A Sunday roast is such a British thing, and it’s up there with fish and chips in terms of British-ness. Historically, the roast was a meal that would be prepared before Sunday prayer. A cut of meat and vegetables would be placed in the oven and when everyone got back home the meat would be cooked. The juices were used to make gravy to pour over the dinner.
Growing up it was the only day of the week we would all get together — eat as a family, and have a good chat and catch-up. The meat choices would rotate between beef, lamb and chicken. We all had a favourite of course, and mine was roast chicken. While enjoying the meat with roasties, and loads of gravy, I also looked forward to cold chicken sandwiches the next day in my lunch box.
Gravy is a significant part of a roast; I’ve tasted some horrendous gravy served in boats (traditionally a long narrow vessel with a lip used to pour out the gravy). Again in the time-saving 90s freeze-dried gravy granules were all the rage. Taste wise, quite frankly they didn’t measure up, but luckily this lumpy, thick tasteless sludge was never served at our table.
The roast would always be on the table at 1’o’clock, on the dot, and there was no excuse for being late, ill or unavailable. It was a military operation; dad would be carving the meat, while the table would be set, vegetables would be drained and plated; it was the tensest part of the week. My role was stirring the gravy, made from scratch, and the juices from the meat and water from the vegetables were combined with corn flour and stock cubes and heated in a pan (something I still have today). Under my watchful eye the pan would come to a simmer, and the trick was to make sure it didn’t boil over.
My favourite thing about a roast dinner is the meal doesn’t end on a Sunday; it can be recycled in many ways, from boiling the bones to make stock, chicken sandwiches as I’ve mentioned, salads and stir-fries. With a few extra ingredients, the leftovers can make some tasty dishes.
How to make the most of a roast
Caesar salad: Toast some sliced bread, brush with some olive oil, remove the crusts and cut into equal squares. Slice some romaine leaves and place in a deep bowl, add two tablespoons of Caesar dressing and mix the leaves, next add some of the leftover chicken slices with some anchovies, season and scatter over the croutons with some Parmesan shavings. Serve with some extra dressing on the side.
Vegetarian omelette: Preheat the grill, add some oil to a pan and saute half a chopped onion with a garlic clove. Add four beaten eggs and cook for two minutes. Add some of the leftover vegetables and potatoes, sprinkle over some grated Parmesan, season and place the pan under the grill until the cheese melts. Remove the pan from the grill, add a little more Parmesan and serve.
Sweetcorn soup: Boil the meat bones and scraps in two litres of water for an hour. The liquid will reduce by about a half, strain the stock and add to a saucepan. Then add one chopped spring onion, crushed garlic clove and salt and pepper. Add a small tin of sweetcorn and a small tin of creamed sweetcorn. Add a cup of diced chicken and splash of soy sauce, bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, serve topped with some chopped spring onion and toasted bread. A Sunday to Monday best!
— Recipes, food styling and photography by Mark Setchfield, follow him on Instagram @gasmarksix