I enjoy roasting almost as much as I love cooking on the hob. While there’s no standing around or stirring involved most times, there is a joy in leaving things be and coming back to something gloriously golden, lacquered and bubbling with juices after. Certain things I find will do better in a roasting tin than they will on a hob. Vegetables obviously take very well to roasting, retaining their moisture as they cook and take on colour, all the while intensifying their taste as they roast in the oven. Chicken too, tastes most festive in my opinion when roasted to a glorious golden with bits and bobs of butter tucked underneath in its skin. It doesn’t need much and the oven does most of the work.
The tin that the veg or meat cooks in matters too obviously. I’ve never favoured the ultra-nonstick and light varieties for this because I love having glorious sticky bits of meat catch at the bottom of my roaster for a pan sauce later. You want something that’s both sturdy and that will be a doddle to clean up after. Imagine making pork in one of those caramelly sauces—the cleanup job after shouldn’t make you want to scream.
I trust cast iron roasters for this purpose and Le Creuset’s rectangular roaster which comes in a whole range of colours fits the bill perfectly. The enamel coating makes cleaning up after roasting an easy job, which is only one of the more impressive features of this roaster. It’s got plenty of room and it’s heavy so you know it’s good quality, and my favourite bit-it helps with resting the meat after you’re done cooking say a whole roast in it. The heat retention of the Le Creuset roaster keeps the meat warm and lets it rest nicely so that when you slice it, things are perfectly juicy.
I roasted a bunch of vegetables in this rectangular roaster with some of our house favourite harissa and some spices, then served it with a whipped garlicky tahina sauce and some couscous. Best meal ever.
To further experiment with the roaster, I also made a proper pie in it, but without the fussy shortcrust. I did it my way. Chicken pieces, leftover beer and a surprise top. Both meals I served in the roaster itself since it’s such a looker. Let’s begin.
For the harissa: I grind and taste the following: 200g fresh red chillies, 4 garlic cloves, 2 tbsp coriander powder, 1 1/2 tbsp freshly ground cumin powder and 1 whole small Indian preserved lemons, flesh and all (Indian limbu ki achar), plus a good glug of olive oil. You can up the garlic in the recipe too, if you like.
For the vegetables, I chose to go with 2 medium-sized onions, quartered and roughly tossed into the pan with two whole pods of garlic, 2 carrots, 1 zucchini, 1 sweet potato and half a head of cauliflower. I sprinkled over 1 tsp coriander powder, 1/2 tsp of cumin powder, 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon and a 1/4 tsp of nutmeg. Generously salt the vegetables and go in there with at least 2 heaped tablespoons of the harissa. Drizzle over generously with olive oil. This is going to keep the vegetables from drying out so don’t skimp here and don’t use an expensive bottle of olive oil. Use your fingers to gently toss everything together and transfer to a hot oven that has been preheated to 200 degrees celsius. Now in the 40-45 minutes that it’s going to take for the vegetables to cook, you want to occasionally swing by and stir everything together, or baste the veggies with any olive oil pooled at the base yet again. This helps tremendously. Once the vegetables are fork tender, take them out and just like with meat, let them rest for a bit covered in the beautiful Le Creuset roaster where they’ll stay hot.
For the couscous, the rule of thumb- for every 100g couscous, use 140g water or stock. If you’re using water, don’t forget to salt the couscous. Add some chilli powder too if you like. Sometimes I’ll get adventurous and even add a tablespoon of raisins in there, so they get plump as they reconstitute in the hot stock. Simply cover the couscous with the hot water, put a lid on and forget about it for 10-15 minutes. When you uncover the lid, fork through the couscous to fluff it up.
For the garlicky tahini sauce, blitz 2 big-ish cloves of garlic with two pinches of salt. Add 1/3 cup of tahini, the juice of 1 lime and 2 tablespoons cold water in a mixer grinder. Drizzle in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to loosen this mixture slightly, or more as per how thin or how thick you’d like your dressing. I like mine to be slightly thick so I can dip the veggies into it.
Serve with freshly chopped coriander
For the second recipe, I’ve been excessively casual. Call me lazy, but if I discover a shortcut in the kitchen that works, I’ll take it. This is to save time obviously, but it’s no secret that I enjoy fast cooking. It’s the baking business that’s too fussy, too many components, and sometimes even takes days to come together. But there is a certain joy in having a dish ready from start to finish in under an hour without the need to pull at your hair. This is not to say that I think the whole meal should be a hack or a shortcut, but a few elements? Sure.
My chicken and beer pie is perfect for times when half-empty beer bottles loiter in your refrigerator and you don’t have the heart to empty them down the sink. Another great bit about this pie is that instead of using a rolled out pie crust, it uses ready samosa patti that costs very little and is a doddle to work with because all you’ve got to do is clip it open, scrunch up each wrapper and toss it in. The messier it looks, the more beautiful it will be when it cooks up in the oven.
A crisp golden top with a herby, creamy, chicken filling underneath, this could be one of the simplest hangover pies you will ever assemble. Swaps like using a bouillon cube instead of fresh chicken stock, pre-cooked pulled meat from say, a roast chicken or milk for cream are also very forgiving here.
I used a Le Creuset Rectangular Roaster for this chicken pie and for roasting the veggies too. This sturdy pan has an enamelled cast iron finish which we relate with Le Creuset French Ovens, so you know it is heavy-duty and will evenly heat across the surface of the pan. What’s better is that it will retain that heat after cooking too. So In both cases I’ve served the dishes in the roaster itself because in my opinion, it looks really pretty to tuck a little napkin under the roaster and bring to the table as it is, rustic splatter marks and all.
Chicken and Beer Pie With A Samosa Patti Crust
A crisp golden top with an herby, creamy chicken filling underneath, this could be one of the simplest hangover pies you will ever assemble. Swaps like using a bouillon cube instead of fresh chicken stock, or milk for cream are also very forgiving here.
Chicken skin-on thighs 1 kg
Chicken stock 1 litre, you can use a bouillon stock or magic cube
Onions 2, thinly sliced
Green chilli 1, slit lengthwise and finely chopped
Butter 2 tbsp, plus 3 tablespoons extra
Flour 4 tablespoons
Coriander 15g, finely chopped
Parsley 15g, finely chopped
Chives 10g, finely chopped
Frozen Samosa patti 1 packet, thawed till you can handle the pastry
Egg 1, for the egg wash, otherwise you can use a bit of milk
Salt and pepper
Start by making the chicken stock. I find that using the chicken stock cubes works wonders here. Once you have 1 litre of boiling hot water in a stock pot, dissolve the stock cube.
Heat a large saucepan that can fit the chicken pieces snugly over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, add the butter and the onions. Turn the heat down and let the onions soften in the butter for 8 whole minutes over low heat. Once the onions are soft, add the bacon and green chilli, then turn the heat up slightly, letting it render its fat and become nice and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the bacon and onion and add 800ml of the stock to the pan with all the beer, followed by the chicken thighs ensuring that the liquid covers the surface of the chicken completely. If it doesn’t, splash in some more stock.
Bring all the ingredients up to a boil and once it is boiling, turn the heat down to low, put a lid on, partially covering the pan and let the chicken thighs cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked through completely. To check this, pull some of the meat closest to the thigh bone to check if it is white. It shouldn’t have any traces of pink. You can taste it to check as well.
Once the chicken is done cooking, take the pieces out, take the skin off and pull all the meat off the bone. Decant the reserved chicken cooking liquid and in the same saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over a medium-low heat and add the flour to the butter, whisking away for 3-4 minutes to make a roux, then add the decanted liquid back to the pan bit by bit whisking it in a little at a time to make a sauce. Once all the stock has been incorporated, cook the mixture till it looks thickened. Splash in the cream, followed by the chicken, bacon and onion bits. Add all the green herbs and take it off the heat when the mixture looks lusciously thick and creamy. Season the dish with salt and pepper. Let it cool for a few minutes.
Preheat the oven at 200 degrees celsius and add this chicken filling to the baking dish. The samosa patti should have thawed by the time you reach this stage, so handling one patti at a time, crumple roughly with your fingers and top the pie with it, like little rags making sure the surface of the pie is entirely covered. Whisk the egg for the egg wash brushing the top of the entire pie, or alternatively just use milk. Transfer to the oven and bake the pie for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately out of the oven with more beer.