A 2011 poll conducted by Knorr, revealed that 75 % of those surveyed preferred British food to any other type of cuisine, with 64% voting for a traditional roast dinner, their favourite type of food. This is old news to the millions of Brits who sit down to a ‘Sunday Roast’, as it has been part of the national identity for centuries.
The tradition of eating a Sunday Roast is thought to have originated in Yorkshire around the time of the industrial revolution (1700 to 1900). Early references in literature include the ballad ‘The Roast Beef Of Old England’, by Henry Fielding, which appeared in his ‘Grub Street Opera’, first seen in 1931, and references in ‘The Cooks Oracle’, published in 1871.
A roast dinner was served on a Sunday as the meat could be left to cook while families across the country were at Church. It would then be ready to eat on their return at lunchtime. It was also the only time a family could sit down and eat together. Given the components of a roast dinner, it also had the added benefit of providing cold meats that could be eaten during the following week.
The Sunday Roast would comprise of a joint of meat, slices of which would be served with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Beef would be served with horseradish sauce, pork with apple sauce, and lamb with mint sauce, and every roast would have gravy. Sage and Onion Stuffing was also a popular accompaniment to pork, along with Yorkshire Pudding, a delicacy with its own history.
‘Dripping Puddings’ as they were first known, also originated in the North of England, a recipe for which was published in 1737. Batter was formed using the excess dripping found during cake making. A similar recipe came about ten years later, renamed Yorkshire Puddings. Although they had been cooked for centuries, this was the earliest reference to the taller, puffy puddings we eat today. Although Yorkshire Puddings come with our main meals today, they used to be served first, as a filler, serving the purpose of stretching the more expensive ingredients further.
Sunday Roasts are still enjoyed by families across Britain, either cooked in the home, or ordered at carverys and restaurants. It’s a meal that helped us gain the nickname ‘rosbifs’ from the French, and it’s a food tradition that is only superceded by one thing, our super indulgent Christmas Dinner.