The British typically eat their Sunday roast in the early afternoon, more as a lunch than a dinner. In addition to the roast beef, the Sunday menu generally consists of mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding, with English mustard and/or horseradish sauce as condiments.
Fortunately for tourists in Britain, many pubs and cafes serve Sunday roast. Indeed, when passing pubs on a Sunday stroll, it’s difficult to not stop and partake, after smelling such aromatic comfort food.
Years ago, before I had ever visited Britain or understood the British concept of “pudding,” I ran across a recipe for Yorkshire pudding and was eager to try it. I had no idea what to expect, but what I created startled me! Because I held only the American notion of “pudding,” I was convinced I did something terribly wrong. When I finally visited England, I discovered that the rich, puffy, bread-like dish I had made years earlier was right on target! (If you are unfamiliar with British “pudding” and wish to see my glossary of British foods, click HERE)
But back to the beef… Henri Misson, a Frenchman visiting London in 1698, had this to say: “It is a common practice, even among People of Good Substance, to have a huge Piece of Roast-Beef on Sundays, of which they stuff until they can swallow no more, and eat the rest cold, without any other Victuals, the other six Days of the Week.”
In Henri’s day, the wealthy roasted large hunks of beef in the large fireplaces of their homes, while the less fortunate dropped off their small cuts of beef at the baker’s, on their way to church. Bakers did not bake bread on Sundays, so the ovens cooled down some on that day. As an act of benevolence, bakers let the local denizens cook their meat in the ovens. So rich and poor had their beef, thus creating a tradition.
A half century after Henri visited London, Henry Fielding wrote The Grub-Street Opera, which included these lyrics:
When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food,
It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.
Our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good
Oh! the Roast Beef of old England,
And old English Roast Beef!
Recipes for British Sunday Roast Beef call for various cuts of beef: round roast, rump roast, topside of beef, fore rib, rib roast, standing rib roast, beef roast…and my very favorite…“the best roasting cut of beef you can afford.” I’m sure your local butcher will be happy to make suggestions. In my mind, any big hunk of beef can work—and the more fat and marbling the cut has, the tastier (if not healthier) the roasted meat will be.
Recipes for Yorkshire pudding are a somewhat more standardized. One variation, however, is what type of pan to cook the Yorkshire pudding batter in. One option is to cook the batter in the pan that the beef is roasting in (by dropping the batter right into the sizzling beef drippings). Other options are to cook the batter in custard cups, muffin tins, or a glass or metal baking dish. (When using these options, you can place some beef drippings into the bottom of whatever pan or cups you use, then drop the batter into the hot drippings--or you can simply grease the pans or cups with shortening or vegetable oil. The healthiest choice is olive oil . ) Here is the recipe I most recently used:
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
3 small or medium eggs
2 teaspoons melted shorting or beef drippings
½ teaspoon salt
- Heat oven to 375 F
- In mixing bowl, mix milk, eggs, and salt—without overbeating.
- Fold in flour. Add shortening or beef drippings and stir lightly.
- Pour into greased custard cups.
- Bake about 40 to 50 minutes, until puffy and golden brown.
HOW TO MAKE YORKSHIRE PUDDING
Chef Keith Snow shows us how amazing simple it is!
HOW TO COOK A STANDING RIB ROAST
This video is brilliant--in both the American and British sense of the word. The chef gives invaluable tips for meat thermometer use and for seasoning meat.