Otherwise known as the cockney critic or Mr Happy Days, Jerry Mullan’s culinary journey has been as diverse as the countries he’s lived and cooked in, whether it was running Charity events at St Paul’s Cathedral or Hog roasts at Hampton Court, he’s always smiling. Currently, Head Chef of an award-winning West London gastropub, his influences and passion are irresistible whether on a plate or being read.
The traditional Sunday roast, a bit like Marmite, either you love making it or you don’t. As basic as the concept is, meat and veg with some gravy, so many things can go wrong. And in this era of food, we like to jazz things up a bit. The basic concept of meat, veg and gravy has evolved into something magnificent. With each chef and cook adding their own twist to it.
After several years of serving roast dinners, I’ve seen just about every mistake known to man (or women), from flat over Yorkshire puds, lumpy gravy, watery gravy, mushy veg. I even saw someone put beetroot into a gravy once, which was not a good idea. But as my old girl would say, it’s always good to make mistakes as long as we learn from them, and I definitely did, so here are some top tips I have picked up over the years, to produce the roast dinner that will make Aunt Bessie rethink things.
With any meat, I always cook it with a little veg stock to keep It from drying out, it also absorbs the flavours from the meat juices. I use 1/2 a cube for 1 litre of hot water, this goes straight into the gravy when the meat is done.
Top Tip – wash your veg before peeling, and then throw all your peelings into your stock with the meat
Beef / Lamb
Firstly, season the meat well and seal off in a very hot pan. I like to use red wine in the stock for both of these meats, and it tastes lovely.
Chicken / Turkey
I cook with white wine in my stock, almost poaching it. To crisp the skin, uncover 20 minutes before done, season with salt, and finish in the oven uncovered.
Crackling is a tricky one, I’ve seen it all from hairdryers to leaving it in the sun. So far the traditional Chinese method works best for me. Pierce the belly all over and pour boiling water on the top, and leave in the fridge overnight before cooking. Simple trick but does the job, and if it’s not broken, why fix it?
The veg with a Sunday roast is as important as any other element to this dish, so the veg deserves just as much attention. With the variety of vegetables from all over the world, we are spoilt for choice. I’ve used beetroot infused with tarragon, white wine leeks, pancetta and Brussel Sprouts, there is just so much you can do, but whatever you do, it needs to be done well.
Top Tip – I always slightly under boil my carrots and parsnips, and finish them off in the oven with a nice bit of maple syrup, naughty! Nothing worse than water on the plate from the veg, am I right? After draining, put the veg in a pan and cook off any remaining water. Plus it’s a great way to keep them hot if you’ve done them too early.
What an amazing vegetable, eaten by more than a billion people in the world, and crops roughly 300 metric tons of these amazing gems. Potatoes can be boiled, poached, roasted, fried, air fried and go with so many things. That’s why the humble spud is crowned as the most common thing on a roast dinner, and some might say the most important. I personally use Maris pipers for my roasts. The biggest tip I can give you is they cook quicker and go very fluffy and mushy very quickly so try not to overcook when you are parboiling them. Potatoes are like toddlers, they absorb everything you feed them, so why not make it interesting, I always have the famous Jerry Basics of garlic, thyme and rosemary.
In my mum’s eyes, it is a crime not to have crispy fluffy potatoes, you will not hear the end of it until the following Sunday, when you finally get it right. So to ensure they are cooked right, once drained give them a shake in a colander or strainer, if you haven’t got one then no worries, just poke and lift with a fork, it does take a little extra time but well worth the smile on your mum’s faces when they taste them.
Top Tip – Make sure the oil is hot when putting the potatoes on the tray. This will help crisp them, as cold oil will absorb into the potato first before getting hot enough to cook.
Biggest Tip for a spud, LET THEM COOK. Every-time you open the oven, the temperature drops and slows the cooking down as it will cool the oil. Check-in after 15 minutes to turn your spuds and then again 15 minutes later.
A lot of people are afraid of these amazing little delicacies, but you shouldn’t, they are very easy as long as you follow the simple rules. The recipe is all the same quantity in volume not weight. So I would use one cup of eggs, one cup of flour, and one cup of milk. Easy right? Before cooking, leave the mixture out to reach room temperature, this is the biggest secret to my extra-large yorkies.
LET THEM COOK – don’t open the door until the timer goes off otherwise they deflate.
Last but certainly not least. Get the fat or dripping from the meat and use that to cook the Yorkshires in instead of oil, this will give you the best flavour possible for these little northern beauties.
The maker or breaker of things, I’ve tasted all sorts, from a tom yam style (Water Broth) to being to salty, and have even seen bright purple, some things should just not be tried.
I always start the gravy the same for every dish. Full of favour, has that little tang that makes you go oohh naughty, and very quick and easy to do. I use a dash of soy sauce, white wine vinegar, and Worcester sauce. Cook it off until there’s a tspn left, then I add my wine and cook until half of it has gone (or reduce it by half as you might hear in the kitchen). Then I add the stock of whatever meat I’m using, and then thicken by one of three methods, make a roux (flour and butter), use cornflour or arrowroot.
Beef – Dash of sherry vinegar at the end Chicken – Oregano and Marjoram work nicely
Pork – Use apple juice instead of red wine in the recipe
Lamb – Couple spoonful’s of mint sauce in the gravy works beautifully
Duck – (I know but it is the 21st Century) A nice shot of port instead of the red wine.
Top Tip – If using cornflour, always, Always, ALWAYS mix it with cold water first. I’m not here to teach anyone how to suck eggs, but I have found that it’s one of those things, that if no one has told you, you don’t know.
I hope these help with your Sunday roasts and would love to see some pics, everyone. Send them in to email@example.com or use the hashtag #THDFood.
If you have any questions or particular struggles in the kitchen, let me know and we will see what we can do.
Enjoy and Happy Sunday people!
Find Jerry on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/happidayz777/