great roasts

Great roasts


Turn your next meal into an occasion by cooking a roast. They’re easier than you might think. But, what is the difference between a good roast and a great roast? Firstly, get the best piece of meat that you can afford. Meat on the bone is great for roasting, as there’s loads of flavour and the meat is less likely to dry out. A whole chicken is perfect. Try free range, organic if possible, and you’ll really notice the difference in flavour. Start roasting the bird breast side down to ensure moist meat whilst the legs are cooking. I like Nigella’s tip for roasting two chooks at once –after all, you’ve already got the oven on anyway. That takes care of chicken sandwiches for the week. Don’t forget to use the leftover carcasses to make stock.

Pork belly is an economical cut that makes a sensational roast. Try my tip of first roasting the skin side down, for crispy crackling. It’s also important to dry out the skin first. Place uncovered in the fridge for a day if possible, as the cold air will help dry out the skin (this is also good for chicken). Rubbing with salt also helps.

Lamb shoulder is another cut enjoying popularity at the moment. I like to roast it for three hours or so, until it is really tender and the meat is falling off the bone. Add lots of herbs and spices and watch the complex flavours develop over the long cooking time.

One of the most important tips is to let the meat rest. Fifteen minutes is sufficient to allow the meat to relax and the juices to disperse evenly. Cover your roast and set aside in a warm spot, so it doesn’t lose too much heat.

Sam’s roast chicken with potatoes and lemon

photo Marina Oliphant

This is a simple mid week family roast dinner. I like to use white pepper to season the skin. Cooking the potatoes with the chicken gives them the most delicious flavour. To make a simple gravy whilst the chicken is resting, use the cooking juices and add 1-2 tbsp corn flour dissolved in a little cold water. Heat and stir to thicken.

1 Free range organic chicken (about 2kg)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole

1 tbsp fresh thyme, oregano or tarragon

½ (half) preserved lemon skin, sliced

6 nicola potatoes

Juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp olive oil

1 cup hot water

sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 200C fan forced (220C conventional).

Rinse the chicken under cold water, then pat dry with paper towel.

Place chicken, breast side down, into a baking dish, pop garlic, herbs and preserved lemon inside bird cavity.

Peel and quarter the potatoes lengthwise (large chip size) and arrange potatoes around chicken.

Pour lemon juice over chicken and potatoes, then place squeezed lemon halves inside the chicken.

Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Pour hot water into dish.

Roast for 30 minutes then turn chicken over.  Roast for another hour, adding water if it dries out. Insert a skewer between the leg and thigh to check the meat. The juices will be clear if cooked. If they’re still pink, allow more cooking time.

Remove from oven and rest, loosely covered with foil, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, return potatoes to oven to allow to crisp up.

Serves 4-6.

slow roasted lamb shoulder with chilli and sage

photo Marina Oliphant

I tried this dish at The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s Masterclass. The rich flavour of the lamb is balanced with the bold flavours of chilli, garlic and sage. I have added the sweetness of roasted grapes.

1 shoulder of lamb, bone in, about 2kg

salt and pepper to season

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 head garlic, cut in half

1 cup loosely packed fresh sage leaves

3 bay leaves

6 good quality anchovy fillets

½ cup red wine vinegar

small bunch red grapes

Preheat oven to 160C fan forced (180C conventional).

Ask your butcher to cut the lamb through the bone, on the underside, at intervals. Trim off most of the surface fat, then season well with salt and pepper. Heat a large frypan, add oil and brown the lamb on all sides for 10 minutes, until well browned.

Place browned meat in a roasting pan and add the remaining ingredients, reserving the grapes to add later.

Cover the pan with foil and cook in the oven for 3 hours, basting with the pan juices every 30 minutes or so.

Remove the foil, add grapes and cook for a further 30 minutes.

The lamb should be meltingly tender by now. If not, cook further until tender.

serves 4-6.

Crisp pork belly with apple and fennel coleslaw

photo Marina Oliphant

The delicious, asian style coleslaw balances the richness of the pork.

1.5 kg Pork Belly, thick end, bones removed

2 tbsp sea salt

2 tbsp olive oil

black pepper to season


½ (half) cup Brown Sugar

¼ (quarter) cup Red Wine Vinegar

2 tbsp honey

2 Star Anise

1 Cinnamon Stick

1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed

2 bay leaves


½ (half) cup rice wine vinegar

½ (half) tsp salt

½ (half) tsp sichuan pepper

3 tbsp sugar

1 red onion

1 baby fennel

¼ (quarter) savoy cabbage

1 lebanese cucumber

2 radish

2 red apples

1 green chilli

1 cup picked fresh coriander sprigs

Ask your butcher to score the skin of the pork belly (if you are doing this yourself, use a very sharp Stanley knife). Rub sea salt into pork skin and refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes to dry out the skin.

Pre-heat oven to 220C.

Wipe sea salt off pork skin with kitchen paper and dry really well.

Drizzle a large roasting dish with olive oil.  Put the pork belly in, skin side down, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Roast in oven for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 190C and roast for another 1 ½ hours. Carefully turn the pork belly over and roast for another 30 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and crunchy.

Remove from the oven.  Do not cover.  Rest for 15 minutes.

Whilst the pork is cooking, make the sauce and the salad.

Place all the sauce ingredients in a small pot and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until thickened.

For the salad, place vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar in a large bowl. Finely slice the red onion and fennel with a mandoline or V slicer, and place in vinegar to soften.

Use a mandoline to finely slice the cabbage, cucumber, radish, apples and green chilli. Place in a serving bowl and toss with the coriander. Just before serving, add the onion and fennel with the vinegar and toss to combine.

Carve pork into thick slices, drizzle with sauce and serve with salad.

Serves 4-6.


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