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The Sunday roast is a traditional British and Irish main meal that is traditionally served on Sundays but can be eaten on any day of the week, consisting of roasted meat, roast potato or mashed potato, with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. Other names for this meal are Sunday dinner, Sunday lunch, Roast dinner, and Sunday joint (joint referring specifically to the joint of meat). The meal is often comparable to a less grand version of a traditional Christmas dinner. Besides being served in its original homelands, the tradition of a Sunday dinner has been a major influence on food cultures in countries with populations originating from the nations of the British Isles and Ireland.
Eating a large meal following church services is common to all of Europe and other countries with a Christian heritage. On Sundays all types of meat and dairy produce are normally allowed, unlike Fridays where many Catholics and Anglicans traditionally abstain from all meat but fish. Likewise it is traditional for Anglicans and English Catholics to fast before Sunday services, with a larger meal to break the fast afterwards.
There are (at least) two opinions on the origins of the modern Sunday Roast. One holds that, during the industrial revolution, Yorkshire families left a cut of meat in the oven before going to church on a Sunday morning, which was then ready to eat by the time they arrived home at lunchtime. The second opinion holds that the Sunday Roast dates back to medieval times, when the village serfs served the squire for six days a week. Then on the Sunday, after the morning church service, serfs would assemble in a field and practice their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit.
Sunday roasts can be served with a range of boiled, steamed and/or roasted vegetables. The vegetables served vary seasonally and regionally, but will usually include roast potatoes, roasted in meat dripping or vegetable oil, and also gravy made from juices released by the roasting meat, perhaps supplemented by one or more stock cubes, gravy browning/thickening, roux or corn flour.
The potatoes can be cooked around the meat itself, absorbing the juices and fat directly (as in a traditional Cornish under-roast). However, many cooks prefer to cook the potatoes and the Yorkshire Pudding in a hotter oven than that used for the joint and so remove the meat beforehand to rest and "settle" in a warm place.
Other vegetable dishes served with roast dinner can include mashed swede or turnip, roast parsnip, boiled or steamed cabbage, broccoli, green beans and boiled carrots and peas. It is also not uncommon for leftover composite vegetable dishes – such as cauliflower cheese and stewed red cabbage — to be served alongside the more usual assortment of plainly-cooked seasonal vegetables.
Common traditional accompaniments include:
It can be difficult to have all the elements, with their separate cooking and preparation methods and timings, ready together to serve at their best, especially to a large gathering.
Left-over food from the Sunday roast has traditionally formed the basis of meals served on other days of the week. For example, meats might be used as sandwich fillings, lamb might be used in the filling for a shepherd's pie, and vegetables might form the basis for bubble and squeak.
In the UK, many pubs serving food have a Sunday menu that features a Sunday roast, usually with a variety of meats and often a vegetarian option such as a nut roast. This is often cheaper than the normal menu, which may or may not be available on Sundays.
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