It’s an unexpected and wonderful pleasure when you get to eat a familiar food cooked much better than you’ve ever had it. All my life I’ve been eating roast chicken, and for a few years I’ve been roasting roast chicken, and it’s been nice, a favourite food, a delicious smell. I’ve always done it very very basically, like my mother did: stick the chicken in the oven, baste, roast some potatoes, add trimmings, eat. I didn’t really give much thought to fancier ways of doing it: it was lovely anyway.

At Christmas my aunt bought me a book from, called Roast Chicken and other Stories, by Simon Hopkinson. His way of cooking chicken was only a tad more complicated than my mother’s, so I thought I’d give it a go – it involved buttering the chicken before roasting, adding lemon and herbs, and roasting in three stages. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly from the book – different herbs, and he involves cooking wine somewhere which I was out of.

Within about three bites my wife was saying “This is the best roast chicken I’ve ever had”. Within about two I was agreeing. The recipe added so little to my usual way of doing things and the difference – in the gravy especially – was amazing: so tender, so meaty, so much flavour. (Oddly enough it didn’t really smell of much, which made me a bit nervous getting it out the oven.) I had no idea chicken could taste so fantastic, I had no idea I could cook it so well. Not that it’s enhanced my sense of myself as a cook – quite the opposite, it’s made me much more aware of the huge effects minor recipe tweaks can have. But blimey it was satisfying.