I grew up in a household where Sunday featured a big meal, either brunch at the Winter Club or a roast for lunch or dinner. Any of my siblings in town were expected to attend, which I only understand now how torturous it must have been to be expected in a jacket and tie for brunch on a Sunday at noon. Like good WASPs, meat and two veg on a Sunday were important to my family and are to this day.
It's taken a long time before I could think about continuing that tradition in Toronto. When I lived alone, Sunday was just another day and I didn't have the facilities, nor confidence, to attempt such a meal. Then when D and I moved in together, Sunday became the night we ate at his mother's, as we continue to do. What I've noticed, among my friends, is that regardless of how old we are, we continue to go to our families on Sundays, rather than them coming to us. As I say, I think part of that is that many people don't have the space to attempt such a gathering. And it's certainly easier, one less meal to plan and a way to see your family to boot.
In her excellent cookbook How to Eat, Nigella Lawson says of Sunday lunch, "One of the silent, inner promises I made myself on having children was to provide a home that made a reassuring, all-comers-welcome tradition of Sunday lunch. It hasn't materialised quite yet, but very few of my generation lead meat-and-two-veg lives any more,". I believe part of why I was put on this earth was to feed people and the idea of having an open invitation on Sundays, particularly for people who don't have family local, intrigues and delights me (D may have a different opinion...). But until we have our own family and Sunday's become more flexible, I'll be thrilled to open my kitchen up on the occasional Sunday to friends.
Last Sunday afforded just such an opportunity, and I knew it needed to be roast beef. The brilliant thing about roast beef is that it takes no effort and not really that much time. I picked up our roast late Sunday morning, thanks to a sale at Loblaws, and had plenty of time to get it on the table for dinner at 5:30. Nigella rubs with dry mustard, but we just used salt and pepper and called it good. The most important beef tip is to make sure you give yourself time to let it rest (about twenty minutes), which is useful particularly if you have a small oven like we do. Important tools here are a sharp carving knife and a cutting board with a gutter to catch the juices. Nigella says English mustard is non-negotiable, so that was a given, plus some horseradish.
The gravy was truly spectacular and I regret that I cannot reproduce the recipe for you here (see this for why) and Nigella doesn't have the recipe posted. But just to taunt you, what's great about this recipe is that you can make it hours ahead of time, and all you have to do before serving is add the beef drippings and heat it up.
Roast potatoes hardly require a recipe, but I recommend you follow Nigella's. Duck or goose fat is easier to find than you might think, either tinned or fresh. Certainly ask your butcher, as it will make ALL the difference. The key here is to not be afraid to get the fat smoking hot. It will be terrifying when you toss the potatoes in, but the results will be delicious. Semolina is well worth the addition too and a bag lasts forever.
It's just as well the Yorkshire pudding recipe isn't available because it flopped on me, and not for the first time. A consult with my mother suggests I didn't get the fat hot enough (our tiny oven created a bit of a staging issue, and it was a race to the finish). My father always used the Joy of Cooking recipe with success, so I would recommend that instead.
But apart from the gravy, I think the piece de resistance was the cauliflower cheese. I just used regular 5 year old cheddar and it was delicious. This too can be made ahead of time and tossed into the oven at the last minute.
My original vision for the evening featured a luscious pudding, but once again I was struck by Nigella's wise words, "Traditionalists will insist on a sturdy pie or crumble for pudding, but really, after all that carbohydrate, have you got room? I am immensely greedy, but I don't like the invasive and uncomfortable feeling of bloatedness that can make you regret eating much more than a hangover can ever make you regret drinking,". Her suggestion was lemon ice-cream, so I just bought a pint of some of Ed's Real Scoop Lemon Gelato, a pint of blackberries, and called it good. It was really refreshing, actually, and I had milk-chocolate digestives to go with the tea.
What's your Sunday tradition?
Chez RosenBum Sunday Dinner
Roast Beef (How to Eat)
The Gravy (How to Eat)
Roast Potatoes (How to Eat)
Yorkshire Pudding (Joy of Cooking)
Cauliflower Cheese (Feast)
Lemon Gelato and Berries
Port and Sherry