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Monday, May 16, 2011

Roasting For One: Crazy or Crazy Delicious?

Published on 'Fabulous Foodie' 15/5/2011

To do justice to food as the most wide-ranging and personal of subjects, I needed additional voices to chime in. I asked dungeekin so he would make me one of the fabulous roasts he discusses below. My plan is working ’cause I’ve been eating awfully well as a result. — Deb.

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The topic of solo activities has been weighing upon my mind recently, given that it will be another nine days before I am back again at the dining-table of my beloved. And by ‘solo activities’, for the more earthily-minded among you, I am of course referring to cooking for one.

Specifically, Sunday roasts when cooking for one.

Sunday roasts, with all the trimmings, are of course a British tradition. They’re as much a part of the English way of life as the Queen, substandard dentistry and constant drizzle. Yet when I mentioned on Twitter that I was planning to treat myself to a Sunday roast – alone – the news was met with a degree of surprise.

It seems that many people view cooking a roast (especially if they’re on their own) as hard work – a great deal of effort on a day of rest. And this surprises me, because it isn’t. Really, honestly, it isn’t hard work at all.

A tempting roast dinner – with all the glorious kitchen smells that brings, and the dopey satedness that follows its eating – is actually staggering simple. It’s ‘fire and forget’ food – with a few minutes thought and pre-planning, you can have a juicy roast on the table with luscious accompaniments in two hours – of which, despite impressions, you’ve only had to do about 30 minutes’ work.

It’s true, honest.

I wrote a roast chicken recipe some time ago which outlines the concept, however in order to prove my point I’m going to tell you what I cooked for myself tonight. It was good. More importantly, it was easy, which is a priority when cooking alone. And if you follow this, you’ll have a juicy roast on the table inside two hours, with less work than you’d need to cook a risotto.

Roast Pork, Roast Potatoes, Broccoli, Fried Leeks & Mushrooms.

This will serve one with leftovers (if, like me, you like raiding the fridge for a cold roast potato) or two easily enough.

You’ll need:

  • 1kg pork shoulder with the skin on (for crackling);
  • Either 4 large or 8 smaller potatoes (floury King Edwards are good for roasting, but you can use whatever);
  • 1 head of broccoli;
  • 2 large leeks;
  • Butter, sea salt, olive oil, black pepper;
  • Onion gravy granules (remember, this is a quick job, so it’s not cheating).

Put the oven on. HIGH (250C is good). Boil the kettle. Chuck a good lug of olive oil into a roasting dish.

Once the oven’s up to temperature, put the pork on a plate in the sink. Pour the boiling water over the skin, and watch it start to crinkle. Pat it dry (carefully), drizzle it with a little olive oil and season with lots of salt and black pepper. Pop it in the roasting dish, skin up, and chuck it in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes – this is the initial ‘sizzle’.

Peel and chop (if necessary) your potatoes, and pop them in a saucepan of salted water to parboil.

Go and watch TV for 20 minutes, there’s nothing you can do right now.

When the timer goes, go and turn the heat on the oven down to 170-180C, and reset the timer for 30 minutes. Carefully take the potatoes out of their boiling water, set them aside and turn off the heat on the saucepan – you’ll need that water later, so keep hold of it. Go back to the TV for the remaining time.

Thirty minutes later, when the oven goes ‘ping’ – take out the roasting dish, pop in the potatoes, and give them a careful flip or two to cover them in the oil and meat fat. Back in the oven – set the timer again, this time for 40 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of wine, and return to your scheduled afternoon viewing….

Seriously, you’ve done maybe ten minutes work and there’s now nothing else you can do for almost an hour. Leave everything alone.

Once the 40 minutes is up, you have 15 minutes of business ahead (ish). First, take the pork out of the oven, then carefully remove the skin, and wrap the pork in foil to relax while you finish your meal. Pop the crackling back on a shelf in the oven, so it carries on drying and crisping up.

Turn on the heat under the saucepan you used earlier, and heat some butter and olive oil in a frying pan. Put some gravy granules in a jug.

Chop as much broccoli as you need, and chuck it into the saucepan. Chop the leeks and mushrooms, and put them in the frying pan Cook until the leek and mushroom mix, and the broccoli, are both tender, then simply turn the heat off under both pans, and drain the water from the broccoli straight into the gravy mix, and stir.

Unwrap your meat, carve. Turn off the oven, take out the potatoes and the crackling. Add everything to the plate. Serve. Eat.

Now, seriously, how hard was that? You have a perfect Sunday roast, leftovers to nibble on, and the sense of replete achievement that comes with a meal most people seem to think is ‘hard work’.

Though of course if you’re on your own, you do have to do the washing-up . . .

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