Few meals have the potential to divide families quite like the traditional Sunday lunch. Tough meat, average roast potatoes, watery gravy and soggy veg – send help. It’s a high-stakes meal plenty of us would sooner leave in the hands of the country pub professionals, even if it does cost £1K a head these days.
Unless you’ve got Remy the rat under your hat, tugging your hair and telling you how to massage your beef (IYKYK), you might be in the market for some tips and tricks from these culinary wizards at large.
From time-saving hacks to tips on how to get crispy roast potatoes, succulent meats and glorious gravy, here’s how to make your homemade roast sing according to professional chefs.
For many, the most daunting thing about cooking a roast for many mouths is the fact that everything needs the oven at the same time, often at varying temps. So how do you fool-proof your Sunday lunch, ensuring that everything stays warm?
Cook the Yorkshires early, and once cooked, flip them upside-down on a cooling rack and reheat for a minute right before serving. Lewis Glanvill
“Juggling oven space at the crucial last few minutes is always a challenge. A couple of tricks I use is to cook the Yorkshires early, and once cooked, flip them upside-down on a cooling rack and reheat for a minute right before serving. Cauliflower cheese can also be cooked through and left to rest and then grilled in the top oven just before serving. Beef benefits from being cooked up to an hour before serving, and then wrapped in tinfoil and then a tea towel. This will tenderise the meat and maximise the resting juices to add to your gravy. This also leaves room for full attention on getting the perfect roast potatoes.”
PSA veggies don’t have to be the boring component of a roast dinner. There’s plenty of scope to add festive flair and flavour to carrots, cabbage and yep, even the divisive sprout.
For elevating your carrots, Lewis recommends a paper bag… hear the man out.
“I love to serve everything in what it’s cooked in, where possible. This adds colour and something different to the aesthetics at the dinner table. Often at Christmas I will cook the carrots in a parchment paper bag, here you can impart so many festive flavours into the carrots like cinnamon, anise, clove, bay, mulled cider or even masala. Create a pouch with folded parchment paper and bulldog clips, and then fill the bag with carrots, aromatic spices and a splash of liquid, seal it up with another bulldog clip and bake. You can make up your bags the day before and throw them in the oven on the day. The theatrics always go down well too, as you can open them at the table to release a plume of festive steam.” See! Witchcraft.
When it comes to adding a festive flair to your Sunday feast, consider spiced red cabbage old news. “Braised red cabbage has been done a lot and personally it’s not my favourite,” says Lewis. This Head Chef has something better under his hat…
Another of my favourite festive touches is cooking with mulled cider. Lewis Glanvill
“I like to keep it raw as a slaw with creme fraiche, horseradish & dill folded through it. I prefer the texture and it adds a much needed lightness to counterpart all the roasted and braised ingredients. Arguably, it’s better the next day in a leftover sandwich with some cold roast meat. Another of my favourite festive touches is cooking with mulled cider. I like to simply tear white cabbage leaves into half or quarters quite roughly, put them in a hot pan with mulled cider, put the lid on and then shake until just steamed through before mixing through butter and lots of black pepper.”
You might think it outrageous to pollute your roast dinner with sprouts but you know what, it’s 2023 and it’s time we stopped hating on these traditional greens. Even if they do have certain unwanted side effects, ahem.
So what is the secret to making them actually taste good? Enter Lewis.
“Roasted all the way. Simply cut them in half and roast at a high temperature with heaps of olive oil and flaky salt. The outer leaves will caramelise and produce a nutty, smokey flavour with little crispy bits that border on salty. Alternatively, you can roast them with butter and sage leaves and add a sprinkle of chilli flakes when they come out. For the real sprout haters, I shred them down on a food processing slicing attachment or very carefully with a knife, scrunch in salt to break them down slightly and then mix through Caesar dressing and cover with crispy garlic breadcrumbs and parmesan.”
The Roast Potatoes
One way to Transform your Sunday roast from barely-edible to a triumphant family feast that leaves your guests rubbing their bellies and dabbing their beards? Roast potatoes. If you can get one thing right, let it be your roast spuds. Right Lewis?
“Parboiling is an important step, and shouldn’t be missed! It’s what makes the potatoes so light and fluffy on the inside. Also by cooking them you can really shake and rough up the edges to increase the surface area and get all those lovely golden crispy bits you couldn’t otherwise get. The trick once they’re boiled is to strain and leave them in the colander for a minute or two to really dry them out because the moisture will stop them going crispy quickly. As mentioned this can be done as far as the night before, so it’s even easier.
It’s important to take care in turning the potatoes every 15 minutes so they are fully coated in oil on every side, that’s how you get the perfect golden crisp that is almost see-through. Lewis Glanvill
“Hot oil is also crucial – start roasting high, you need them to be shocked by the hot oil to form that delicious crust we all love. You don’t want to try and turn them 15 minutes later to find them still mushy. I start with 215c and then every 15 minutes turn it down by 15c. It’s important to take care in turning the potatoes every 15 minutes so they are fully coated in oil on every side, that’s how you get the perfect golden crisp that is almost see-through. We’re roasting high, so I use a mix of vegetable oil and olive oil because olive oil can burn at high temperatures. Finally the best way to elevate your potatoes easily is by adding flavours in the last 10 minutes of cooking. This could be rosemary sprigs and thin slices of orange, or lemon slices and sage leaves. The citrus skin caramelises and the hard herbs crisp and smoke, imparting flavour and colour to the table.”
After all this time, we finally know where we’ve been going wrong. Shocked roast potatoes not *shocking* roast potatoes. Got it.
“Chicken has always been tricky to roast to perfection. With different parts, breasts and legs needing different times and temperatures, an all encompassing recipe is nearly impossible. However the following tips will help you on your way to a better bird,” says Ben Ebbrell, Co-Founder and Chef at Sorted Food, the world’s leading online food and cooking community.
“Buy the best you can afford – Quality chicken really does win over quantity. Whether it be free range, free to roam or a barn bird, not only the texture but also the flavour will be much improved by focusing on the quality of raw ingredients.
For the best crispy chicken skin you need dry skin. Ben Ebbrell
“Cooking a chicken so that the breasts don’t dry out while making sure the legs cook through and are tender is always hard. That’s why I tend to rarely roast a whole chicken. It is far easier to cook a bird once it has been jointed into separate portions. You can control the cooking of each part better as well as them cooking quicker as you can spread the chicken out so that the heat reaches each bit better. For the best crispy chicken skin you need dry skin. When you buy your chicken it’s invariably going to be wrapped in plastic. The first thing you should do (If you have space) is to unwrap the chicken and very lightly season the skin of the bird. This will allow the skin to dry out as the chicken sits in the fridge which will in turn help with the skin crisping up when you roast it. Just make sure it’s at the bottom of your fridge to avoid any juices dripping on food below.”
Where it all begins: The roux
A roux – a mixture of fat and flour – will not only help to thicken up the sauce but will also provide a creaminess. To make it, you’ll need a tablespoon of butter and flour, and the leftovers in your roasting tin. Whisk until brown and pour in either stock or white wine, according to your taste, in order to thicken up the gravy.
Let the roasting tin do all the hard work
Roast your meat (this works particularly well with chicken) with lots of white wine, stock, onion, thyme, garlic, lemon and butter in a roasting tin. When you remove your meat or veggie alternative, you’ll be left with the perfect gravy. Simply whisk the juices over medium heat and add flour to thicken the gravy up. Strain to achieve a smooth, lump-free gravy.
Whatever meat or plant-based roast you fancy, the importance of gravy cannot be ignored.
Of course, gravy can be whipped up in seconds with granules but with a few neat tricks such as making the most of the juices in your roasting tin and calling on some store cupboard essentials, you can easily create a gravy that’s packed full of depth and flavour, no granules necessary.
Try adding Marmite
You either love it or hate it. Well, nobody can hate Marmite in gravy because you won’t know it’s there, but the gravy will be rich and packed full of umami flavour. This is a great way to make a vegan or vegetarian gravy too.
- Dissolve the stock cube and marmite in 450ml boiled water
- Place the roasting tin on the hob or put all the leftover scrapings from the tin into a fresh pot over a medium heat. Once hot, add 1 tbsp flour and cook for 30 secs until a paste has formed
- Add the earlier prepared stock to the pan and simmer for 4-5 min, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a gravy-like consistency
Mix in some fig
For a delicious onion gravy, intensified with fig relish for a deep, fruity, festive richness, try the recipe below. Perfect served over a delicious sausage and mash.
- Heat a large, wide-based pan (preferably non-stick) with 1 tbsp vegetable oil over a very low heat
- Once hot, add the onion with a pinch of salt and sugar
- Cook for 20 min, until softened and caramelised
- Dissolve the beef stock cube in 300ml boiled water, add the fig relish and mix until fully combined – this is your fig stock
- Once the onions have softened, increase the heat to medium and add the Shaoxing wine
- Cook for 30 sec or until the Shaoxing wine has evaporated
- Stir 1/2 tsp flour into the onions until evenly coated, then add the fig stock and cook for 5 min or until the sauce has thickened to a gravy-like consistency
Try going vegan
Craving a warm, wholesome roast with a rich gravy? Gousto has created a delicious vegan version.
- Add 1 tbsp olive oil to a pot over a medium heat
- Once hot, add 1 tbsp flour and cook for 30 secs until a sandy paste has formed
- Add the vegetable stock with the Marmite and dried sage and cook for 4-5 min, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a gravy-like consistency
Sweeten things up with some toffee
Sweet and savoury, complete your roast with Gousto’s moreish toffee apple gravy. You’ll simmer apple with beef stock to add a rich flavour to your meal.
- Slice the apple finely (skin on), discarding the core
- Heat a large, wide-based pan with a generous knob of butter over a medium heat
- Once melted, add the slice apple with 1.5 tsp of sugar and cook for 4-5 min or until starting to caramelise
- While the apple caramelises, dissolve ½ beef stock cube in 150ml boiled water
- Once caramelised, add 1 tsp flour and give everything a good mix up until a sandy paste form
- Gradually stir the bed stock into the sandy paste and cook for 5 min or until a smooth thick sauce remains