This Side of the Pond – July 13

By Sarah Pridgeon

My neighbors in Dorset are this week rejoicing the invention of a new style of takeout. We’ve always had delivery options from a range of foreign diets, but never before have I seen a takeout featuring the crown jewel of British cuisine: the Sunday roast.

This is a huge step forward for every Brit who can’t be bothered to go to the trouble of cooking their own. Not that I would blame them: I prepared a roast this weekend and it took most of the day to complete. There’s a lot of faffing involved in the stages of this complicated meal.

There’s the meat itself to roast, of course, and the vegetables to prepare. There’s stuffing to mix and Yorkshire puddings to whisk, gravy to stir, pigs in blankets to create and potatoes and parsnips to sizzle in oil – and that’s not factoring in the mountain of dishes at the end.

All in all, you can expect to spend at least a few hours wandering back and forth to the kitchen to complete each time-sensitive step. The reward is worth the effort, I hasten to add, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to reap the benefits without any of the toil?

Now, one may simply call the Lazy Roast restaurant and select the type of meat one would like to eat. They won’t deliver your food, but I’m told that’s the next stage of evolution.

Of course, before they came up with the idea of a roast dinner takeout, it’s not as though we were forced to either slave over a hot oven or miss out on the weekly argument over who deserves the last roast potato, but that’s hardly the point. If you’re going to be lazy, you might as well do it properly.

In the days before this culinary shortcut, those of us who were too busy – or, let’s face it, idle – to go to the trouble of a Sunday roast would head instead for a carvery. Usually located inside a pub, this is a buffet-style dinner that both inspires and rewards your sense of greed.

It works like the cafeteria in an average school. Pick a meat, watch as your server carves off the chunk of your choice and then proceed down the line, choosing vegetables as you go. Finish by adding at least two Yorkshire puddings and pouring brown gravy over the top until it threatens to drip over the side of the plate.

Some carveries will allow you to serve your own vegetables, though doing so encourages gluttony. I once saw a woman pile her plate almost a foot high with potatoes, veg and all the trimmings.

Of course, she had a dastardly plan from the outset. Once she and her dining partner had polished off every morsel, she claimed her lunch had been disgusting and refused to pay for it.

Being British, the pub manager had absolutely no idea how to handle this situation. Her plate was so clean it didn’t need washing, so it was hard to believe she had struggled with every bite.

After impersonating a goldfish for several moments, he sent her on her way, thus proving my theory that getting away with crime in Britain is easy if you prey on our politeness.

Not that my father and I were any better behaved. The manager made the mistake of seating us next to the chalk board upon which the menu had been written. There it was, inches from my childish fingers.

With full encouragement from my paternal unit, I made a few changes to that menu. The next diner presumably wondered what kind of establishment serves roast bee.

Returning to the point of this tale, a carvery is a wonderful invention. A place that allows you to gorge at will on all my favorite ingredients is a place that gets a gold star in my book.

But it does require a certain time investment and, if your grandmother is accompanying you, it’s rare to get away with not wearing your Sunday best. What happens if you want to wear sweatpants and be greedy in the comfort of your own house? Now, you can take your roast home with you instead.

Sadly, no such takeout service exists here in Crook County so I have no choice but to continue toiling over my oven. Should you have time to spare and wish to try one for yourself, the rules are as follows:

Chicken or turkey are paired with stuffing; pork should be served with applesauce; beef goes beautifully with Yorkshire puddings; and lamb with mint sauce. To make the Yorkshire puds, heat your oven to 450 degrees, warm a muffin tin with a dollop of oil in each hole, beat together 140 grams of plain flour with four eggs and stir in 200 ml milk.

Once the oil is sizzling, divide the batter between the holes and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until they have puffed up and turned golden brown. Do not open the oven during this time, else they will deflate.

Whatever the meat, you will need roast potatoes. To make these, boil your peeled and halved potatoes for 20 minutes, then rinse and place in a pan with a quarter-inch layer of oil on the base, already heated.

Spoon some of the oil over the top so each one is fully covered, then roast for about an hour at 300-350 degrees. Turn the potatoes and put back in the oven until they are brown and crispy all over.

A similar method works for parsnips, although these should only be boiled for two or three minutes and need a little less oil. Roast parsnips also take less time to cook – usually about one hour.

Pigs in blankets in my neck of the woods involves small sausages (“bangers” from the butchers work best on these shores) wrapped in a slice of bacon and baked in the oven for an hour or so.

Next up, the vegetables. A typical roast includes around four or five options selected from carrots, peas, mashed rutabaga, green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. These are simply boiled in salted water in the half hour before serving.

Finally, lashings and lashings of brown gravy to tie the whole meal together and a cheddar cheese sauce for the broccoli, if that suits your tastes. All these things combine to create a feast for hungry eyes – and an afternoon glued to the sofa, waiting for the bloating to pass.