Tender, succulent meat; crunchy potatoes and classic Yorkshire puds… a Sunday Roast is what tourists write home about and ex-pats get nostalgic for. It’s up there with pubs, the Queen and afternoon tea as the most quintessentially British thing you can get… and we can’t get enough of them.
Back in medieval times, masters would treat their servants on a Sunday to oxen roasted on a spit. Roast beef was popularised during the reign of King Henry VII, who would have his royal guard served the dish after church, hence the nickname The Beefeaters.
Later, in the 1700s, families would place their joint of meat and root veg into the oven before church, so that when they returned dinner was ready and waiting. Poorer families would even drop theirs off at the local bakery to cook in the bread ovens during the service.
Yorkshire pudding was originally served as a filling starter dish, with plenty of gravy, in the hope that everyone would be too full to eat much meat, which was expensive.
Potatoes are now such a central part of a modern roast that it’s hard to believe that they weren’t eaten much at all in Britain until the late 1700s. First brought over to Europe from Peru by the Spanish in 1536, they only started to be widely used in around 1795 to combat food shortages.
A fresh twist
It’s easy to add your own take on the traditional dish to reflect your heritage, culture and tastes. Try mixing up some marinades for your meat, shaking up the seasoning on your veg and switching out the spuds for sweet potatoes.
For a Moroccan flavour, marinate lamb overnight in yoghurt, sweet paprika, cumin and chilli flakes. Add a side dish of roasted carrots with lemon and harissa paste or steam your broccoli with hazelnuts and sprinkle grated goat’s cheese on top.
Lamb shanks are a great alternative to a large joint of meat and can be roasted individually wrapped in foil. Add garlic, rosemary, onions and chopped root veg and slow cook on a low heat for deliciously tender meat.
Spice up your roast
Add a spicy kick to chicken by smothering the skin with chipotle chilli paste before roasting. Or try an Asian-inspired flavour combination of ginger, chilli, coriander and coconut oil.
Roast ham can be glazed with ginger beer for a sticky, sweet and shiny finish. The ginger also provides a spicy kick with a bit of heat too.
What’s in your roast?
Members of the 44 Foods team reveal the quirks of their family’s classic roast:
Lucy Willcock, Content Specialist: “My mum is the only person I know who takes her Yorkshire pudding, puts it on a separate plate and eats it afterwards covered in jam and sugar. She argues that it’s exactly the same as a pancake. And it is. A weird, cold pancake. You’re on your own, Mum!”
Gemma Houltby, Managing Partner: “According to my children, it’s not a roast dinner unless there’s a dish of sage and onion stuffing. I mix it with pork sausage meat and roast in the oven – they insist on it whatever meat we’re having.”
Emily Moffatt, Design Partner: “We have a few quirks. We always serve a roast with butternut squash as it’s one of the few veg my husband will eat, and only Dad gets the chicken legs! It’s the only savoury meal where we tell the kids they get to have ‘jam’ (cranberry sauce); and there should be enough leftovers to repeat the eating process on the Monday!”