I was planning to do just a recipe post of roast chicken and vegetables as we have this dish every Sunday night. But Sunday night is marked by several occasions for me. First is, this is the only meal that is repeated in our house every week. Second is it is currently the only night we have set as an early dinner so we can eat with the little man. He’s not much of a meat/vegetable eater so we’re trying to encourage him to eat more, have better table manners, achieve world peace etc etc. And finally the reason you are all here, it’s Downton Abbey night.
Now just so you don’t get the wrong impression, I really don’t plan my meals around TV. In fact Downton is only the TV I watch, apart from the occasional Doc Martin or Death in Paradise, oh and maybe a little Homeland, but I digress.
So I had taken some rather rushed pictures of the roast last weekend, but as it was night time and I had the lights on they were really awful. At 6.30 I felt I couldn’t keep the little man waiting any longer, his usual dinner time is between 5-6…anyway the pictures were rubbish, although Lord Grantham thinks it is all right (see above).
As I sat down to watch Downton later that night, they were eating a roast. So I thought I’d do some awesome photoshoping to give you these Downton Roast Chicken pics. And I’d also get you to think about a having a Downton dinner every Sunday.
What is a Downton dinner? Well, lets think about it. All the food eaten at Downton Abbey would either be grown on their land, or by their tenants or Mrs Patmore would buy it from a local supplier. It is likely that all the food consumed at these lovely dinners would have been raised or grown within a 100km radius.
Their chickens would be real free range. In the way most of us visualise free range, you know chickens roaming around on rolling hills, with not another chook in sight…instead of the likely scenario where your free range chook could be sitting in a shed with hundreds of other chickens and has never been outdoors.
The free range chickens I buy from the farmers markets I know have a good existence, but if I miss the markets then we buy a free-range or organic chicken from our local supermarket. I don’t like buying the free range chickens much from the big supermarkets as the free range boundaries are really pushed to their limits. I know it’s not really feasible that a chook I pay $8 for has had an excellent, free range existence.
For example, did you realise that in Australia and NZ there are no binding laws that define what free range actually means (Source: Sustainable Table). As such, your “Free Range” chicken could have spent its entire life crammed up indoors, never finding that little pophole that leads outside.
The US is in a similar situation, as the USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time an animal must have access to the outside. So your “Free Range” chook could have also spent its entire life indoors (Source: USDA).
What’s a girl to do to source an ethical bird, free of hormones just like the Grantham’s? Well, your local farmers markets are your best bet. You can make sure their birds come from proper free range producers by asking some questions, and you can check the links at these ethical sites:
Now you have you real free range chicken, let’s get cooking on your Downton Dinner. Try to only use fresh ingredients from your state/county/territory/region. I’m pretty sure Mrs Patmore never got asparagus from Mexico (as seen recently in Australia in my local supermarket!). The recipe below is for two adults and one little person. We always have ample left over chicken for salads, sandwiches or rice paper rolls the next day. And don’t forget to keep your carcass for stock.
- 1 free range or organic chicken
- 2 white potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks
- 1 large organic sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil (or at least a few good lugs)
- 1 organic zucchini
- ½ head broccoli, cut into chunks
- 2 organic carrots, sliced any way you want
- 1 cup organic frozen peas
- lemon juice (optional)
- gravy (optional)
- Preheat oven to 200°C
- Place the white potatoes in some water in a pan and bring to the boil.
- Drain potatoes and keep the water.
- Pour the grapeseed oil into an ovenproof baking dish and pop into the oven to heat for a few minutes. Bring it out and put in your chicken and potatoes for 20 minutes.
- After this, turn oven down to 175°C and throw in the zucchini whole.
- Depending on the size of your chicken it will take about 1 - 1½ hours to cook through. The potatoes and zucchini are fairly flexible and can be cooked more or less than this.
- Test your chicken by piercing the skin. If the juices run dry, pick out the chicken, place on a carving board and cover with a tea towel or foil. Also put a tea towel underneath the carving board to stop the juices running.
- Now heat up the water you saved from the potatoes and throw in the carrots for 3 minutes once it is boiling. Then throw in the broccoli and peas for another 3 minutes or so. Do not put the lid on!
- You can then use this water again for a gravy or keep it for vegetable stock.
- Serve up. I eat my broccoli, carrots and peas with a squeeze of lemon juice, but the English husband still demands gravy... so Downton.