How to cook a kick-ass roast chook

While there is no danger of this becoming a foodie blog, I am aware that dinner time can be a stressful time. What to cook when you’re on a budget, have growing bodies to nurture and are time poor? While I’m no gourmet cook (my sister wears that hat in our family) I do ok and manage to get the kids to eat at least some of their dinner… most of the time.

Tonight: the humble roast chicken.

I vividly remember cooking my first roast soon after we got married. It was a roast beef and about two hours into attempting to orchestrate a meal, I was standing in the middle of my kitchen in tears, surrounded by half-cooked food. It was years before I attempted another roast.

The first time I cooked a roast chicken, I removed it from the freezer in the morning, and when I went to cook it that night it was still rock hard. Bonus tip: defrost your chicken the day before.

prepare to be roasted

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Take your chicken and dab it dry with a paper towel. Stuff the cavity either with stuffing (make a simple stuffing from breadcrumbs, garlic, parsley and an egg) or cut a lemon in half and whack it in.

Pop it on top of a rack in a roasting tray and put a cup or so of water in the bottom of the tray. Massage a good amount of olive oil all over the chicken. At this point I’m generally reliving my physio days with all the oil and massage and whatever (yes, I realise that makes me sound like I had another interesting career, but it was all business, I swear). Grind a whole heap of sea salt all over and rub it in. The salt is what helps to dry out and crisp the skin up, so go hard.

I tend to put it on the lower shelf and put the roast veggies on the top shelf until the vegetables are nice and browned, then swap for the final part of the cooking to crisp and brown up the chicken skin.

For a 2kg chicken, leave it in the oven for an hour and forty five minutes to two hours. To check if it’s cooked, poke a skewer into the thickest part of the breast – the juices should be clear and not pink. Rest it for ten or twenty minutes out of the oven. Serve with roast vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli with cheese sauce (this deserves a post all of its own – best comfort food ever!), peas and gravy.

I’m the world’s worst chicken carver so there is no advice from me for that… I tend to hack it up into bits, but the boys don’t seem to mind.

Do you have a roast chicken tip to share? Or do you have a roast-phobia too?

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Rainbow party – rainbow cupcakes

Did I mention just how fun it was cooking for the rainbow party?  Apart from the amazing rainbow cake, my other favourite things were these lovely little rainbow cupcakes.

The concept isn’t new; I saw quite a few variations on the theme when I was looking for ideas, but none quite like these.

I used the Billy’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcake recipe featured on the Martha Stewart site.  It’s a denser vanilla cupcake with a nice flat top, perfect for decorating.  I used the vanilla buttercream recipe recommended there too, but tinted it light blue with a small amount of royal blue gel food colouring.

Once the cakes had cooled, I used a knife to swirl a generous amount of buttercream over the top of the cakes.  I wasn’t worried about perfectly piping these ones (as much as I love a perfectly piped cupcake!) because I was going to be popping the other bits on top.

The rainbows are TNT Multicolor Sour Straps.  I found them at my local lolly shop – one of those little shops that stocks all kinds of lollies from all over the world (including all the flavours of Jelly Bellys – yum!) – but you could probably source them online.  I cut two inch pieces of the straps, curved them, and stuck them into the buttercream.  I’d advise doing this just a couple of hours before the party; I did them the night before and my poor rainbows were looking a bit sad and floppy by the morning.

The clouds are Coles brand cloud-shaped marshmallows.  Yes, really!  I just gently pushed them into the buttercream.

So easy, and so pretty!  I think I need an excuse to make these again.  Maybe for my own birthday!

Are you a cupcake fan?  What is your favourite flavour?

Sunday dinner + Wednesday lunch

By the time Sunday night rolls around I’ve generally lost all inspiration for cooking dinner, plus I do my shopping on Monday, so there’s often nothing left in the fridge.  I also do this strange thing where I often only menu plan for six days…

Anyways, Sunday night I did my usual stand in front of the fridge and hope something jumps out at me thing, and this is what happened.

I’m blogging about it now because there was enough for me have leftovers for lunch today.  Leftovers are my favourite.

And because it was easy and EVERYONE in my family ate it all, I thought I’d share the recipe.

Sunday Night Chorizo Pasta

Serves two big people and three little people with a little leftover for lunch :)

1 onion – sliced finely
1 clove of garlic – chopped finely
2 chorizo sausages – sliced into 3mm slices
250g fresh ricotta
handful or two of frozen peas
tspn dried oregano
1/2 tspn or so of finely grated lemon rind
your choice of cooked pasta (we like penne)

Fry the onion, garlic and sausage in a bit of olive oil until the sausage is nicely caramelised.

Add the peas and cook for 3 or 4 minutes or until the peas are bright green and shiny. Crumble the ricotta over the top, sprinkle with the oregano and lemon rind and stir gently.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir gently to combine. Serve topped with grated fresh parmesan if you like.

Awesomest pork belly. Ever.

Linking up with Diary of a SAHM for I Blog On Tuesdays

My most wonderful mum and dad offered to have the big boys for a sleepover last night.  They are off having a nanna and pa date day today, probably eating way too many treats and hopefully getting completely worn out so they’ll sleep like rocks tonight.

So that left us with just Peanut last night, and he is fairly easy, so I planned an indulgent, ‘grown up’ dinner for me and the hubs.

The menu?  Pork belly + sour peach salad + individual chocolate tarts + drunken strawberries.

Now, I am obsessed with pork belly, but am *always* disappointed when I order it out.  My sister makes THE BEST pork belly.  Hands down.  Since I’ve had hers, nothing else comes close.  So I was a little fearful of making my own.  I like to be good at stuff.  If my pork belly wasn’t perfect, I was going to be very, very sad.

So I emailed her (O.M.G. she doesn’t have Facebook!) asking for her top tips.  She took too long to get back to me, and by the time she did, my pork was in the oven already.  Luckily, I had done everything pretty much right.  Phew.

I wasn’t feeling very confident as I plated up the meal.  It looked great.  White, creamy meat and dark, crunchy crackling dotted with vivid red specks of chilli alongside a cheery green and orange salad.  It smelled delicious.  Juicy, meaty smells with hints of five spice and fish sauce.  I was just worried it would end up like so many other disappointing restaurant meals – rubbery crackling and tough, boring meat.

I had nothing to fear.  It was simply delightful.  Flavoursome, crispy, fatty crackling over moist meat so tender you barely had to cut it.  The hubs declared it the best pork he’d ever eaten.  I ate so much I felt ill all night.

After some egotistical bragging and picture posting on Facebook last night, the recipe was demanded.  The marinade I used was from delicious: simply the best.  The method was a combination of the recipe, my own vague memories of how to cook pork belly, and my sister’s tips.

Best pork belly ever

For the marinade mix together three crushed garlic cloves, two tablespoons of light soy sauce, two tablespoons of olive oil, half a teaspoon of chilli flakes, one teaspoon of five spice and two teaspoons of sea salt.

Take a 1kg piece of pork belly and score the skin in a crisscross pattern.  Put in on a rack over the sink, and pour a kettle full of boiling water over it.  Dry well with paper towel and place it uncovered in the fridge to dry out for as long as you can.

Rub the marinade into the pork skin, cover, and refrigerate again for as long as possible.

Heat your oven to 250C (or even hotter if you can.  My oven only goes to 250C.)  Place the pork in a roasting pan on a rack.  Use a roasting pan just bigger than the meat – the meat will shrink significantly during cooking.  Pour chicken stock, or white wine, or just boiling water with a slurp of apple cider vinegar into the pan until it just covers the meat, but doesn’t go up to where the skin starts.  Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until the skin has darkened, bubbled up and gone crispy.  Don’t worry if a few bits are still soft, we can fix that later.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160C and roast the meat for a further two hours – or more, if you have time.  Top up the stock/wine/water if it evaporates.  If, at the end of two hours, some parts of the skin are still soft, crank the heat back up to 250C to crisp them up.

Allow to rest for a few minutes, thickly slice, and enjoy your pork-induced stupor.  Mmmmmmmmm.

Public service announcement: This recipe is not diet-friendly or very nice to your arteries.  Please eat in moderation.  It will, however, put you in hubby’s good books for quite a long time.  Especially if you follow up with chocolate tarts.  And wine. 

Can we be friands?

I only quite recently added a friand pan to my stash of cooking equipment, which is quite strange, since I do love to cook muffins and other small-sized treats.  Friands are such a wonderful option when you have gluten-intolerant guests, or if you want to appear a little fancy.  They do require slightly fancier ingredients than your usual cakes or muffins, namely almond meal, icing sugar and eggwhites.  But they are ridiculously easy and delightfully yummy.

I whipped up a batch for my in-laws on the weekend.  When I went to make them, I found I’d run out of almond meal so I did a quick search for hazelnut friands as I had plenty of hazelnut meal.  This recipe was one of the first to pop up, and I think it will be my new go-to friand recipe as it was delicious.

Source: Taste

Hazelnut and raspberry friands

  • 1 1/2 cups (185g) icing sugar mixture
  • 1 cup (100g) hazelnut meal
  • 1/2 cup (75g) plain flour (I substituted gluten free flour)
  • 180g butter, melted
  • 6 eggwhites
  • 100g frozen raspberries
  • Icing sugar, to dust
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 12 hole friand tray.
  2. Combine the icing sugar, hazelnut meal and flour in a large bowl. Add the butter and eggwhites and stir to combine. Add half the raspberries and stir to combine.
  3. Pour the friand mixture evenly among the prepared pans. Sprinkle the remaining raspberries over each friand. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centres comes out clean. Set aside for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool. Dust with icing sugar to serve.