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Reinventing The Roast

19 Apr

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Roast dinner is easily the most iconic of all the British foods. You could argue that a bacon sandwich or the full English should take the title, or that nothing is more British than a cup of tea accompanied by the perfect dunking biscuit (chocolate digestives, always), but for me, nothing says home like a big plate of roast dinner. It’s what the vast majority of us grew up on, its the one dish that I absolutely cannot wait to have if I’ve been somewhere abroad for a couple of weeks, and to sit down at the table with a roast dinner equals sitting round a table with some of your favourite people, whether that be your parents, relatives, best friends or significant other. Let’s face it, you don’t cook a roast for someone you aren’t fond of. I’m not spending my precious Sunday with someone I can’t wait to say goodbye to, end of.

The Boyfriend (I’ve gone back to boyfriend in writing only, I can’t stand the word fiancé, it sounds too pretentious, so until he’s The Hubby it’s back to informalities. Plus, I can only take the word fiancé seriously if I say it in the same tone Jay Z says “Beyonceeeeeeeeee” in his raps, which is not seriously at all. We are still very much engaged) is a big fan of the roast dinner and no doubt would be appalled at what I cooked for myself last night. Good thing then that he is thousands of miles away. Even as I was telling him what I was having for my dinner I evaded the truth by stating ‘oh just some chicken thing with potatoes’ because I knew to tell him the that I was making One Pan Sunday Lunch from a Nigel Slater cookbook would bring scorn down upon me! He is not a fan of Nigel Slater for some reason which I can’t quite fathom, and likes roast dinner just the way it’s been for decades, thank you very much. Admittedly, I find watching Nigel on TV a little cringe worthy but I can’t put my finger on why that is, considering that I love his writing and his recipes are pretty much always spot on. It’s not him, it’s definitely me, and I apologise Nigel because I think you’re brilliant.

If you haven’t discovered Nigel Slater yet then I really urge you to do so. I first stumbled upon his books when I checked out his cookbook Real Food from the library years ago when I didn’t want to spend all of my money on cookbooks. It’s an absolute classic and is filled with food you immediately want to eat. The chapters of the book are defined by his favourite ingredients, so you have one chapter dedicated to cheese, another to garlic, to sausage, to ice cream. This is a man whose books I can totally get on with. He also writes like an absolute dream about food and is a genius at conveying flavours, textures and smells as well as understanding just how significant food is in our day to day lives. Him and Nigella are my favourite food writers and both know that what people really want to eat at home is unpretentious, tasty and easy. So many food writers fail to recognise this. Considering how much I love him then, it’s surprising that I never actually owned one of his books until six months ago. I have the library to thank for saving my pennies for so long whilst continually checking out ‘Real Food’ every time I needed a fix. I bought his latest book Eat last year, flicked through it going ‘yum’ or ‘mmmmm’ every other page and then completely forgot about it. Until now! I’ve resurrected Eat from under the bed and after flicking through it again I’m in love.

Needing something soothing and filling I eventually plumped for the One Pan Sunday Lunch. It helped in my decision making that I’d just bought a cast iron shallow casserole dish that I’d been wanting for ages (not Le Creuset sadly, but a much more affordable alternative in the same volcanic orange shade) and was itching to use it. The dish is seriously simple, it takes the three best parts of a roast chicken dinner and you only need one pan. Basically, you brown some chicken thighs and potatoes, pour in a stock, cook for 20 minutes, then once you’ve removed the chicken and potatoes, add cream, milk, breadcrumbs and herbs to the stock to make a ridiculously gorgeous bread sauce. I LOVE bread sauce. I haven’t had a lot of it in the past, I’m an adult convert to the stuff, but when you get proper homemade bread sauce, it’s up there with sliced bread. This bread sauce in particular was perfect. Because it had soaked up all the chicken juices and the stock (I used a concentrated chicken bouillon that you can find amongst the Oxo cubes) the sauce was immensely savoury with a deep, meaty flavour as well as being smooth and creamy. Much as I am a fan of sweet foods I’m finding myself more and more compelled to the far more savoury foods and this dish is nirvana for savoury lovers. The potatoes had crispy edges but were soft and fluffy too from being cooked in the stock and the chicken was perfectly cooked, albeit with less than perfect skin. The skin had started out crispy but once I’d poured in the stock and let the chicken cook, all crispiness went out the window. The only downside to the dish. If you want an immensely chicken-y dinner without the time and work of a full on roast, then this my friends is the dish for you. I gave myself a little more washing up to do by cooking some broccoli to go alongside it and by all means you can pick and choose what vegetable you’d like to go with it if you’re a 7 a day minded sort. I only hope I can convey to you through words how delicious this meal was, and that although the photo makes it look quite bland, brown and boring you should never judge a book by its cover. I certainly can’t wait to try more of Nigel’s recipes.

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