A Delicious Tradition: History of the Sunday Roast
The classic Sunday roast has become as intertwined with British culture as cups of tea and conversations about the weather.
Whether you keep the spuds until last, savour the tender meat most or can’t enjoy your meal without lashings of gravy, this coming together of simple ingredients has created a staple British dish with origins dating back hundreds of years.
It’s the 15th century, with England under the reign of King Henry VII, when the tradition of roast beef on a Sunday is believed to have been established. Royal guards would consume the meat after their Sunday church service, earning them the nickname ‘beefeaters’.
Fast forward to the industrial revolution, meat was traditionally left to hang on a spit above a roaring fire for hours. For those without the luxury of a large fireplace or unable to afford large quantities of meat, portions would be dropped off at the baker’s on their way to church to slow-cook in the bread ovens. Any leftovers were enjoyed in stews and pies throughout the week.
Widely acknowledged as a staple of the traditional Sunday roast, Yorkshire puddings didn't used to be part of the main attraction.
This fluffy cloud of batter was originally served with gravy as an appetiser to help fill people up before the main meal. Meat was expensive so hosts employed this tactic to save some pennies and ensure there were leftovers for the rest of the week.
Roast potatoes, however, weren’t always so appreciated by Brits. In fact, in 1795 a campaign was launched by the Board of Agriculture to encourage people to eat them. The movement ended up being a success and potatoes became a key ingredient in people’s diets.
What's a Sunday roast without an array of colourful accompaniments? Sharing the plate with protein and carbs are our classic Sunday roast vegetables. Whether baked, steamed or boiled, common varieties include suede, parsnips, broccoli, cabbage, carrots and green beans. Cauliflower cheese also never goes amiss.
Did you know that before the 17th century, almost all carrots were purple in colour? Originating from Afghanistan around 5,000 years ago, Dutch growers gradually developed this tasty veg into the orange varieties we know today.
Another fun fact – broccoli was originally engineered from a cabbage relative in ancient Roman times. It was introduced in England in the 1700s and fondly nicknamed, “Italian Asparagus”.