use Albert Bartlett Rooster potatoes because they produce the right result and also because the quality tends to be better – potatoes may look the same on the inside but if you buy lower priced ones you often find they have quite a bit of waste where the potato has gone black or needs a piece cutting out. The difference in price is well worth paying.

How many potatoes? I look to serve four or five roasts per person so for medium size you will get two roasts and a large one you will get three or four. You need to try and cut your potatoes so they are all roughly the same size. After you have peeled and cut your potatoes put them in a pan, cover with water, add about a teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Once boiling reduce heat and simmer for seven minutes. After seven minutes they will be fluffy on the outside but still firm (not hard) in the middle. (If you leave them any longer they will just break up in mush at the next stage.) Drain the potatoes in a colander and leave to drain for a couple of minutes.

Whilst the potatoes are simmering put your deep fat fryer or chip pan on to warm up. I use a chip pan and to check it has reached the right temperature add a piece of potato peeling. Once the potato peeling rises to the top and is bubbling then the fat is ready for your potatoes. If you are doing potatoes for more than three people you will probably need to do them in two batches.

Place your partly cooked potatoes into the chip pan. Do this gently, one at a time so that you do not break them. As you add them to the wire container make sure each one gets coated in fat as you add it. Just deep fry for however long it takes for them to be crisp and golden, approximately 12 to 15 minutes, and then remove to keep warm (put in spare roasting tray or similar and put in bottom of oven where they will be fine until you are ready for them).

Paxo stuffingOf course at other times of the year you should take advantage of the small new potatoes. Simple to do these days as they are already cleaned when you buy them and can be cooked without peeling. Just put them in a pan, cover with water, add a teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil for 15 minutes or so.

The chicken is cooking and the potatoes are taken care of so all that remains now is to prepare the veg, the Yorkshire Puddings, the stuffing and the gravy. The stuffing can be done in the oven or in the microwave and I always buy a packet mix, of which there are plenty of flavours to choose from. I usually mix my stuffing as soon as the chicken has gone in the oven because it can then either wait to be microwaved nearer the time or can cook in the oven for half an hour.

Because we are taking short cuts we are using shop bought Yorkshire Puddings so these will only need three or four minutes in the oven just before you are ready to serve. You can of course make your own Yorkshire Puddings.

The veg will need cooking for about fifteen minutes until tender. Again it depends how you like it. Personally I go along with the French and like my vegetables well done but many people prefer their vegetables with a bit of crispness in them. However you like them cooked, the best way to cook vegetables is to steam them. It is a lot easier and the flavour is far better than if cooked in boiling water. Do not worry if you have not got a steamer (but invest in one as soon as you can) as all you need to do is put the veg in a saucepan, like you did with the potatoes, add some salt and bring to the boil for ten or fifteen minutes. (The potatoes and the veg should be cooking at the same time if you are cooking new potatoes.)

Bisto chicken gravyIf you are really lazy or pushed for time you can buy your veg all ready to go straight into the pan. I like this option when it comes to sprouts, as I hate preparing sprouts, but for most veg it does not take long to do the preparation.

CauliflowerAs you put the veg on to cook also put the kettle on to boil water for making the gravy. Again I am suggesting using an instant gravy. I prefer using gravy granules as opposed to the tubes of paste. No real taste difference but it is easier, and less messy, to measure granules. Of course you can make your own gravy but that is for another time. This is for making a quick meal.

With about five minutes to go (do not forget the stuffing if you are microwaving it) move your chicken down to the bottom shelf in the oven (or remove altogether and cover with foil to keep warm), increase the temperature for the Yorkshire Puddings and put them in to cook for three or four minutes (see packet instructions). When everything is done, quickly mix your gravy and you are ready to serve.

An easy to cook roast chicken dinner done in an hour. What could be simpler?


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