Perfecting the art of the roast

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 07/08/2014

Meat is expensive. This is an inescapable fact of life in 2014.

Back in the glory days everyone ate roast meat all day long...blah blah blah. We know.  

Those days are over, and for many of us, a roast is a real treat.  

It therefore follows that cooking a roast is an art worth perfecting. No more dry meat, no more boxed gravy.*

My first ever attempt at a roast was during my first year flatting in a drafty, depressing little villa in Wellington.

In my version of the story the oven was a cruel joke and the chicken deliberately temperamental.

I'll admit to being a bit disheartened by this experience and it was some time before I gave it another crack.

About nine long years of practice later, I reckon I've got the perfect recipe.

Many of my best roast moves I learned from Jamie Oliver. Call the man what you want (my food idol), but he knows his ''mothership'' roasts.

If you're on a budget, chicken is probably your best bet. If you can afford it, go free range.

If you can't, a huge frozen chicken might cost you $14 or so.

We'll deal with roasting red meats another time.

CHICKEN

Chop two brown onions into quarters, and 2 carrots into quarters lengthways, oil and season and use them to line the base of the roasting pan. This will make gorgeous gravy.

Pat the whole chicken carcass dry with paper towels.

Dry skin = crispy skin. You want this.

Rub with oil, plenty of salt and fresh or dried herbs (box of Mixed Herbs = $2.99). Lay it on the onions.

A 1.5kg chicken takes about 90 mins in a 180 degree Celsius oven. Leave it to fulfill its potential.

POTATOES

Now, there's no such thing as a good roast without perfect potatoes.

This is by far the best way I have found to make roast potatoes.

They're heaven.

Peel and chop up Agria potatoes into decent sized chunks. Agria potatoes are great for roasting because they come out fluffy on the inside and hold their shape well.

Boil them until they're a little bit cooked - when a sharp knife easily cuts about 5mm into a potato before meeting resistance.

Drain into a colander, then gently toss the potatoes in the colander. The edges of the colander holes will scuff up the potatoes a bit.

They should look a little bit fluffy. Don't overdo it.

When the chicken's been in for 45 minutes, tip the potatoes onto a separate roasting tray with olive oil and lashings of salt. Seriously, get that salt on there. (I like to use flaky sea salt - pricey, but so worth it).

After 30 minutes roasting, turn them over.

When chicken juices run clear, transfer the chicken to a plate to rest. Crank the oven up to 200 to finish the potatoes.

GRAVY

Now for the gravy - this is so yum.

Put the Bisto box down*!

Tip the oil out of the roasting dish (the clear-ish stuff), leaving just the pan juices (the dark-ish stuff). Make 2 cups of chicken stock.

Put your oven tray directly onto the stovetop.

Get the tray sizzling, then throw in a generous splash of white wine. While it bubbles, scrape all the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan and mix them in. Add your stock.

Turn heat up high and reduce until the gravy is how you like it.

Tip into jug, carve chicken, remove potatoes from oven, and serve with steamed greens.

Tell me this isn't absolute heaven, and it took you less than 2 hours!

* In case you haven't noticed, I have a real issue with box gravy. There's honestly just no need!

GIVEAWAY

To celebrate the launch of Girl Meets Food, I am giving away three blocks of Whittakers Hundreds and Thousands! To win, tweet @grlmeetsfood or comment below and tell me your favourite chocolate pudding.

- The Press

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