Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Comfort foods – The Sunday Roast
This article is a bit of a cheat really, blogging about comfort food when I’ve said before that I think roasts are a lot more effort than they’re worth and undeserving of their mythical status in the English cooking pantheon. However, my little girl loves them and what Aria wants, she gets. So now, every Sunday I cook a roast. The thing is, it’s not unusual for Sunday to be my only day off and roasts are an inordinate amount of effort so this blog is about how I do a reasonable roast with as little effort as possible. I do, of course, accept that if one is prepared to really put the time in then a roast can be a decadent feast and indeed I think I do a fair Christmas dinner but that is around 2 days of effort including prep and I am not starting Sunday dinner on Friday every week.
How to Make a Sunday Roast in Under Two Hours
My aim is to use all my cooking gadgets to make the dinner as pain free as possible, but it’s all about knowing which corners can be cut. I try and get reasonable meat, it tastes nicer and it usually means the animal has had a better life, which is important to me. I like Maris Piper potatoes because I reckon they’re best for roasting and we always have to have Yorkshire pudding (Aria’s rule not mine)
Do Prep the Night Before
Most of the time I do a bit of prep on Saturday when I’m making dinner. This will usually entail peeling and chopping the potatoes and getting them ready to boil in a saucepan of salted water. If I am doing chicken I bone it out at this point as it saves time carving and it means I can cook it rolled with stuffing inside. Boning a chicken is easy if you have a paring knife, there are a ton of tutorials on youtube. When I make stuffing I do it in batches and mix 500g of raw sausage-meat with bought and made up stuffing mix. Separate into fist sized portions and freeze, insert in the middle of the chicken prior to rolling.
Work out your Timings
On Sunday I work back from the time I want to serve the food and do my timings accordingly. At around minus 2 hours and 15 minutes I put the oven on if I am cooking in there (chicken, nice cut of beef) or get the pressure cooker going if I am using that (gammon, cheap beef). Pressure cooker cooking times are all done when operating pressure is reached so you need to remember to add build up time in. I will usually get the meat out the fridge an hour before that if it’s beef as beef cooks best from room temperature. If I’m cooking beef I go for topside or silverside in the pressure cooker or sirloin end from the oven. Sirloin end can be found for about £10 a kilo and I find a kilo will do two roasts for us, though cooking time is extremely quick.
Once the meat is on, I get a load of other stuff going. I start the potatoes boiling, from cold, in salted water and keep them at a rolling boil for 6-7 minutes. When they’re done I drain them and let them steam dry. I give a little shake to roughen the edges and then they go into the air fryer until I am ready to start phase 2.
Next job is to make the batter for the Yorkshires. The recipe I use is a really simple one from the Pinch of Nom website which is 60g of plain flour, 2 eggs and 75ml of milk (I use oat milk) whisked. I make that in a jug and leave for later.
I chop up the veg I am doing (tyically asparagus and brocoli) and then put in in a tiered hob steamer. I fill the kettle ready for later.
I also get the gravy ready to make sat this point. For weekly roasts I think Bisto Best is fine, although for Christmas I would make from scratch.
Use an Air Fryer
At lunch minus 1 hour I put the air fryer on (without the paddle) with 2 tablespoons of oil for 60 minutes. The potatoes will not be as good as with goose or duck fat but will have good flavour and be nice and crispy.
At some point during this hour the meat will be ready, if it’s gammon, I’ll remove it from the pressure cooker, reserve any stock and then remove the rind and score the fat. To put a nice glaze on I’ll melt 2 tablespoons of dark soft brown sugar with a tablespoon of maple syrup on the pressure cooker ‘brown’ settings. I will then glaze the gammon by rolling it for a bit in the syrup. When the meat is finished I cover with foil on a carving board.
30 Minute Countdown
At lunch minus 30 minutes I put the oven on at top whack and put in a muffin tray for yorkshires. If using normal fat I’ve put a spot in each recess, if I am using fry light I’ll wait until later.
At lunch minus 20 I take out the tray, spray with fry light if using it and then pour the yorkshire batter in the recesses before replacing in the oven. I then boil the kettle and set the bottom pan of the steamer on a low ring to heat.
At lunch minus 10 I turn the oven down to 190C and then carve the meat putting it on a serving dish and recovering with foil. When the kettle boils I pour some water in the steamer and put the veg on. With the remaining water I make the gravy.
At this point I start calling the kids to lay the table and take dishes of food through as they become ready, first meat and gravy as they’re done, then veg as I don’t like them overcooked.
Finally, when the potatoes are done I serve them and get the yorkshires out of the oven.
So there you go, using an air fryer, a hob steamer and an electric pressure cooker (sometimes) and cutting a few corners I deliver a roast in 2 hours. Of course, I can deliver a really great stir fry in 10 minutes but that doesn’t make Aria smile, so we don’t have that for Sunday lunch (in case people worry I’m neglecting the boys, Bo eats everything put in front of him and Logan loves roasts but without gravy, because Logan)