Saturday: PIGSTRAVAGANZA. This is not optional.

Roast dinners have become a regular occurrence in my house, to which guests are always invited. I get asked occasionally about recipes for my roast, and my short answer is: there isn’t one. Roast dinners, are much more about timing than culinary skill. All that really matters to produce a successful roast dinner is to plan ahead and make sure everything comes together at the right time to be served.

Here’s my guide to recreating my roast dinner.  The first section lists the possible ingredients, how they’re prepared, and how long they take to cook.  The second section is inspired by my parents’ Christmas Day checklist, which they use to make sure everything happens at the right time.

Ingredients

The centrepiece of the roast dinner is the meat.  Assuming you’re not a veggie.  Different meats require different temperatures and cooking times.  If you have extra time, red meats can be made even more tender by starting their cooking at a low temperature, covered with foil, then having the temperature brought up to cook the rest of the ingredients and the foil being removed near the end.  If roasting pork with this method, remove the foil long enough before the end that you get good crackling - half an hour or so.

GIANT MEAT CUDGEL

I score the surface of the meat, then rub salt and oil into it before cooking, and place it on a roasting rack in a pre-heated oven.  The rack allows fat to drip onto what’s below, which could be potatoes — even if not, it can always be kept for the gravy. Meat needs 5 minutes or so to rest (covered in foil) between being taken from the oven and being served.

  • Chicken: 20 minutes + 20 minutes per lb, 200 C
  • Pork & Lamb: 30 minutes + 30 minutes per lb, 200 C
  • Beef: 40 minutes + 40 minutes per lb, 150 C.  Adjust cooking times of other ingredients due to the low temperature.

And the rest:

  • Potatoes: Peel then wash the potatoes.  Cut into large pieces, 1/4 or 1/6 of a baking potato, and parboil for 10 minutes.  (Start potatoes off in cold water, bring to the boil, then start timing once they’re boiling.)  After parboiling, drain them and put them in a hot oiled roasting dish for an hour, turning and shaking at least once to make sure they stay covered in oil. I use just under one baking potato per person.
  • “Proper Size” Pigs in Blankets: I make full-size pigs in blankets by wrapping a normal sausage with a normal rasher of bacon.  These take 30 minutes to cook, on a baking tray or in a roasting dish alongside the rest.
  • Stuffing: I cheat and use packets of dry stuffing.  Instructions are on the side of the pack, but it should take about 5 minutes in hot water to turn the powder into actual stuffing, then 20 minutes to cook.
  • Yorkshire Puddings: I’m banned from making these in our house, because my batter always manages to be too stodgy despite my best attempts.  Due to this curse, I buy frozen ones from the supermarket.  They’re pre-cooked, and only take a couple of minutes.
  • Swede: Cut into chunks and boil for 30-40 minutes (starting from cold, as with potatoes).  Mash with butter to serve.
  • Carrots: Cut into strips or rounds, 20 minutes from cold to boil or 30 to steam.
  • Runner beans: 10 minutes to boil.
  • Broad beans: 15 minutes to boil.
  • Sprouts: Are the devil’s food, and you should never cook them.
  • Peas: 5 minutes to boil, 8 to steam.
  • Gravy: Quick.  I make gravy with the water from the vegetables (healthy!) and the juices from the meat (much less so), and Bisto granules.

Timing Chart

This is a timing chart for some of the most common ingredients, to eat at around 7pm.

  • 5:10 Oven on at 200 C.  Oil in one oven dish, put in the oven to heat.
  • 5:20 Take a 3 lb chicken, score the skin, rub with salt and oil.
  • 5:25 Chicken in the oven.  Peel, wash and chop potatoes.
  • 5:35 Potatoes on to boil.
  • 5:55 Potatoes should have had 10 minutes on the boil.  Put more oiled dishes in the oven, drain the potatoes, then when the dishes are hot, fill them with potatoes.  Turn the potatoes until they’re covered with oil, and put them in the oven.
  • 6:05 Have a drink.  While there’s a lull in cooking, prepare ingredients in advance.  Chop the carrots, wrap the pigs in their blankets, and make the stuffing.
  • 6:30 If your drink of choice has been cider, pour a bit over the chicken.  (Also good with pork, not so much with beef!)  Add a tablespoon of honey on top of the chicken so that it melts all over it. Put the pigs in the oven.
  • 6:35 Put the carrots on to boil (reduce to a simmer once they get there).  Put another oiled dish in the oven, or a baking tray.  Turn the potatoes.
  • 6:40 Put the stuffing in the oven.
  • 6:50 Add the peas to the carrot saucepan. Take the chicken out, cover with foil and leave to stand. If using frozen Yorkshire puddings, put them in the oven.
  • 6:55 Carve the chicken, serve all ingredients.  Once the vegetables are served (or before, if everyone wants gravy) add the chicken juices to that pan.  Gradually stir in gravy granules until you reach the desired consistency.
  • 7:00 Pour gravy for everyone, have another drink, and tuck in!