Easter weekend is fast approaching, and there’s a lot to look forward to.
Whether you celebrate the holiday for its religious sentiments, gift-giving (in the form of chocolate eggs), or just can’t wait for a long weekend, there’s one thing we can all agree on – the Easter Sunday roast dinner is undoubtedly the highlight of the entire day.
Thankfully, Jeff Baker, Executive Development Chef at Farmison & Co, has revealed his top tips on how to perfect your lamb, and of course your roast potatoes, to ensure you don’t slip up when the pressure’s on.
The chef, who has even cooked for the Queen, has also shared the most common mistakes people make when cooking the meal and how to avoid them.
Choosing the right cut of lamb
Jeff says the tender cuts from the saddle with the delicate covering of fat make for perfect grilled lamb cutlets and chops, whereas, the cheaper cuts minced make great burgers, meatballs and Koftas – and each need to be prepared differently.
He says to coat tender cuts with a little fresh rosemary, olive oil and sea salt before grilling for a few minutes each side leaves a perfect finish.
Add a squeeze of lemon and some simple new season asparagus for a light Easter lunch.
For the larger cuts, such as the shoulder & leg joints, Jeff likes to rub these in North African spices such as Ras al Hanout, garlic and olive oil and then slow roast for 4 to 5 hours until meltingly tender.
He suggests serving it alongside a minted couscous salad and a dollop of Harissa for heat (North African chilli paste).
But he says you need to remember not to overwork the flavours you’re using “as the spring lamb meat is more delicate than later in the year and can easily be overshadowed by bold condiments.”
How can you tell if your lamb joint is cooked?
Test with your finger
The best way to tell if your lamb is cooked is to press the thickest part of the joint with your index finger, if the joint is soft to touch it will be rare, the more firm to the touch the more well done the joint will be cooked.
Test with a thermometer
Before probing, ensure your thermometer is sterilised.
To do so, dip the needle into boiling water for five seconds before and after immersing in the joint.
“Pierce the needle into the centre of the joint & hold for a few seconds, the temperature should read a minimum of 50°C before removing it from the oven,” Jeff explains.
Test with tongs
You can also test with tongs by gently prodding it – rare is very soft, medium rare is soft, medium is springy but soft, medium well is firm and well done is very firm.
Common roast potato mistakes
Buy fresh potatoes
It may sound obvious, but having fresh potatoes to make roasties is the first step to perfection.
You should never try to use old potatoes when cooking as they could be rotten which is sure to make you very, very ill.
When you buy your potatoes, you should inspect them for any signs of damage and then store them in a dark and cool place, like a cardboard box or paper bag – this ensures the best ventilation.
Make sure to check your potatoes before you go to cook them as some may become soft and shriveled and will, therefore, need to be thrown away.
Know your King Edward from your Maris Piper
By choosing the best potato for the job you can ensure that you will get the gorgeous crispy edges and fluffy middle that we all dream of.
Jeff recommends using King Edwards or Maris Pipers, but if you can’t get your hands on them, he says standard white potatoes will also work.
But he says you may need to give them a good shake in a sieve after par-boiling to fluff them up.
Stay away from soggy roasties
A common mistake people tend to make is drowning them in oil in the hopes that it will give them a crispier spud, but in actual fact, it can leave them burnt on the outside and undercooked on the inside.
Jeff says this is why it is important to fluff up your potatoes before roasting by partially boiling or using my preferred method of steaming.
You can parboil your potatoes for ten minutes in salted water or steam for 15 minutes (depending on the size of the potatoes) – and be sure to allow them to dry and cool slightly before roasting.
The debate of how long you should cook your spuds is definitely up for debate.
However, it is down to several factors that many aren’t aware of, such as how big the potatoes are.
Jeff recommends cooking them for at least 30 minutes at 200 degrees whilst checking every 10-15 minutes and giving them a shake to increase the crispiness.
If you are still unsure after the 30 minutes, take a potato out and give it a try.
Not only can you check whether they are ready but you get first dibs on the crispiest roasties…