Lisa’s Letters Home: The Great British Roast

Lisa’s Letters Home: The Great British Roast

In my dreams, I am that parent that produces a fabulous, nutritionally-balanced meal every night with the entire family round the table. I also envision no fighting, no shouting, no throwing unwanted green vegetables across the table, and perhaps a scantily clad fireman giving me a backrub while I enjoy my dinner. But this ain’t gonna happen. (Especially the fireman.)

What does happen, every weekend, is the great British Sunday roast. One of the things I love about this country is the way it holds on to its traditions dearly, like afternoon tea, a night down the pub, and well-written television programmes that don’t go on for 17 years. The Sunday roast is, hands down, my favourite adopted tradition.

We’ve done it so many times now that we can throw together a roast dinner without a second thought. I remember our first few roast dinners, which usually involved quite a lot of panic and burnt things. The secret to a great roast is all in the timing, which gets easier with experience. Meat goes in first (after it’s been on the counter coming up to room temperature to it cooks more evenly), and rests under a tent of foil while everything else gets cooked. Gravy is made from the pan drippings. Roast potatoes and roasted carrots take about 45 minutes or so in a very hot oven, and Yorkshire puddings can be made ahead of time. Throw in some broccoli and peas at the last minute (microwaved because we’re classy like that), and we’re good to go.

It’s not just about eating the food (and drinking wine), it’s about the anticipation of what Sunday brings. It’s my one lazy morning of the week – my husband usually makes us a big English fry up for breakfast then takes Jack off to rugby while the girls and I stay in pyjamas for several hours. Then I take care of the roast dinner later on in the afternoon after we’ve taken care of a few errands. I look forward to the roast potatoes the most, especially the extra crunchy bits, most of which I steal from the pan before it hits the table.

It marks a slow, lazy end to a long, busy week. It’s the one meal we’re all sure to be at the table at the same time, which is a rarity in a family of five. I love how thrilled the kids get about their favourite meal of the week, but I especially love that in their eyes, it’s my specialty. Mummy’s roast dinner is something to get excited about, and that’s a really lovely feeling.

I’ve decided not to do a recipe this week, but to end this with a few Sunday roast tips:

  • Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, drain them VERY well, then “chuff them up”. This means you chuck them back in the pan and either using a lid or the colander on top, shake it like a Polaroid picture and get them nice and fluffy. The fluffy exterior is what gives you the crunchy bits. Add them to smoking hot oil (i.e. heat the oil in the roasting tin for about 5 minutes before adding the potatoes) and roast them in a fairly hot oven. If you can roast them in duck or goose fat, all the better. The flavour will be out of this world.
  • In my opinion, the best Yorkshire pud recipes involve a truckload of eggs. I don’t bother getting all the lumps out, letting the batter rest, or any other fussy hooha. I think the secret is the number of eggs (I use 3 large/US extra large) for 12 puds, and like the potatoes, the fat should be smoking hot when the batter goes in. And don’t open the oven to check them – peer through the window.
  • The meat doesn’t have to be expensive. We love rib of beef but it’s incredibly pricey. A good shoulder of pork or shoulder of lamb or brisket is packed with flavour and so much cheaper. It requires lower and slower cooking, but it’s worth it.

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