A Sunday roast is a traditional British meal that is typically served on Sunday, consisting of roasted meat, roast potatoes and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, gravy, and condiments such as apple sauce, mint sauce, or redcurrant jelly. A wide range of vegetables can be served as part of a roast dinner, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips, or peas, which can be boiled, steamed, or roasted alongside the meat and potatoes. Mashed potatoes are also a frequent accompaniment.
The Sunday roast’s prominence in British culture is such that in a UK poll in 2012 it was ranked second in a list of things people love about Britain. Other names for this meal include Sunday lunch, Sunday dinner, roast dinner, and full roast. 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 roast lunch or dinner has been a major influence on food cultures in the English-speaking world, particularly in Australia, Canada, South Africa, the United States, and New Zealand. A South African Sunday roast normally comprises roast pork, beef, lamb or chicken, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin fritters, Yorkshire pudding, and various vegetables like cauliflower-broccoli cheese, creamed spinach, mashed or roasted butternut squash, green beans, carrots, peas, fresh corn, beetroot, and sweet potato. It is also fairly common to serve rice and gravy in South Africa instead of Yorkshire pudding.
The Sunday roast originated in the British Isles particularly Yorkshire as a meal to be eaten after church on Sunday. Eating a large meal following church services is common to most of Europe, but the Sunday roast variant developed unique to the British Isles. On Sundays, all types of meat and dairy produce are allowed to be eaten; this is unlike Fridays, where many Roman Catholics and Anglicans traditionally abstain from eating meats, so ate fish instead. Likewise, it is traditional for Anglicans and English Catholics to fast before Sunday services, with a larger meal to break the fast afterwards. These religious rules created several traditional dishes in the United Kingdom.
Only eating fish on Friday resulted in a British tradition of ‘fish Fridays’ which is still common in fish and chip shops and restaurants across the United Kingdom on Fridays, particularly during Lent.
To mark the end of not being able to eat meat the Sunday roast was created as a mark of celebration.
There are two historical points on the origins of the modern Sunday roast. In the late 1700s, during the industrial revolution in the United Kingdom, families would place a cut of meat into the oven as they got ready for church. They would then add in vegetables such as potatoes, turnips and parsnips before going to church on a Sunday morning. When they returned from the church, the dinner was all but ready. The juices from the meat and vegetables were used to make a stock or gravy to pour on top of the dinner. 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 practise their battle techniques and were rewarded with a feast of oxen roasted on a spit.