Thursday, May 17, 2012

Meal One: Mother's Day lunch, part one - Roast Chicken, Roast Potatoes and Glazed Carrots

So it was Mother's Day coming up, and both my own mother and my husband's were coming to lunch.
So I decided that this would be my first official Heston meal.

Heston Blumenthal : Meal 1.

Menu -

Roast Chicken (Heston Blumenthal at home)
Roast Potatoes (Heston Blumenthal at home)
Glazed Carrots (Heston Blumenthal at home)
Peas (frozen, my freezer)

     followed by

Liquid Center Chocolate Puddings (Heston Blumenthal at home)
with Salted Caramel Icecream.

Now, I'm only go to cover the Mains in this post, with the pudding to come in the next blog post.

Getting organized

So I realized that with so many components on the go, I'd need to make a a list. I ended up with a list for the fridge that listed everything I needed to do, and when, along with the various oven temperature shifts.  It was a good thing, because this is what made me realise I would need to be up around 7am. On a Sunday. Mother's Day Sunday. See the sacrifice there? I'm such a martyr to the cause! :)

If anyone following along wants a copy, let me know and I'll send it to you! There was a couple of minor adjustments required from the recipe, mostly because the potatoes needed a different temperature to the chicken so some small fudging was required, but it didn't appear to affect the outcome.

Brining the chicken overnight

So this  is something I've not done before - brining. This is basically soaking meat in salty water to increase the moisture content of the product so when you roast it, it doesn't dry out. I'd heard of doing this for Christmas turkeys, but never actually tried the technique.

Not wanting to use a tub that had been used for non-food related things (ewww) I went and bought a new one. (It now has FOOD written in large letters along the side).

I mixed up the brine solution a litre at a time. Heston suggests using a 8% solution - which is 80g of salt per litre of water. Now, it turns out, to fill a tub big enough to fit a chicken, you need a lot of water and thus, a lot of salt. More than I had counted on. I ran out of salt. But, my calculations put the finished salt levels within Heston's brining guidelines (which are 6-12% solutions) I ended up around 65g per L.

The chicken then gets soaked over night. Here is my water bath reclining chicken getting ready for her night nap.

Morning! Chicken prep for roasting.

So then the chicken gets taken out, rinsed...
 and patted dry.

Get the vegetables ready to go in the pan, along with some extra chicken wings. I wasn't entirely sure about the purpose of the chicken wings - possibly there to ensure the resulting  sauce you make has good flavour.

You cut the wing tips and parsons nose off, and then stuff the cavity with a whole lemon and fresh thyme.

Smother the whole thing with an obscene amount of butter (this meal is not diet friendly) and then into the oven at a really low temperature (90degrees) for about 3-4 hours. (Just as an aside - see my awesome new ceramic roasting dish I got for Mothers' Day? Love it.)


Roast potatoes, Glazed carrots

While that's going on, time to prep the spuds. I couldn't get the potato type he recommended, so these are royal blues I think. Peel your potatoes, and quarter them. Then rinse them underwater for about 5 minutes. This washes off all the starch. Apparently starch makes for bad cooked potatoes (it makes them go soft instead of crunchy - who knew?)

You then boil them until they are just about falling apart. Then treating them more gently than a drunken housemate, carefully pull them out into a colander with a slotted spoon. If you broke your slotted spoon last week making stock, just use a big spoon and drain off the water carefully, let them sit drying out in the colander.

To get the carrots ready, just peel and slice thickly and stick them to one side - you don't need those until later.

Chicken again..

Check your chicken after the requisite time (this was about 11am for me, after an 8am start).

The chicken breast internal temp should be (according to Heston) 60 degrees. Mine got to 66, so clearly it was ready. It gets to sit out on the bench resting.


This works because now you crank the temp up so you can cook the pre-cooked potatoes. The pan and oil (lots of oil!) goes in to preheat, and then you pop in the potatoes to the preheated oil and coat them. Then into the oven.

Chicken - sauce

So  now you take the chicken pan and brown off those chicken wings and carrot.

Add a cup of white wine. (This was just inexpensive stuff I had in the fridge for cooking). And a cup of brown chicken stock that you slaved over the week before. (*slaving for home made stock optional). Get it reducing.


Stick your carrots on. You cook these with (a lot of) butter and (a little) sugar on the stove top for about 30 minutes. No water. Heston noted (at the Heston Live show) that if you cook them in water some of the flavour gets lots in the water, whereas this doesn't happen with butter. 

Back to your newly reduced sauce...

The book says to "reduce to a sauce". I found that difficult to gauge. I mean, a runny sauce is still a sauce, right?  I reduced it until it was a nice brown colour. About half the liquid I think?

Now reduced, you strain it  through a sieve.

Chop fresh parsley and tarragon. Mmm. Smells good.

Chicken goes back in the pan (which is still hot because of the all that reducing) and the oven gets cranked up to 240. This is to brown the chicken. To avoid burning the potatoes, I moved them to the very bottom of the oven.

I forgot to take a picture but while the chicken is browning you heat up the sauce and add the chopped herbs.

All ready to serve...

we have carrots ready..

roast potatoes drained on paper towel to stop them being oily..

and a roasted and browned chicken!



Note the breast meat, taken off and carved against the grain, "to make it seem more tender".

Things I learned from this recipe:

  • The timing is really important to write out - it means you don't stress out with all the little jobs you need to do. (You even get time to stop and have morning tea!)
  • The sauce was amazing! I really do think the stock brought this into its own, and the fresh tarragon I think was critical. 
  • Cooking the chicken just a little longer might be good (see below under guest opinions)
  • Brining is awesome. The finished meat was slightly salty, but only so as to not need extra seasoning. Meat was nice and moist.



This really was very tasty. The carrots were delicious, the roast potatoes just like good restaurant ones! Heehee. I do think this was one of the nicest roasts I've ever made.

My only reservation really is that I am starting to think that it really is a case of quadruple the amount of fat/butter/oil you would consider putting in a dish and it all becomes delicious. Not great for every day fare, surely.

And I do have to say, the homemade stock did seem to make a huge difference in the finished sauce. While I don't think I'd want to be making that all the time (unless maybe I worked from home) it certainly lifted a 'tasty' sauce into 'seriously good' territory.

Guest opinions:

Some guests (husband and mother in law) found some of the chicken a little on the pink side. I think I would consider cooking the breast to 70 degrees, as at 66 it was still a little pink, with visible veins (though only on the meat right next to the carcass).

That said, all guests stated they enjoyed it all - commenting on the chicken, said the potatoes were "really lovely" and much appreciation for the glazed carrots from my husband (they are his favourite).

I forgot to ask for a score out of ten. Oops.

Next post - liquid center chocolate puddings... and then my experience from seeing Heston Live!


  1. A lot of time involved, but looks and sounds like it was worth the effort. Good to see photos as well and yes, I am going to try it. The Brown chicken stock didn't find that oily or did you skim it before hand?


  2. The chicken stock (see previous post) has no fat in it when you're done. There was a little fat (some skimmed) in the sauce when I was done from the pan juices, but not much in actual use. It certainly didn't taste oily.

  3. This sounds like a very satisfying endeavour, all round. Satisfying prep, satisfying cooking, satisfying eating and satisfying comments!

    I'm glad you did this for Mother's Day and enjoyed your day! :-)

    I will try the potatoes and carrots. The chicken? That's D's department... ;-)

  4. I was enviously looking at your roast potatoes lamenting that mine never go golden like yours!. I will definetly be trying the pre-heated oil method next time.

  5. Regarding doneness: unfortunately, you cooked it well, but your guests have preconceived ideas of doneness which are wrong. Hard to fix that though.

  6. Opinions, much like taste, differ and are neither right or wrong. I'm really, really lucky that my better half understands that if I'm asked for feedback on a dish she wants 'my' feedback not 'my feedback filtered through notions of normal'. I'm also really lucky that she knows a negative comment is no reflection of her effort, skills or methods but simply my own tastes.

  7. um where did you post the recipe for roast chicken? It is not just the roast chicken, I also could not find recipes for other dishes too. I cannot find it any where. All I can see is magnificent photos. It would be nice if there are recipes along with the photos, I would like to make these dishes. Thanks!!!

    1. Hello Anon! This recipe, and many of the others listed, come from the Heston Blumenthal at Home cookbook. I don't have permission to reprint the recipe, and thus can't provide it here on my blog. Wherever the recipe I am cooking IS available online, I ensure to include a link. (For example, the flowerpot tiramisu recipe has a link). Sorry to disappoint - but I'd certainly encourage you to check out the book - I know my local library has a copy, maybe check there?