How to cook: A roast chicken with roasties and veg!

I take absolutely no credit for this recipe. I followed Jamie's Ministry Of Food book to the letter a fair few times before I felt confident enough to take this on without it's help. Ever since I started cooking again 'properly' it has been Jamie's method and approach to cooking I've felt most comfortable with and it's second nature to me now - almost! This guy is simply fantastic and a god send to the amateur cook. 

I always wanted to add a cooking/baking segment to this blog and I figured why not start with this! So here we go: 

First thing to do is turn the oven on and let it pre-heat at full temperature. Get a big roasting tray out - trust me, you'll need the space - and get your ingredients together.

As you can see, I used a free range chicken. This is so, so important. Not only do I feel less guilty about cooking him but I know my money is not going towards those god awful battery farms, plus the quality of the meat is far better. I don't cook meat very often at all really so when I do, I don't mind spending the extra on the welfare of the animal. This chicken came from Tesco but I would usually order meat via Abel and Cole: free range, organic and the best welfare!

The vegetables here are going towards making the gravy underneath the chicken, so the only ones I'd say you definitely need to use are red onions and celery. Carrots are always great when they're cooked for a long time and I thought leeks would make for a nice contrast. Celeriac would be great here too, but I decided to use it later on. 

Herbs are a big part of my cooking now and that is definitely due to watching Jamie on TV. I was really nervous about it at first but now I wonder how I coped without them!! Here I'm using fresh thyme - it's a medium sized plant which I got from Tesco. I also used dried bay leaves but it was a bit of an after-thought which is why it's not in the picture!

Then you will need your basic seasonings of salt and pepper. I'm using garlic salt partially because I forgot to buy a bulb when I went shopping and partially as an experiment. Coarse salt is better for cooking in my opinion, you need a lot less of it than regular fine salt! I use oxo cubes a more intense seasoning which works like a charm. You'll also need olive oil and a lemon; this is a Jamie Oliver recipe after all!

All you need to do here is roughly chop up your vegetables and put them in the roasting dish! This is why you need the space! They'll shrink down when they're cooked but right now it's a bit full, yes? Grab a small-ish handful of thyme and scatter it in and around the vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle it from a height and don't be shy! Crumble in 2 oxo cubes and add a little garlic salt.

Awesome. You've made the base of your gravy and what will be delicious soft carrots packed full of flavour! 

Next on the agenda is tending to Mr. Chicken! I find it best to prepare him in the plastic tray he comes sitting in. First thing to do is get your olive oil and give him a pre-oven massage! This will help the skin crisp up really well and also lets the seasonings and herbs stick better. Once you've rubbed the oil in wash your hands and then add a generous amount of coarse salt to the skin; again, this will help it crisp up. Dust with black pepper from a height - remember not to breathe in!! Do the same with the garlic salt.

Get yourself another good handful of thyme, fold it over once and chop it in half. Now get your lemon and roll it under the palm of your hands until the skin gets oily and you feel the inside soften slightly; this is helping the juices come out. Chop in half. As you can see here I placed 3 dried bay leaves on the thyme and then sat a lemon half on top. Roll the herbs around the lemon; this makes it easier to put up Mr. Chickens backside!

Add in the other half of the lemon and 'seal' it in with the flap of skin, leaving a little vent for the heat to circulate.You can see here I did this bit before the oil and seasoning but it really doesn't matter which way round you do it! ;)

Transfer Mr. Chicken to the roasting rack and give him a nice coating of chopped thyme and a little more oil to stop them burning. Turn the oven down to cooking temperature and put him in to cook! :) Good job!! 

Not long until you can have a sit down, I promise! 

Wipe down your surfaces, wash your hands, fill up the kettle and stick it on to boil. Now we're going to do our roast potatoes and celeriac! :) 

We'll do the easy bit first. All you're going to do here is chop up your potatoes into quarters! I leave the skins on because I'm lazy and there's good nutrition value in them! Win-Win!! Stick them into a saucepan with a good amount of salt and put on to boil for 10-15 minutes.

Now for the celeriac. You'll need a good sharp knife for this as the skin is quite tough. The best, and probably safest way, to tackle this vegetable is to just slice off bits at an angle, working your way 
around. Keep your fingers clear!! It will turn brown quite quickly so have your boiling water and separate pan ready. Chop into chunks and get them quickly into the saucepan with some salt and pepper. Cover with hot water and cook for roughly 10 minutes. 

Drain the potatoes and celeriac when you are able to get a knife into them easily. Add both to the same saucepan, put the lid on and leave to steam.  

When you have 45 minutes left on your timer, it's time to get out your dish for roasting the potatoes and celeriac. The bigger the better really; if the potatoes are cramped they won't roast and go lovely and crispy. Add a good amount of olive oil to the dish and put into the oven to heat up. Remember that oil expands when it's heated up so you can always add more if you need to. You're going to need enough to coat the potatoes well as well as leaving a bit on the dish so they don't stick.

Give your potatoes a good shake in the saucepan - with the lid on! - to break them up a bit. This also helps them crisp up. It's worth checking they're not sitting in water so drain them again. If nothing comes out, awesome, if it does then we've just prevented fire which is also awesome. 

Now we need to work a bit quickly. 

Get your roasting dish out which will now have screaming hot oil in it so be very careful!! Stand back and in one confident motion tip your potatoes into the oil. It will spit and hiss but that's alright. Give them a nice coating in the oil and spread them out around the tray. Season well with salt, pepper and one oxo cube. Turn them around in the oil again and add some more if you need to, then get them into the oven!

We're nearly there!! :) One more job then you can go and put your feet up for a well earned rest.

When you put in your potatoes, you need to take your chicken out to baste and tend to the vegetables/gravy underneath, so it's time to get the kettle on again! 

Don't panic! All we need to do here is add some water to the gravy to loosen it up a bit. Get your spatula and get off any sticky bits that are on the sides or bottom of the dish and give it a good mix around. Looks better now doesn't it? Bare it mind it'll reduce down again as we've still got 40 minutes of cooking time. 
With our freshened up gravy we're going to give Mr. Chicken a really good baste. Focus mainly on the breast parts and feel free to get rid of the herbs. Make sure he's been completely coated several times over. The skin should look like it's ready to peel off. What will happen when it goes back into the oven is it'll crisp up again in a different way and with a more intense flavour than before, so this part is very important! 

Check the timer and add back on the minutes you lost so Mr. Chicken gets the correct amount of cooking time. It won't do the potatoes any harm. 

Go sit down for 20 blissful minutes!! :) We're on the home stretch now!

Right. Here we go. Final push!!! Ready? 

Fill up your kettle once again and get it on to boil. 
Pick out your vegetables and get them prepared. I used cauliflower, tenderstem broccoli and courgettes. 

Get them ready in the saucepan with some salt and a touch of pepper. 

Start cooking them when there's 10 minutes to go. 

We need to check our potatoes as they're half way through cooking. As you can see, they're coming along nicely. Here we just need to turn them around in the tray, space them out and get them right back into the oven for the final 20 minutes. 

 *** 1 hour 40 minutes alarm!!!!!! :) ***

Get your chicken out and let him rest. Your vegetables will also be ready so drain them off well and leave to steam just like with the potatoes. Make sure they're just about cooked, rather than boiled to death, so keep an eye on them when they're cooking. Check your potatoes. If they're not crispy enough for you yet, give them another turn about, whack the oven up to full and cook for 5 more minutes. That should do the trick. 

We're done!!!!!! How easy was that?! :)

I hope this takes some of the fear out of taking on something like this!! 

I'd love to hear from you if you've tried out my take on Jamie's recipe and if you liked the results! 


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