Play Hard

Sunday’s meal planning secret – and a fresh twist on the classic roast

As part of her 7-day meal planning series, HLN’s Dotty shows us how to spruce up the old chicken dinner (and thankfully it involves cauliflower cheese)

Written by High Life North
Published 16.01.2021

By Dorothy Miles

After an uneventful Saturday, I’m determined to make Sunday a little more productive! Up, showered and dressed straight away, I’ve done another load of laundry and the dishwasher before breakfast. It’s eggs again for breakfast – scrambled this time – with a mug of tea and some orange juice.

Despite the weather, I’m already planning ahead to the spring and what I’ll grow in my garden. I spend an hour outside, clearing some dead leaves, weeds and ivy that has encroached onto my patch and cleaning some of the small pots that I’ll use for my seedlings in a few weeks. It’s too cold to stay out for long, and the ground is so boggy there’s not much else I can do, so I head back inside to warm up with a cup of tea. I get the seeds out and do a little audit, making a list of what we have, what we want to grow and when and where the plants will be sown. I order some more seeds (far too many, actually – we’ll never have space for them all).

I spend the afternoon testing some recipes for upcoming Supper Clubs and make dinner at the same time using the legs from the chicken that I portioned on Friday. Tonight’s dinner is a Sunday Roast but without all the trimmings. As much as I love a full roast, it’s just too much effort for two people, so I take the essence of it – roast meat, some potatoes and some veg – and scale it back to make it just what I fancy (and what I have in my fridge!).

Serves two with leftover cauliflower cheese

Ingredients:

For the cauliflower cheese:

  • ½ large cauliflower (approx 500g)
  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • 70g cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper

For the potatoes:

  • 2-3 large potatoes
  • Salt
  • Sunflower oil

For the chicken and cabbage:

  • 2 chicken legs
  • 1/3 small red cabbage
  • ½ red onion (leftover from Friday)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 50ml red wine (optional) or 50ml water
  • Salt

Method:

 1. I begin with the cauliflower because this can be made ahead and can sit until I’m ready to bake it. This cauliflower cheese uses roasted cauliflower instead of boiled for an even more delicious dish that doesn’t have that watery swill at the bottom. I preheat the oven to gas 7/220c/200 fan and chop the head of cauliflower into florets. Don’t waste the stalk – trim off any very large leaves and simply chunk up the stalk into thick coins. The smaller inner leaves are delicious too. I toss the florets, stalks and leaves in a little oil and season with salt. Into the oven they go for 20-30 minutes until tender.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt 25g unsalted butter in a pan. Once it’s foaming, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour smells toasty and looks a nutty brown colour. Gradually begin to add the milk, a little at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition to ensure it’s fully incorporated.

3. Once all the milk is added, you should be left with a thick white sauce. Turn off the heat and season with about 1/8 tsp salt and a really good grinding of black pepper. Once the cauliflower is tender, transfer it to a small ovenproof baking dish and pour the white sauce over the top. I grate over the cheese and set aside until I need it later.

4. I peel the potatoes and chop them into big chunks. Into a pan of cold water and on to boil. I boil them until they’re just on the edge of being cooked; there’s still some resistance when I insert my knife in the centre, but not too much.

5. Drain the potatoes through a colander then gently shake the colander to encourage the rough, fluffy edges to appear for an extra crispy crust. I leave them in the colander on the draining board.

6. I pour about 2 tbsp sunflower oil onto a baking tray and pop it in the oven, which is still hot from the cauliflower. After about 10 minutes, I remove the hot oil and carefully place my potatoes onto the tray, using tongs to turn them in the hot oil. A quick scattering of salt and they go into the oven to transform into golden beauties.

7. The chicken and cabbage is made in one pot. I hack another 1/3 off my cabbage and shred it into tendrils. I grab the remaining ½ onion (leftover from my coleslaw on Friday too) and slice that into thin half moons. I scatter both over the base of a small baking tray and season with salt.

8. I add a bay leaf and the red wine. I nestle the chicken legs on top and season the skin very lightly with some more salt. After my potatoes have been in for 20 minutes, I turn them and add the tray of chicken. I set my timer for 40 minutes and forget about it.

9. After 40 minutes, the chicken is golden and crisp on the top and soft and melting into the cabbage on the bottom. The cabbage is soft and a little charred in places, with a delicious chicken-y sauce coating it. The potatoes look wonderful too, but they’ll stay in the oven quite happily for a little longer.

10. I let the chicken rest while the cauliflower cheese goes in for around 10 minutes, just until the cheese melts and turns golden and the cauliflower heats through.

I serve everything in its roasting trays so that we can help ourselves. It’s delicious. A Sunday well spent!

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