As a child, my favorite day of the week was Sunday, because Sundays always smelled the best. My mom cooked some wonderful meals for us throughout my childhood, but the most anticipated and memorable were the Sunday roasts.
Traditionally a British idea, a typical Sunday roast consists of a nice cut of roast beef, potatoes and carrots, and Yorkshire puddings, with a rice pudding for dessert. The tradition became popular during the reign of King Henry VII, when he and his royal guard developed a liking to having roast beef on Sunday after church, earning them the affectionate title of “beefeaters.”
It’s a popular idea in the United Kingdom still today. Most pubs offer a Sunday roast, while families throughout the country gather around their tables for their own. Across the pond in America, my English parents did the same.
It is a meal made for lingering and enjoying, never to be eaten in a rush. A Sunday roast is a celebration: a culmination of the week behind us and a slow start to the one ahead.
A Weekly Rhythm
A good many things changed throughout my childhood, but Sunday roasts were a constant, setting a weekly rhythm that felt reliable and dependable. No matter what age I think back to, I remember Sundays unfolding the same way.
We would return home from church a little after noon, to the pleasant smell of a chuck roast, which had been cooking in the oven all morning, permeating through the house. My parents would bring out their porcelain Portmeirion French press to have their after-church coffee; as a parent now myself, it is remarkable to me that they raised four children on one cup of coffee each week.
There was a job for everyone in that hour-long window between arriving home and eating: a table to be set, china to be pulled from the special cupboard, potatoes to cut, gravy to stir. My mom would mix together the batter for Yorkshire pudding—milk, oil, flour, and eggs—and pour it into what looked like an oversized muffin tin. She’d then announce, “They’re in, everyone! The puds are in!” which meant it was finally almost time to eat.
Inevitably something would start smoking, the result of a mix of excess oil and high heat, and my dad would rush to turn off the fire alarm as my mom opened a window with her oven mitts. She would then check the oven, only to find that the puds were still raw in the middle.
As sure as Sunday comes once a week, those Yorkshire puds would end up either burnt, or stuck to the pan, or gooey in the center. And yet, they were the highlight of our Sunday roasts, with their slight sweetness and bread-like texture, always outshining even the best cut of meat.
The best part about a Sunday roast in our house was the slowness of it. There was nowhere else to go, no rush to do anything, so we could focus on and enjoy one another, as much as the meal itself. Some of our family’s best conversations have happened around a Sunday roast.
After our plates were empty and our bellies sufficiently full, my mom would bring out the dessert: rice pudding. Made with just rice, sugar, and milk, this is one of the most economical desserts home cooks can have in their arsenal. My mom has used the same recipe my whole life, and yet the pudding never came out with the same flavor or consistency. Regardless, it was always tasty with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
It wasn’t until the last of the dishes were cleared away and night was beginning to fall around us that we would begin to think about and prepare for the week ahead. Sunday roasts gave me and my siblings some perspective on the busyness of life. If you were too busy for a Sunday roast, you were too busy. A meal like that was too important to let fall to the wayside.
Now, as much as I can, I try to prepare a Sunday roast for my family to enjoy. My children are a little too small and wiggly to be able to linger for long, but even the act of making a French pressed cup of coffee and cutting up vegetables helps me slow down and savor being at home together as a family.
I’ve finally adjusted my Yorkshire pud recipe so that they don’t stick to the pan, but my rice pudding has never tasted the same two weeks in a row. I hope my girls will laugh about that together one day, the same way I did with my own siblings.
Many of us are spending a lot of time at home right now. The world might feel like a scary place, but our homes don’t have to be. Our homes can be places of rest and rhythm, places where we take time to linger over meals, create traditions, and have fun with each other.
This extra time we have at home could be a great opportunity to start a tradition like a Sunday roast: to make time in our lives for the slow savoring of good food and good conversation.
Makes 12 puddings
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
In a bowl, mix together eggs, milk, flour, and salt until just combined. Put in the fridge to let the batter rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Add a teaspoon of olive oil to each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin. Put the tin in the preheated oven to warm up the oil, for about 4 minutes.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin tin cups. Return the muffin tin to the oven and bake for 10–12 minutes, or until the puddings are golden and fluffy. Serve hot.
Alison’s Rice Pudding
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2/3 cup long-grain rice
- 1 cup sugar
- 1–2 eggs, optional (see Note)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F, or set a slow cooker to the high setting.
Mix ingredients together and pour into greased baking dish or slow cooker.
Let bake for 3 hours in the preheated oven, or 4 hours in the slow cooker.
Serve and enjoy.
Note: For a richer pudding, stir 1 or 2 beaten eggs into pudding before baking.
Rachael Dymski is an author, florist, and mom to two little girls. She is currently writing a novel about the German occupation of the Channel Islands and blogs on her website, RachaelDymski.com