The Sunday Roast – a British tradition
February 7, 2015

As I jet off to ski the slopes of the Italian Alps, whilst stuffing myself with yummy food (yes, expect plenty of pics!), I’m leaving you with a parting blog of another British classic – the Sunday roast.

You might remember the English breakfast post, and this is of a similar ilk. A salute to something that we sort of take for granted. I didn’t grow up having a Sunday dinner every week, and Mr M and I don’t stick to a rigorous roasting routine, but I know plenty of people who did, and do, and I completely understand why. We’ve had a recent flurry of Sunday roasts in our family, and as usual with these great British traditions, it’s about far more than the food. It’s about family time, the rest before the start of a new week, and sharing a great big bird, or massive joint of meat.

A traditional homemade Sunday roast

I’ve done a bit of research, and there’s a few options of where the Sunday roast originated. According to the reliable source that is Wikipedia, the idea of a large meal after church on a Sunday is common to most places with a Christian heritage. It’s Sundays as well that meat and dairy products are usually allowed, whereas on Fridays many Catholics and Anglicans traditionally abstain from all meat except fish.

One origin of the modern Sunday roast dates back to the industrial revolution when Yorkshire families left a cut of meat in the oven before going to church on a Sunday morning, so it would be ready when they got back. The second suggests that it dates back to medieval times, when on Sunday after church, serfs who had worked all week gathered in a field to practice their battle techniques, followed by the reward of a spit-roasted oxen.

So, that’s the history lesson done. Onto the food. Today a Sunday roast is as part of our culture as fish and chips or a full English. We’ve all got our personal favourites, our likes and dislikes, and our family traditions. Our recent foray into Sunday dinner territory has included beef (a firm favourite for us Mannings as you can imagine), and lamb, which is pretty high on the list as well, as well as a nice roasted chicken.

Roast beef - an Eat with Ellen favourite

Roast chicken fresh out of the oven

Once you’ve chosen the main event, there’s all the peripherals to consider. For us, Yorkshire puddings tend to be a given, just because we like ’em. And Mr Manning is always keen on roast and mashed potatoes. The roasties get par-boiled then popped into oil that’s been heated in the roasting pan on the hob. The hot oil seals the outside, stopping it from sticking to the pan, so when they’re roasted you have guaranteed crispy outsides, with light fluffiness inside. The rest of the veg depends on our preferences. I’m a massive fan of roasted parsnips and carrots, roasting root veg just brings out the sweetness. Mr M loves peas, as well as steamed carrots, while I quite like shredded greens or kale, lightly steam with a bit of garlic and some salt and pepper. A real winner in our household is cauliflower cheese. This is a favourite passed down from Mummy Manning to Mr Manning, the key being mustard in the cheese sauce. Seriously, try it. You won’t look back.

Roast dinner is a family favourite

And finally, it’s all about the gravy. I’ve often declared to people that I fell in love with Mr Manning for his gravy. This might be a bit extreme, but it really is that good. It’s something else he picked up from Mummy M – the addition of meat juices and Bovril being vital to the recipe. You end up with a nice, thick, rich, meaty gravy, the perfect way to bring all your favourite roast dinner elements together.

Family roast dinners

You probably complain at the end, you’ve eaten too much, you shouldn’t have had that extra slice of beef, or another roast potato (I usually hate myself for draining the gravy boat). And then you remember it’s a Sunday dinner so you’re kind of allowed. After all, it’s only once a week 😉

You’ve heard mine, but what’s your favourite roast dinner? Any firm favourites, family delights, unusual additions? I’d love to know, so drop me a comment with your Sunday dinner must-haves.