Is there anything that we Brits love more than a Sunday roast? Well, probably many things (is the most popular dish in the UK still chicken tikka masala?) but a Sunday roast is surely up there. The country may be in total disarray, the economy in free fall but this is one proud British tradition that will surely never die.
The big question is, what is your joint of choice? D and I have pondered the point for years. There are so many aspects to take into consideration. The side dishes - you can't have sage and onion stuffing with lamb now, can you? The leftovers - we're big fans of the leftover lamb biryani but, equally, cold roast chicken or beef make superior sandwiches (especially if you happen to have some blue cheese knocking around to season the latter). It's a tough call, but I think my heart belongs to the roast chicken.
Thus it was, when D saw a mention in the Good Food magazine of a roast chicken to end all roast chickens, we couldn't help but purchase it. The Thoughful Producer* seems to be a relatively new endeavour which is all about producing the very best quality, free range chickens. I suspect that these birds get massages. At £15.99 they are not cheap (you can order direct from their website but we got ours through Ocado to avoid paying the delivery charge) but we thought the resulting product was very good indeed, and without getting preachy, I do think that consumers have a responsibility to buy and eat the very best meat that they can afford. It's worth bearing in mind as well that this was a BIG CHICKEN - we derived lunch for four people, a round of sandwiches and six portions of curry from ours - that's eleven meals at £1.45 per portion. (Please note that this is not a sponsored post - we just really liked the chicken and wanted to share the love.)
Back to the Sunday roast, and, to match such a beast we had to bring our A game to the sides. D produced some fantastic hasselback potatoes, which were a bloody faff to cut but a delight to eat. He tucked thin slivers of garlic and flecks of rosemary into the slits in the potato and drizzled with oil; the result was somewhere between a roastie and a jacket potato, crispy of skin and firm of flesh.
Peas were sautéed with pancetta and shallots and seasoned with the merest hint of dried chilli which only served to enhance their sweetness. And we roasted hunks of cauliflower until they were beginning to char and then poured over a sweet-sour dressing which included honey, sultanas and pine nuts. Puffy, golden Yorkshire puddings and a rich gravy, enhanced by the bird's own giblets added the finishing touches.
The thing with Sunday dinners is that you have to resist doing too many dishes to preserve your own sanity. But I would have loved to add more here - a sage and onion stuffing, a root vegetable mash, crispy roasted kale, batons of sweet, sticky parsnips, sausagemeat. The list goes on ad infinitum. Luckily, Sunday rolls around every week so there is always another roast dinner on the horizon to which we can look forward. If you have any tips for new dishes or recipes then I would love to hear them!
ETA: Yotam Ottolenghi has some lovely ideas for chicken side dishes that are a bit more exotic and summery than good old roast spuds - see here.