Cooking with Mark


A roast dinner is a labour of love and a massive production, but the results are worth the effort

A weekend roast is one of my favourite meals. As a child, it was the only day of the week we would dine as a family. I’m part of an extended family, which meant we all had our hobbies and interest. I was part of a brass band which meant we got together weekly, others had after-school clubs, this meant our schedules were all over the place.
A roast dinner is a labour of love, I used to watch my mum cut, peel and chop kilos of vegetables, and watch huge pans bubble on the stove for hours. Dinner was a very strict 1pm start, no late show excuses and certainly no-shows.
When I visit the UK, I always arranged a family get together, always based around food, so a location is chosen, and a strict start time set, again this is normally a roast.
Back in Dubai I still love to cook a weekend roast, admittedly it’s a massive production and it does get extremely hot in the kitchen, but the results are worth the effort. My friends will always clear their diaries if I suggest a weekend get-together.

A roast dinner is a labour of love, I used to watch my mum cut, peel and chop kilos of vegetables, and watch huge pans bubble on the stove for hours.

I learnt from my mom that it’s a meal that will feed the family for the week ahead, nothing goes to waste. I still maintain that philosophy, when the roasts been served, I will remove what’s left of the chicken from the bones, and they then get boiled in a pan with any leftovers to make chicken stock. Which I then freeze in small containers, so I always have good stock ready for homemade soups.

The lighter breast meat, I like to make into Caesar salad for lunch the next day. Here’s how, place some romaine lettuce in a serving bowl, for the dressing, crush a garlic clove with four tinned anchovies, add two tablespoons of grated Parmesan, five tablespoons of mayonnaise, a splash of grape vinegar and season, mix together. Place the leftover chicken on top of the lettuce, add the dressing and some toasted bread cut into small squares.
Any leftover vegetables I love to turn into a veggie omelette. Just heat some oil in a pan, saute a chopped onion, add the vegetables evenly over the pan, beat five free-range beaten eggs together then pour around the edge of the pan and top with some grated cheese. Reduce the heat and cover, when the eggs have set remove from the heat and serve.
And remaining chicken can be tossed into a stir-fry or be sealed and stored in the freezer (only do this with fresh chicken).

Keeping with the traditions of a roast, I like to spice things up. A favourite of mine is roasted chicken spiced with Shatta paste. It’s a smoked red chilli paste, I found the fiery ingredient at a local farmers’ market, chatting with the vendor, he explained that the red paste was part of a range of organic products produced by a local family-run business, founded by Dima Sharif, a Dubai-based food author. So I handed over my cash and headed home.
I decided to coat the whole chicken with the paste, giving a regular roast dinner a sweet, smoky, spicy kick. While the chicken cooked, I could smell the spices; I basted the meat regularly with the red meat juices. I had just enough time to set the table as my first dinner guests arrived you could smell the chicken as you approached my apartment. Served with some crispy roast potatoes and crushed carrots, the weekend had arrived.

Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield

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