Who says a Sunday roast with all the trimmings needs meat? Not Matt Preston!
Matt Preston looks like starting a revolution with his vego version of a British Sunday roast with all the trimmings (except the beef!).
here are few meals that signify stability and comfort as much as the traditional British roast. Some believe that this tradition is handed down from the Middle Ages, when whole roast oxen were shared by a village after mandatory archery and arms training each Sunday, while others point to Henry VII’S personal bodyguards, the Yeoman of the Guard, whose eating habits earned them the honorary title of ‘Beefeaters’. With these military links, it’s no wonder this meal became so closely linked with the island nation’s sense of security. And in an era when the Church insisted on fasting before service, and forbade the eating of meat on up to 100 other days a year, you can see why the Sunday roast had added significance – everyone was so darned hungry! By the end of the 17th century, roast beef was so synonymous with Sunday lunch that a visitor to London (French-born travel writer, Henri Misson) wrote that “it is a common practice, even among people of good substance, to have a huge piece of roast beef on Sundays, of which they stuff until they can swallow no more, and eat the rest cold, without any other victuals, the other six days of the week”. In conversation with famed journalist and essayist Samuel Johnson, his biographer James Boswell claimed that “the feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with Champagne”. By the 18th century, authors and songwriters were associating roast beef with the health of the nation. In the 1735 song ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’ Richard Leveridge opined that “when mighty roast beef was the Englishman’s food… our soldiers were brave and our courtiers were good, but since we have learned from all vapouring France, to eat their ragouts, as well as to dance, we are fed up with nothing but vain complaisance”. Ouch! Meanwhile, the French took to nicknaming the British les rosbifs. Colonial settlers exported the British tradition of a Sunday roast to both the US and Australia, although it was reinterpreted in each place to champion local proteins, such as the lamb roast Naomi Watts so famously chose over a date with Tom Cruise in the nineties Aussie advert. The trimmings of a classic Sunday roast have become almost as important as the meat itself, but are a more recent arrival. Dripping and batter puddings began to pop up in 18th-century cookbooks, attributed to cooks across the UK, but Yorkshire’s batter puddings were singled out for their crispness, according to Yorkshire-pudding expert, food historian Jennifer Stead. The recipe for the first dripping pudding was found in 1737’s interestingly named The Whole Duty of a Woman as a pancake batter cooked under a roast, but it was doughty northern lass and cookbook author Hannah Glasse who claims the first recipe for ‘Yorkshire pudding’ a decade later. With the advent of ovens, these puddings also became something to be eaten when money was scarce, with nothing meatier than leftover gravy. And this is where the idea for this recipe comes from: a meat-free Sunday roast. It’s cheaper, just as tasty and some might say healthier (I’m looking at you, the US’S notorious beef-basher Dr Neal Barnard). Voted the UK’S favourite comfort food in a 2010 BBC Good Food survey, the tradition of a Sunday roast is still going strong – even if the total consumption of beef among les rosbifs is steadily declining.