The history of our Great British Sunday roast stretches back to (at least) the 15th century. It is the highlight of many a Brit’s week; a time when the family can sit together and catch up after a long week. The ultimate of all roast dinners is eaten on Christmas day; often comprising of a selection of meats and ALL the trimmings, from stuffing and sausage meat to veg, roast spuds and numerous condiments.
Many argue that the roast dates back to medieval times, however, we can say for sure that this meal was being eaten during King Henry VII’s reign – the Yeoman Warders (ceremonial royal guards of the Tower of London, charged with the safekeeping of Her Majesty’s crown jewels) were given the name “beefeater”, as they would dine on roasted beef after church service on a Sunday.
The roast dinner we know today may well have developed in Yorkshire during the industrial age. Consider, for example, the Yorkshire pudding, which is a staple addition to a beef roast. The Sunday roast is essentially a “meat and three veg” dish and the cooking the meat is the ‘make or break’ of the whole meal. Tender and juicy; you’ve got a hit, overcooked and dry; not so much… Each meat has its traditional accompaniments:
Beef + Yorkshire pudding + Horseradish sauce
Chicken/Turkey + Stuffing + Cranberry sauce
Pork + Crackling + Apple sauce
Lamb + Mint sauce
Popular vegetables include roast potatoes and parsnips, swede, carrots, green beans, Brussel sprouts (the veg that splits the nation) and cabbage with plenty of butter. You’ll also need lashings of tasty meat gravy – I like to drown my dish! Modern versions of the roast dinner that you can find is many a bistro-style pub include creamy potato gratin, leeks, caramelised red cabbage, honey-glazed carrots and mediterranean vegetables. Vegetarians can also have their roast with fish – not a protein that would have been eaten with this meal in the past.
In many households, the tradition of this weekly family meal has been lost. It’s a great shame to think that many of us have ditched the dining room table in favour of TV dinners on our laps and stripped meal times of chatting, sharing, laughing and discussing while we eat. Take the time this week to sit down for a delicious roast – you’ll remember what you’re missing, plus you’ll have leftovers to last you the week!