How Aus­tralia’s top chefs are el­e­vat­ing the hum­ble Sun­day roast.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - For more roast recipes, see de­li­

For most of us grow­ing up in the ’burbs, Sun­day just wasn’t com­plete with­out a good old-fash­ioned roast with the fam­ily.

Ah, the clas­sic Sun­day roast – beef, spuds, peas, York­shire pud­ding and gravy – is one of the great­est grandma hugs of the culi­nary world. But as fam­i­lies moved fur­ther apart and we all be­came too busy for ev­ery­thing, did the weekly fam­ily culi­nary hud­dle at home turn to ashes? When his­to­ri­ans come to pin­point ex­actly when Aus­tralia lost its ap­petite for Bri­tish life, will they turn to the im­mi­nent fall of the Sun­day roast?

If we look closely, chefs across the coun­try are em­brac­ing the virtues of this very Bri­tish in­sti­tu­tion, but not quite as we re­mem­ber it.

Ac­cord­ing to chef and restau­ra­teur Matt Moran (Aria, Chiswick), the in­flu­ence of many cul­tures on our food land­scape has seen the pop­u­lar creation evolve and, ar­guably, im­prove.

“The English brought us the Sun­day roast but the tra­di­tional roast is re­ally not that con­ducive to our weather or life­style,” says Moran.

Moran has fond me­mories of grow­ing up in a fam­ily that placed em­pha­sis on the Sun­day roast and three veg, but says we just don’t want a thick gravy or heavy meal that sits high in our belly for hours af­ter­wards. “You need some­thing to cut through all that fat,” he says.

At Chiswick, Moran of­fers a slowroaste­d lamb shoul­der served with cher­moula and baby egg­plant. “It’s all you need,” he says, “I don’t even serve roast spuds,” he laughs.

Mean­while, Josh Ni­land of Paddington’s Saint Peter in Sydney is rein­vig­o­rat­ing the nos­tal­gia of a Sun­day roast with more thought­ful meth­ods and a won­der­ful sense of gen­eros­ity.

“A roast now in Aus­tralia could be a roast vegetable, fish or goat as the head­line act,” Ni­land says. “Gone are the days of the dry roast lamb or pork that lacks crackle.”

Ni­land sug­gests the com­mu­nal ta­ble as­pect of a Sun­day roast is be­hind its re-emer­gence as we look for ways to re­con­nect with each other.

“In a cul­ture now driven by dig­i­tal so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, it seems we are try­ing harder to turn off the iphone for a few hours and re­mem­ber what it’s like to en­joy a whole­some meal and en­gage with be­ing hu­man.”

Fish has not nec­es­sary been con­sid­ered a roast per se, but at Saint Peter it is the cen­tre­piece of the Sun­day feast. Think roasted John Dory and pars­ley root with John Dory bone gravy, corn-husk-roasted king trout or wild bar­ra­mundi with roast onions and bar­ra­mundi fat York­shire pud­ding.

The Sun­day roast was once beef or lamb, an joint of meat adorned by jew­els of potato and York­shire pud­ding whose role in the meal was to bulk it up. A whole chicken was a rare treat. Cook­ery writer Mar­garet Ful­ton says her 21st birth­day present from her par­ents was a trussed whole chicken, butchered on the fam­ily farm. Later the whole bird joined the ranks as a Sun­day roast stal­wart. But lately it has even more com­pe­ti­tion.

As Sun­day be­comes one day in the week when many fam­i­lies have the time to come to­gether, the Sun­day roast circa 2017 is ap­pear­ing in restau­rants.

In Brisbane, Black­bird’s ex­ec­u­tive chef Jake Ni­col­son be­lieves the evo­lu­tion of the roast re­volves around a new­found re­spect of our own pro­duce and cul­tural back­grounds.

“We wel­come our culi­nary diversity with open arms. I feel we are no longer be­ing lim­ited to the guide­lines per­haps set in gen­er­a­tions be­fore us,” he says.

Black­bird’s Sun­day feast­ing menu of­fers each roast gar­nished with its own condi­ments. Suck­ling pig is served with caramelise­d onions and chick­pea puree. Wood-grilled Mur­ray cod lands with pick­led desert lime and curry leaves.

In Mel­bourne, Estelle Bistro’s three­course, $50 Sun­day roast is the hottest ticket in town. Though chang­ing weekly, the menu lately in­cludes lamb shoul­der with cele­riac and wa­ter­cress emul­sion. At Lezzet in Elwood, wood­fired chicken or lamb lands on the ta­ble with Turk­ish sal­ads, dips and pita. The clas­sic Sun­day roast now knows no cul­tural bound­aries.

Back in Sydney, Glass Brasserie’s three-course feast is a global affair. Wood-roasted split prawns in dashi and gar­lic but­ter are fol­lowed by roast rump with Ethiopian spices (chilli, ko­rarima, fenu­greek). The Cen­ten­nial is packed on the day of rest as Wool­lahra lo­cals lap up roast pork belly with braised red cab­bage or a veg­e­tar­ian roast where chef Justin North char­grills large cross-sec­tions of a bras­sica (cau­li­flower, broc­coli). Ir­ish­born chef Colin Fass­nidge does a wholeroast­ed pork knuckle and col­can­nan for two at Banksia Bistro.

Brisbane’s Dar­ling & Co of­fers any­thing from roast spatch­cock and cau­li­flower with Mid­dle Eastern spices to roast lamb shoul­der with Greek veg­eta­bles. The Mon­tague Ho­tel dishes up spit-roast chicken with le­mon or roast lamb with tzatziki. And if you want to go top shelf, Stoke­house Q has a pancetta-wrapped chicken with burnt grape­fruit, jus gras and na­tive spices.

It might not be quite the same as grandma used to make, but that’s partly the point. Com­ing to­gether for an Aussie Sun­day roast is be­com­ing a na­tional pas­time again. And you don’t even need to do the wash­ing up.

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