A roast dinner lies at the heart of English Cuisine and remains extremely popular to this day. Many people still have a Sunday Roast, which can be a time for sitting down together as a family or inviting Members of the extended family. The fare should be simple, fresh and well cooked. Each roast consists of meat, accompanied by a selection of potatoes and vegetables, gravy and complemented by a sauce designed for that particular dish. It’s up to you what cut of meat you use, whether it is rare or well done, whether you have boiled, mashed or roast potatoes (or all three) and whether you have just a few veg or lots. I tend to do quite a large selection. Whichever way, though, a well made roast dinner is without doubt hard to beat!
Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding
Often considered to be the king of the roast dinner, a dish that epitomises England and the English rather like John Bull. We talk of the Roast Beef of Olde England when we mean traditional England and especially the countryside. The French even call us ‘Les Rosbifs’!
You can choose between different cuts of meat for your joint. Nice top cuts or silversides that are lean or rib beef or brisket that needs to be cooked slowly. Served with a choice of potatoes, steamed and roasted veg, gravy, accompanied with mustard and horseradish sauce and of course Yorkshire puddings.
Often eaten cold around Christmas, the joint is gently roasted with a little cinnamon, lemon and sugar.
Roast Lamb with Mint Sauce
My personal favourite!
Insert a few slithers of garlic and sprigs of rosemary or lavender into the lamb and cook fairly slowly. Serve with a selection of potatoes and veg, it goes particularly well with peas and cauliflower cheese – and of course freshly made mint sauce and sometimes with red currant jelly. It is not traditional to serve Yorkshire puddings with this roast – but it does seem to be catching on. In addition to roast potatoes, lamb goes really well with baked dumplings which is the more traditional accompaniment than Yorkshires. A variation on the traditional joint is a Crown of Lamb (see below).
This classic dish is a sort of rack of lamb, shaped into a crown and roasted. A similar arrangement, but more horizontal is known as a ‘Guard of Honour’.
Similar to lamb, but with a somewhat stronger flavour is goat. Goat meat is not readily available in the supermarkets and so you would need to buy it at farm shops and farmers markets. Why not try it as a whole spit for a clan gathering?
Roast Pork with Crackling
Start roasting this on a low heat and turn up high at the end to crisp the skin into a lovely crackling. Serve with the usual selection of potatoes and veg, though cabbage (white, green or red) goes particularly well as do roasted parsnips, mushroom and sausages. The trick is to get a nice crispy crackling on the skin whilst keeping the main meat succulent. Accompanied by apple sauce, mustard and of course gravy!
For the special gathering, a whole hog.
Gammon or Ham Hock
Personally, I prefer my gammon boiled but honey roasted gammon is good and goes well with pineapple.
Roast chicken with stuffing
Roast chicken has become one of the most popular roasts; traditionally served with stuffing, forcemeat, sausages and plenty of veg. You can stuff the cavity of the chicken (typically with a sage and onion bread stuffing) or cook the stuffing separately and stuff the bird with an onion. It does not need spices or herbs on top, though you can put a little oregano or sage. You can also cover the bird with bacon to keep it moist – one of the few times we eat our bacon crispy! It can also be served with bread sauce, although this is usually reserved for game such as pheasant.
Guinea foul is a nice alternative to chicken, more likely to be free range but tasting much the same as a good chicken.
Roast Chicken with lemon
In the summer, we like to put a thickly cut lemon, together with, rosemary or thyme, into the chicken cavity. This can be served with any type of potatoes you like, including roasted potatoes with more lemon and herb on them. In hot weather, this goes well with a simple vegetable such as green beans or spinach.
Not that common on English tables these days, but rabbit used to be a staple. Tasting a little like chicken, it can be served pretty much the same way. In northern England it would be covered with bacon and served with a variety of potatoes (traditionally mashed), veg and gravy. In eastern England it may be cooked more with a cream sauce and apple.
This is a wonderful and healthy alternative to the more common roasts. Lightly roasted with a little rosemary and junipers and served with a red wine gravy. As a typical autumn dish, server with seasonal veg, especially root veg such as parsnip and mashed potatoes.
Commonly eaten on Christmas day and increasingly at Easter too. The bird is an import from the Americas, but it is cooked the traditional English way. Served with a variety of vegetables, the one day ion a year many people eat Brussel Sprouts! Accompanied with sage and onion stuffing (properly mixed with force meats and a dab of sherry), chestnut stuffing, sausages wrapped with bacon, bread sauce, cranberry sauce (another import from America) and mustard.
Quite a rich meat, but very tasty. Traditionally eaten with mashed potatoes, roast potatoes and parsnips, red cabbage, peas and or sprouts and accompanied with bread sauce and a red berry, apple or cherry sauce. The gravy can be enhanced with a splash of red wine, sherry or port. Roast duck in a sour cherry sauce (picture on the right) is a nice traditional alternative.
Roast duck with an orange sauce (Canard a l’orange) is a classic French dish involving a complex orange sauce. However, an English version was developed in the 1960’s which simply added fresh orange juice to the gravy. We don’t let go of our gravy that easily!
Similar to duck, but a bit richer. Goose was traditionally eaten on Michaelmas and, until replaced by turkey, on Christmas day. Accompaniments are similar to duck, though the sharper flavour of gooseberry sauce goes well with it. Baked or roasted apple, and or apple sauce, is also traditionally served with goose. Roast Michaelmas goose is traditionally served with apples and prunes.
As the autumn sets in and winter approaches, the pheasant season starts! Pheasant is a delicate, but distinct flavour and stronger than chicken or turkey. Traditionally it was left to hang until it took on a distinct ‘high’ gamey flavour which you either like or don’t like. I prefer mine plain!
Traditionally eaten with mashed potatoes, game potatoes (rather like crisps), bread sauce and home made English mustard. An interesting alternative accompaniment are walnuts (picture on right hand side), either as a sauce or as part of a stuffing. Cover with bacon to keep the bird moist and roast on a high oven for about an hour.
Bread sauce and game potatoes (thinly sliced and roasted with the bird) are traditional with all game birds:
And then, there’s:
Similar to pheasant, but smaller. Eaten much the same way, although pears are a traditional accompaniment. “My true love gave to me - a partridge in a pear tree’.
Again, cooked and eaten much like pheasant or with autumn berries.
You may need two of these!
Still eaten in rural areas, though you probably need to shoot your own. Usually accompanied by mushrooms and a mushroom or walnut sauce of some kind as well as the usual vegetables for game birds. You need clean, country wood pigeons, not the City pigeons of Trafalgar Square.