How to make the perfect roast dinner, as revealed by Lily Allen’s mum

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This hearty meal is one that’s been a constant throughout singer and author Lily Allen’s life, so we asked her mum exactly how to nail a Sunday Roast, from crispy roast poatoes to keeping a chicken juicy. 

“My kids get very militant about roast dinners. They get cross if their favourite thing isn’t on the table,” says Alison Owen, Lily’s mum. “Lily really likes bread sauce with chicken. And something cheesy – cauliflower or leeks.”

Owen is talking to Stylist in her London kitchen while cooking a roast – at Lily’s request. It’s a place where the family, which also includes Lily’s brother and Game Of Thrones star Alfie, gather regularly. “I usually cook for a minimum of eight. As soon as anyone knows you’re cooking a roast they start piling in.”

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For the film producer – who is currently working on the big-screen adaptation of Caitlin Moran’s novel How To Build A Girl starring Beanie Feldstein, and has also produced films including Saving Mr Banks, The Other Boleyn Girl and Suffragette – preparing a meal is a way to relax. 

“I love cooking, it’s very therapeutic. I always like appreciation, and cooking is a good thing to be appreciated for. But I don’t like it when people complain – I have been known to chuck things out the window. Lily’s dad Keith once complained about something I’d made and I said, ‘Well, if you don’t like it, that’s where it’s going.’ He never complained again.” 

We’re very confident that if you follow Owen’s tips on how to cook the perfect roast dinner, it won’t be going anywhere near the window. Turn over for her guide to your best roast yet.      

Add citrus to your meat

 “I usually cook chicken – no other meat is ever as popular, plus it’s the easiest and cheapest. My friend, TV chef Andi Oliver, says she learned this from me: put wedges of lemon under the skin when you’re cooking it to keep the moisture in. Then I’ll put onion, lemon and a handful of herbs inside the chicken and slather it in butter.” 

The secret to a perfect roast potato

“I heat up goose fat in the tray then when it’s really hot add parboiled potatoes and chuck a whole head of garlic in. Then I use a bit of a cheat from Tesco: roast potato seasoning. It’s a mix of semolina, salt and pepper – you shake it all over and it makes them all nice and crunchy.”

Eat your greens

I like my greens sautéed with onion and garlic. The trick with something like rainbow chard is to cut the stalks off and soften them with the onion, then add in all the leaves. Today I’m using ready-chopped onions because I happened to have them in the fridge – plus I’m wearing mascara, so it won’t run.  

Cookware is important 

“When Lily first became famous about 12 years ago I was cooking something with her that was filmed and we were using a pink Le Creuset pot. I was worried about what people would think about me, but all they cared about was the Le Creuset – I still have that pot now.”

Sauces take time

“I don’t use measurements. I tend to wing it with a roast – but if I’m baking it’s different, it’s more like a science. I melt butter, add plain flour and mustard powder at the same time. Then slowly, slowly add in the milk and then the cheese. I don’t tend to use a whisk, it’s just a very slow absorbing process.”

Caramelise your carrots 

“It’s contentious whether you cut carrots into batons or circles – I prefer a baton but I don’t always have time. I just wash and scrape them, then parboil. Then I reduce them with butter, honey and a tiny bit of the cooking water so it caramelises. It’s not particularly healthy but it is delicious.”

Don’t be afraid to cheat

“I have made my own Yorkshire puddings many times, but everybody seems to like Aunt Bessie’s just as much as my homemade ones, so why bother? If my mum was coming over I’d do homemade ones. I learnt to cook from her. You start with baking and my mum is the best pastry maker in the whole world.”

Finish it properly

“Lily is the gravy maker, but if I haven’t got her I’ll do a French roast. Pour hot water and wine – if there’s an open bottle – in the roasting tin when the meat first goes in the oven. It keeps it moist and gives you a good base for the gravy. Then after I’ll reduce the liquid, add a bit of cornflour, redcurrant jelly and a bit more wine.”

Images: Nato Welton

We’re celebrating Stylist’s 10th birthday in 2019 – and to honour the occasion, we’ve asked 10 of our favourite women to guest edit an issue of the magazine. Lily Allen is our third star guest editor; see everything from her special issue here

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