Posts Tagged ‘roast beef’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on February 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm
Filed under: english food, featuredarticle, roast beef, sunday roast

British food – The Sunday Roast

Here’s another of those great British food traditions: the Roast Beef of Old England, nowadays generally experienced as The Sunday Roast.

Alas, the photographer comments 'The beef was kinda tough'...

The English were already famed for their beefy tastes back in the 18th century, when Hogarth created ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’ – a painting which shows a side of beef being carried through crowds of undernourished Frenchmen to an English tavern in Calais. Prize bulls were reared for ‘marbled’ beef, the lean run through with streaks of fat which gave it a melting quality when roasted. Nowadays, of course, the preference is for leaner meat.

One of my favourite areas of naive art is the 18th century animal picture – not pet pictures, but rather portraits made for gentlemen farmers of their prize animals. You can spot these bulls by their squareness – they’re like huge boxes of beef dripping with a leg at each corner and a tiny horned head. I suspect when the landowner looked at them, it was the beef he was seeing, not the bull!

Roast beef still retains its status as the classic Sunday lunch. You’ll want to have it with horseradish (not known in France! can you believe that?), with potatoes roasted so that they’re nicely crispy on the outside and fluffy inside, with some variety of green vegetable, and above all with Yorkshire pudding.

The important thing to realise with roast beef is that it’s a dish where – as with many simple dishes – there’s a huge difference between the best and the rest. You have to start with really good beef, and you have to roast it just right, so it doesn’t dry out. The potatoes, too, need attention – if they’re too hard, they’re inedible, too soft and you don’t get the benefit of the nice crispness to bite into.

And of course roast beef is the very antithesis of fast food. It takes hours to roast the beef properly – though of course your slices will be carved from a joint that’s already been roasting for hours.

One of the best places to try roast beef in London, I’m told, is Browns Hotel[map], where Sunday lunch is available for £25 – and that’s cheaper than their afternoon tea! Simpson’s in the Strand [map] is also famed for its roast beef; they’ve been serving it since God knows when (oh all right, since 1828 to be precise) and you’ll get the benefit of a thoroughly traditional atmosphere.

If you’re not so wealthy, or short on time, or simply prefer the ambience of a good pub, you might try a roast beef sandwich – the Lamb in Leadenhall Market[map] does a very acceptable hot sarnie, and the beer isn’t bad either.

By the way, when I acquired a French man, I had to become used to the fact that while to us they are ‘the frogs’, we have become ‘les rosbifs’ – the roast beefs. It’s no use telling them I only eat roast beef a couple of times a year!

Photo by adactio at flickr

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