Even in the darkest hours of British Cuisine – the post-War, post-Rationing period of the late 1950s and 1960s – there was one institution, part social and part culinary, that was a bastion of good food: the Sunday Roast. Traditionally, the roasting joint of beef was put in the oven before going to Church on Sunday and consumed with family afterwards. It was, even if it was the only meal of the week to be so, a family affair.
The traditional elements of a Sunday Roast were and are (1) Roast Beef, (2) Roast Potatoes and (3) a vegetable dish. Traditional side dishes include Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce. While other British jurisdictions have Sunday Roast traditions it is the Roast Beef that makes a Sunday Roast English (as opposed to, for example, Irish). Indeed, it is so much so that the French refer to the English as “Les Rosbif.”
Much as the English Sunday Roast was traditionally a family affair, ours was a gathering of my English extended family: Nancy and Gwennie, Ian and Julie Oakley and their son Steven, and two good friends from various musical forays into Europe with such bands as The Flower Kings and The Tangent, Martin Nielson and Cliff Pearson.
Our English Sunday Roast was, of course, built around that Roast Beef
It was a gorgeous joint of Prime Rib purchased at a proper English butcher that hung and aged the meat on premises. It was a thing of beauty cooked and an object of desire to begin with:
We seasoned the roast with Maldon salt – an extraordinary “finishing” salt from England’s seashore that, at least in England, is as inexpensive as Kosher salt – and black pepper as well as fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary and sage – from the Oakleys’ garden. We roasted it at 350° Fahrenheit (175° Celsius) for 4 hours (Brits tend to like their roast beef cooked through where Americans like it more rare).
We served the roast with the same Auchentoshan Horseradish Cream we used for our Haggis – not a far cry from the traditional accompaniment. But in a nod toward England’s changing tastebuds – Fish & Chips is no longer the national obsession it once was, having given way to England’s new National Dish…curry – we paired the Horseradish sauce with a Spicy Mango Curry we picked up at a local Farmers’ Market
For our vegetable we wilted some Farmers’ Market spinach and tossed it with a gorgeous crumbled Colston Basset Stilton. And while there are many ways to roast potatoes, the English method involves boiling them skinned first – just to the point that the potatoes are about to give up their texture – and then roasting them in the oven with powdered mustard and the fat coming off of the roast.
English Sunday Roast
For the Roast Beef
- 2 rib Prime Rib
- Maldon salt
- Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- Several leaves of fresh sage
- Red wine
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Roast Potatoes
- 8 roasting potatoes
- 2 tablespoons powdered English mustard
- Maldon salt
Ground black pepper
For the Auchentoshan Horseradish Cream
- 8-10 inch long piece of horseradish root
- 2 tablespoons, water
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- For the Sauce
- 1/4 cup crème fraiche
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (less if using the sharper European Dijon mustards)
- 2 tablespoons Auchentoshan 12 year old Scotch Whiskey
For the Stilton Spinach
- 2 bunches of fresh spinach
Crumbled Colston Basset (or other superb English) Stilton Cheese, to taste
For the Garnish
- Schucks Naturally Spicy Mango Chutney (email@example.com) or another spicy Mango Chutney such as http://sdfoodtravel.com/spam-and-le-puy-lentil-packets-with-green-mango-and-tomato-chutney/
Roast the Beef. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit (175° Celsius). Season the Prime Rib with Maldon salt, black pepper, thyme, rosemary and sage. Let sit for 5 minutes before placing the beef in the oven. Roast for approximately four hours. After one hour tent the roast with aluminum foil. Baste periodically with red wine and olive oil (or, the pan juices). Let the beef rest for at least fifteen minutes before carving.
Roast the Potatoes. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes. Salt the water and plunge the potatoes into it, boiling for about ten to fifteen minutes. Check the doneness of the potatoes periodically with the tip of a sharp knife. At the point that the potatoes are just about to lose their texture drain them in a colander. Cover the colander with a lid and shake them vigorously to bruise the surface. Empty them onto a roasting pan and season with salt, pepper and the powdered mustard. When you remove the beef from the oven to rest drizzle the roasting juices over the potatoes. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 45 minutes (turning once) until they are caramelized and crisp on the exterior.
Cook the Spinach. Wilt the spinach in a frying pan. When they have lost their texture remove from the pan and sprinkle over with the stilton. Toss to allow the stilton to dissolve into the juices being released by the spinach.
- Plate the Dish. Serve two to three potatoes and some of the spinach on each plate. Serve some of the roast beef on the remaining third of the plate topped with a generous two tablespoons (or so) of the Horseradish Cream and a dollop of the Spicy Mango Chutney.