The Sunday roast is a staple for the people of Britain and not only satiates hunger and sustains us (for what feels like a week), it also means family, togetherness and warmth. It isn’t unusual for people to only see their parents on Sundays, especially if they don’t live in the same area, with the parents carrying the torch of the Sunday hospitality. This torch will eventually be handed down to their children when the time comes and they will be bestowed the unspoken responsibility of being the beacon of hospitality for the family.
We’re going to break the roast dinner down into 4 main components: meat, potatoes, gravy, Yorkshire puddings. All very simple. All very meaningful.
The meat element differs from family to family but will most often be beef, chicken, pork or lamb. Some families will have game if they live rurally. In my family, it was generally chicken. A lot more affordable than beef and easy to make it taste good. In very simple terms, we only ever had chicken that was roasted with lard and salt. The bird itself was always from a good source: either a local farm or butcher. Always free range.
Now the potatoes. In some Brits’ opinion, the potatoes are more important than the roasted meat. For me, they were always roasted, again very simply, with lard and salt (see a theme here?). The importance here is texture: super crispy exterior encompassing an ultra fluffy, almost mashed potato consistency.
Gravy and Yorkshire pudding are such an essential pair that it only feels right to talk about them together. Yorkshire puddings (or Yorkies), for anybody who is unfamiliar, are made with what is essentially a pancake batter, but once baked in beef fat, rise like a souffle into a wonderfully light, crispy and chewy vehicle for gravy, potatoes and meat. So perfect they are that squabbles will often be had at the dinner table if there are an uneven amount to share around. The fact that they are an edible vessel makes them the perfect candidates to be filled with the gravy. The key here is viscosity. Too thin and it will not adequately coat the other components of the majestic plate. Too thick and it becomes gloopy. The real magic happens when there is a balance of smooth gravy, crispy Yorkie tops and gravy-soaked bottoms. The ultimate combination.
All in all, the British Roast Dinner is a symphony of components, all singing together in their own pitch and tone to bring about the feeling of comfort, satisfaction and home. Every time I sit down to a roast dinner, wherever it is in the world, it feels like home.
Recipe for Roasted Potatoes
1kg Russet potatoes (or an equally floury potato)
200g beef tallow or duck fat
Salt to taste
- Turn on oven to preheat at 400f.
- Peel the potatoes and cut into rough 2 inch cubes. These don’t have to be uniform and will actually create better textures if they are of different shapes.
- Bring a pot of salted water to the boil with enough space to accommodate the potatoes.
- Drop in the spuds and boil for around 5 minutes or until the exterior of the potato can be roughed up with a fork. The rest of the potato should be very firm.
- Strain the water and allow the potatoes to let off some steam. This will help with the fluffing. 2 minutes should be sufficient.
- In a container with a lid, shake the potatoes vigorously to fluff up the outside. Let sit uncovered at room temperature.
- Put the fat in a baking tray that will just accommodate the amount of potatoes in a flat layer. Place in the oven and heat until the fat is melted and smoking hot. This will take around 5 minutes.
- Carefully pull the tray out of the oven and gently add the potatoes, being careful not to splash the hot fat. Give them a careful roll in the fat and season generously.
- Return to the oven and cook until golden brown on the bottom. Give them a shake or turn them over individually and return to the oven until golden brown.
- Season to taste and serve.
Chef Chris Locke