Naturally, every country will claim that they are famous for producing great good. Hear the word “Italy” and it’s difficult to not immediately picture a generous bowl of feather light fettuccine or a ball of dough being stretched and shaped into the delicious circle we all know and love. Elsewhere, France is celebrated for its haute cuisine and a succession of award-winning chefs who have skilfully refined the balancing of flavours and presentation. Japan has sushi and India boasts its spices and flatbreads. My mouth is literally watering as I type.
For me, however, there are few things finer than a traditional British roast dinner. I have sampled countless dishes in all four corners of the globe but I always get excited when returning home to the family farm in Northern Ireland for my mother’s Silverside with all the trimmings. It seems that I am not alone in this. A recent survey by Rangemaster has found that the roast dinner remains the most popular dish amongst British families. So popular, in fact, that they would gladly wolf it down every night of the week, not just on Sundays. Interestingly, while there are slight variations in choices of meat and vegetables, consumers repeatedly forego more outlandish ingredients in favour of beef, chicken, peas and carrots. There may be some slight regional variations but the constituent parts always remain the same.
No doubt sniffy critics will dismiss the roast as staid and predictable but their minds must be clogged with memories of stodgy school dinners rather than the expertly cooked meals which take place in kitchens all across the UK each week. We are indeed blessed with the freshest of vegetables and the most flavoursome of meat in our country, so it is no wonder that families are keen to eat them pretty much as they come. Further, if the roast truly was staid and predictable there would not be so many eateries throughout Europe offering an “authentic” taste of British cooking. Thanks to the recent Olympics, everyone wants a taste of true “Britishness” – and that doesn’t come any tastier than a roast.
But what makes the roast dinner so popular among all age groups? I’ve given this question careful thought and I’ve come up with two answers. One, it is the taste of home: there is nothing quite like chatting with the family over platefuls of potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and gravy before heading out for a Sunday walk – or, if you prefer, a cosy nap. Two, the leftovers can be easily made into sandwiches and other snacks. Classic comfort food.
To promote the simple yet delicious meal further, Rangemaster and Knorr Gravy are sponsoring British Roast Dinner Week, which runs from October 1 to 7. They have uploaded recipes and cooking tips on their respective websites and I’ve written some bits for the Rangemaster Blog.