Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find conflicting theories as to why it has become such a very potent symbol of this sceptred isle, ranging from medieval serfs being rewarded for their service with a roast ox on a Sunday to the hard-pressed working families of the Industrial Revolution needing a good-tempered meal that could be bunged in the oven and left to its own devices while they went off to church.
It even landed us an enduring nickname across the Channel: les rosbifs. In his wonderfully comprehensive and informative Penguin Companion to Food, the late, great food writer Alan Davidson tells us with typically dry humour: “Roasting meat was something at which the British were, indeed are, supposed to excel. An 18th-century visitor to England from Sweden, Per Kalm, remarked that ‘the English men understand almost better than any other people the art of properly roasting a joint’.
“Admittedly, he qualified the compliment by observing that the English art of cooking did not extend much beyond roast beef and plum pudding, but still it was a compliment; and the French term rosbif for Englishmen may be taken as including at least a touch of affection, although usually derogatory.”
Whatever the real history, there’s no doubt that the classic combination of a juicy joint of meat, crisp roast potatoes, and clouds of golden Yorkshire pudding is hugely popular – it’s one of the dishes most in demand in our private dining room on the first floor of the Pipe and Glass.
And James is particularly proud of his Yorkshire puds, saying: “Yorkshire pudding is the first recipe that I ever made. I was about five or six years old, and I can remember cracking the eggs and whisking like mad, and my mum saying, 'Carry on, they need more air' – although I think this was just a ploy to keep me occupied and had nothing to do with her recipe! The recipe is simple and it uses an excessive amount of eggs which creates the biggest Yorkshires that you have ever made.
“I made my Yorkshire puddings with Kirstie Allsopp for her Channel 4 programme. She was amazed how simple the recipe was and described them as the best Yorkshire puddings she’d ever tasted.”
If you want to try those Yorkshire pudding, excessive eggs and all, you can find James’ recipe for them and for cold smoked salmon with hot smoked salmon scotch egg and pickled fennel, and rice pudding with cider, apple and bramble compote and cinnamon doughnut on the following pages.
We hope you enjoy making them as much as James and Kate's children, Toby and Molly, do. They love Sunday lunch and with their help it becomes a real family affair - but it's also the perfect meal for entertaining at any time of year.
*We know you’ll be curious, so here are the top 20 things in the 2016 survey, commissioned by a major UK tea company:
- A roast dinner
- Fish and chips
- The BBC
- The Union flag
- A cup of tea
- The Underground
- The Royal Family
- Only Fools & Horses
- The Beatles
- The NHS
- The City of London
- Buckingham Palace
- Red London buses
- Winston Churchill
- HM the Queen
- A cream tea
- James Bond
To find out more, or book a private dining experience call 01430 810 246 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or click the link below