Exotic delights Perfect Sunday roast

Drooling prime rib roast is well worth the added cost. Picture: SUPPLIED

Drooling prime rib roast is well worth the added cost. Picture: SUPPLIED

ALTHOUGH Fiji is now my home and place of citizenry, there are some Aussie traditions I do miss from time to time. Like today for example. It’s Easter Sunday.

Growing up in Australia, today was about going to church early and then after service join the other children on a search for as many chocolate Easter eggs we could stuff in our pockets, bags and mouths. It is celebratory days like Easter that helped forge my strong bonds and connection to food.

What would Holy Week be without hot cross buns, chocolate bunnies, coloured eggs, carrot cake and the traditional Sunday roast? Lavish roast lunch and dinners are very British in their origins, but once you learn the delicious intricacies of planning the perfect Sunday roast, there’s no need to wait for the Easter long weekend.

A good Sunday roast can be one of the hardest challenges. There are several components you have to get right.

Unlike a curry, pot of stew or even a lovo, there’s no hiding unpreparedness in a roast meal. But if cooking a family roast sounds scary, here are a few tips to pull it off to perfection, every week.

Perfect roast chicken

Start preparing a whole chicken the day before. This gives the seasoning and herbs more time to penetrate the bone meat and carcass. Make sure you put your hand right inside the cavity to rub the dry seasoning deep into the rib cage and upper breast bone. I also love putting knobs of butter, salt and green herbs under the skin of the chicken to help retain its moisture and crispen the skin.

While it’s roasting also baste the skin with its juices.

If all this seems to hard or you just don’t have the time, then do what I do on my days off – head down to New World and pick up one of their ready-to-go roast chickens. It is near perfect but best of all, it’s ready to eat.

Perfect roast beef

A beef rib or eye fillet are the Rolls Royce choice of kinds but out of the question for most of us on a regular Sunday.

Topside looks the part and has a good flavour, though it is best roasted at most to medium doneness otherwise it is dry. Rump and sirloin are also good choices but if overcooked will be tough to eat.

When in doubt, visit a good butcher who knows how to roast meats. For me, the more fat in the beef the better, as that is where all the flavour is, cooked to a medium rare doneness. It doesn’t have to be bleeding and mooing, but cooked just so the juices remain.

Also allow added resting time when you pull the beef from the oven. This gives the muscle and fibres time to relax to prevent toughness and retain its juiciness.

So saving up the extra dollars to buy a big chunk of prime rib eye is my idea of the perfect roast beef. I’m drooling.

Perfect roast lamb

Australians love lamb, especially on Australia Day. But Easter also gives us an excuse to enjoy this national dish with lashings of gravy, roasted vegetables and mint sauce.

Lots of recipes call for spiking lamb with slivers of garlic. I prefer to crush mine with black peppercorns and squish the puree into slits in the meat messier, but makes for more garlic flavour.

Dry herbs like oregano, thyme and rosemary are perfect dry rubs for a leg or shoulder of lamb.

Perfect roast pork

It’s hard to go wrong with serving any baked fruit or fruit sauces with pork. The classic is apple sauce with hints of cinnamon, clove and allspice, but in the South Pacific our local fruits of pineapple (with rum), guava, red papaya and kavika mountain apples are great substitutes.

Pork leg tends to be drier when roasted, so I prefer the moister shoulder.

Dry marinades like rosemary or any of the sweet spices like cinnamon and star anise work all pair well with pork. And remember to roast it slow and low.

Perfect gravy

No roast meal is the same without a good, flavoursome gravy. The gravy rules are more or less the same whatever the meat, and the most important point is to get rid of the fat — especially lamb fat which can leave a greasy feeling in the mouth. Drain off any excess fat before you serve.

To make the gravy, once the meat is cooked remove it from the roasting tin and put it in a warm place to rest; essential for tender juicy meat. Strain and pour any liquid from the tray into a bowl and set aside. Put the used roasting tray on a stove and pour in 300ml water, coconut bu or stock, plus a splash of wine if you fancy it. Bring to the boil, stirring and scraping, to loosen and dissolve any residue in the tray.

Now you’ve captured all the flavour, you can continue to use the same roasting tray (saves on washing up) or transfer to a saucepan to make the gravy.

Dissolve two tablespoons of sifted normal flour in a little of the pan juices to create a slurry. Return both liquids to the heat and bring to a simmering boil. Little by little, add the flour slurry to the juices, whisking as you go to make a smooth gravy. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

Perfect Yorkshire puddings

If you’ve never tried “Yorkies” think of a fluffy donut or pikelet. They are the naughty component of a good roast but oh so good.

You need a hot oven and a muffin tray to make these puddings. If you can make the batter ahead of time then it will be lighter. The oil needs to be shimmering hot before you pour the batter in.

Perfect roast potato

You can’t have the perfect Sunday roast without potatoes. Sure you could substitute other root crops but a roast dinner without potatoes is like curry without roti. If you are going all out for the classic roast potatoes, then bear in mind that while the meat can happily rest out of the oven for anything from 20 minutes to an hour, the potatoes need to be fresh and hot. So plan your timings around them.

Roast your potato spuds in olive oil, with a tablespoonful of butter added. The natural sugars in the butter help to give a good caramelisation to the potatoes and make them almost as good as those cooked in meat fat.

Perfect vegetable side dishes

The vegetables should be bountiful, of course, but there’s no need to go overboard with the different kinds. Two is fine; three splendid. Think in terms of one green and one or two “other”, and one plain steamed, plus one roast or sautéed and/or one gratin or creamed. Add herbs, honey roasting, gentle spicing – but don’t go over the top. The meat is the star; the vegetables are the embellishment.

Happy Easter.

* Lance Seeto is the executive chef at Fiji’s first island beach club, Malamala Beach Club. www.malamalabeachclub.com

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