Toronto’s warm weather this November hasn’t yet invoked deep feelings of hibernation and fattening up. If anything, it’s encouraging us to get outside and be active.
But when the thermometer eventually drops (as it always does; please let there be no polar vortex this year) we swap our outdoor space and BBQ tongs for the comforts of our oak dining room table and a warm oven.
We entertain. A lot. And the fall/winter variety tend to be all-out efforts. Not always in price (I’m looking at you, Cumbrae’s lamb shanks), but require execution and care.
According to Wikipedia:
“The Sunday roast is a traditional British and Irish main meal that is traditionally served on Sunday, consisting of roasted meat, roast potato or mashed potato, with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables, and gravy.”
Now, if you were to ask my mother-in-law, who recently gawked at my husband’s suggestion she cook a Sunday roast during his recent visit to England, the tradition, is well, not so weekly anymore.
On this side, many pubs throughout Toronto, like The Caledonian (856 College Street at Ossington) or The Bristol & Bombay (1087 Queen West at Dovercourt) and its sister pub The Old Laurel (300 College Street at Spadina) offer up a plate of warm sliced beef on Sundays. (And still there’s the Queen & Beaver’s and The Oxley’s takes. Do you know of any others?)
But a Sunday roast is a Sunday event. And most inexpensively served at home. It’s not a meal for two, but a feast for a gathering. It’s comfort food at its best, so here’s how to make your Sunday roast even better:
Pre-clean your range
A summer of rarely cooked meals indoors means your oven has likely been ignored since the previous winter. Avoid stove-top fires and excessive smoke by giving your unit a good clean. Learn from our mistakes…
Look to Britain
If you’ve never cooked a beef roast before, my husband recommends Jamie Oliver. You can adapt from there as you gain cooking confidence (which I mostly lack, so this meal was entirely in my husband’s hands).
Don’t forget the Yorkshire Puddings. (A pancake muffin, served with meat and gravy? Yes, please.) But for this recipe, see Jamie’s rival, Gordon Ramsay, and try not to say f*ck in the process when you burn them.
Timing is everything
Don’t risk it. Buy a meat thermometer because you will need to “rest” the meat after its per pound cooking time. (Warm plates and hot gravy reheat the slightly cooled beef.) Everything else, the vegetables, and gravy (made from scratch after the roast comes out), must also be timed alongside the size of beef, which can be tricky unless you like keeping your dinner guests waiting. (And again, be careful not to spill half your batter and burn the Yorkshire puddings…)
Invite good company
Three friends and a guest pup completed our dinner party entourage for catching up and looking back at the summer that was. Also guests who would most appreciate the type of food we were about to serve them make the meal all more enjoyable as you know they will appreciate the time and effort. (Although we barely know any selective eaters.)
If you’re a guest, it’s appreciated if you offer your help, but don’t worry if it’s not accepted and the hostess and cook are happy to keep the kitchen clean and your wine glass full.
Watch your wine glass
Unfortunately, it’s Sunday when it’s Sunday roast. Which means most people have to work the next day. Watch your wine glass and if your host doesn’t open the bottle you brought, let it be thanks for the meal and no headache the following day. (Unfortunately we drank all three.)
Now, who’s hungry?
Two hilarious YouTube takes by Yes It’s Funny, on the two British chefs, below: