Crispy roast potatoes, tender meat, and a generous serving of gravy: who doesn’t love a roast dinner, especially at this time of year? But slow-roasting a big joint of lamb or pork can take half the evening, and you end up using so many pots and pans to cook everything, making a mountain of washing-up.
However, I’ve recently discovered a few simple hacks that make it easier and quicker to cook a roast dinner. Have a read and test them out for yourself.
Use individual pieces of meat
This seems obvious, but the larger the piece of meat, the longer it will take to cook. The solution – use individual portions. Chicken thighs still on the bone roast beautifully in the oven. The skin becomes crispy and the meat stays tender. Strips of belly pork are another tasty option, as are medallions of beef.
If you’re confused how long to cook the individual portions for, a roasting guide will help you calculate cooking times.
Dispense with the boiled vegetables
Roast dinners normally come with a couple of vegetable dishes on the side, such as Brussel sprouts or carrots. It’s surprisingly time-consuming peeling or chopping vegetables, and uses up extra pans. So, why not roast them instead? Dice them and place them in the roasting dish alongside your individual portions of meat. Not only will you reduce the amount of washing-up, the vegetables will also soak up the meat juices and taste delicious.
It’s up to you which vegetables you choose to roast. Slices of fennel and cherry tomatoes pair well with chicken. I like to serve slices of belly pork with roasted carrots, onions and slices of apple. A medley of root vegetables – beetroot, parsnips and celeriac – tastes great with beef. Experiment with different combinations and see what your family enjoys.
Use ready-made roast potatoes
Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside – no roast is complete without the perfect roast potato. But it can take ages to peel enough potatoes for the family, parboil them then roast them in the oven.
A quick fix is to use ready-made potatoes – McCain roast potatoes are particularly delicious. One of the ingredients is beef dripping, which helps them go crispy and gives them a rich, totally addictive flavour.
Use instant gravy, but jazz it up
Making a decent gravy from scratch can take a while, so why not cheat and use an instant gravy mix? Try out a few different brands and see which gravy tastes best.
You can also jazz up instant gravy mix – chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, can really lift the flavour. Or, add a squeeze of tomato paste or dash of red wine to instant beef gravy simmering on the stove.
The best addition to instant gravy is the delicious meat juices at the bottom of your roasting tin, so make sure you add them once the meat is cooked.
Simple tricks for family favourites
My family love leeks in cheese sauce as a side dish for a roast dinner, but it takes a while to soften the leeks in butter, make a cheese sauce then bake it in the oven. So, I’ve come up with a simple hack that tastes similar, but takes a quarter of the time: onions and cream. It’s so easy to make. Chop onions, pour cream over them, and season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Then place them in the bottom of the oven for 25 minutes. Easy!
Follow this recipe
One-pot midweek roast chicken dinner (serves 4)
- Baby carrots (200g)
- 1 fennel bulb
- Shallots (150g)
- Cherry tomatoes (200g)
- 6-8 chicken thighs (1 per child, 2 per adult)
- 5 cloves garlic
- a few sprigs of lemon thyme
- Preheat oven to 200°C
- Chop fennel, skin shallots. Place in a large roasting tray alongside baby carrots and cherry tomatoes.
- Add oil, salt, garlic cloves and lemon thyme.
- Pour around 50ml of olive oil into a ramekin. Add chopped lemon thyme, paprika, salt and pepper. Rub onto chicken skin.
- Place chicken on top of vegetables.
- Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes.
- Serve with McCain roast potatoes and jazzed-up instant gravy
I hope you’re now convinced to cook a mid-week roast for your family. It’s a surprisingly easy meal once you use these hacks to simplify the process. What’s more, there are endless combinations of meat and vegetables to try out, so the family will never get bored!
Disclosure: This is a featured post.