The Good Old Fashioned British Sunday Roast

Roast Chicken
Roast Chicken

Let’s talk about the Sunday roast. Funny thing about true indigenous British cuisine is how sparse and rare it is. Even that great traditional British dish of Fish and Chips is a Portuguese/Jewish import apparently.

We do other people’s cuisine like Indian and Cantonese pretty well and you won’t starve with Italian, French and so on restaurants abounding. There are some niche things: we do meat and fish really well. Lamb, beef, cod, haddock, mussels, lobster. We do some decent cheeses whether it’s Cheddar, Lancashire, Caerphilly and so on. We have some nice faux Bries and Stilton or similar of course.

I think the one dish that’s survived the centuries is the Sunday Roast. Take a slab of meat, chicken or duck, throw it in the oven, cook roast potatoes, some vegetables, probably carrots, some greens like cabbage or Brussels sprouts and something like celeriac, swede or parsnips. Chicken skin I like powdered with paprika, dried garlic, salt and pepper. Pork crackling with just salt. If your crackling doesn’t crisp up, at the end, separate it from the meat, crank up the oven to 230C, put on a tray and roast some more. Beef might be dusted with salt and dry mustard.

Don’t forget stuffing. You can get really creative with this.

The second most important part is roast potatoes. I’ve wrestled with many minor variations. First up, choose a potato variety. I favour King Edwards. They have a lovely flavour. Pretty much any variety will do though. Maris Piper, Rudolph, some random Welsh white or red should be fine. Peel and parboil for 10-15 minutes. While that’s going on, put fat into a roasting tray and pre-warm in the oven at 200C.

A big question is what fat to use. Recently I’ve been using a mix of butter and olive oil, but you can just as easily use duck or goose fat or rapeseed oil. After the potatoes are par-boiled, drain them and let them dry. Give them a good shake to fluff up the edges. Take the roasting tray out of the oven, add the potatoes, cover with oil and put back in the oven. They should take between 45 minutes to an hour to emerge as fluffy, golden goodness awaiting sea salt.

THE most important part is the gravy. Hopefully you’ve made the stock yourself with onion, garlic, carrots, celery and any other vegetable trimmings. Or just use a good quality stock cube or stock pot. Add wine of course, and some soy sauce for umami. Take the tray you roasted your meat in, hopefully there’s lots of fat that escaped the meat while cooking. Add flour to make a roux. Cook that a little, then slowly add possibly more wine, then the stock you made until you have nice thick gravy oozing with flavour.

Don’t forget salt. Salt makes everything better. And let the meat rest! 10-15 minutes will let the meat relax and reabsorb some juice. Or emit more juice you can put in the gravy.

Serve everything up, drown in tasty gravy and enjoy! Give credit to Maillard where it’s due and enjoy the tastiness.