Are you looking to try some local cuisine while visiting England? After all, England is popular for a lot of meals, so it will be unfortunate not to try some. One of the most popular British meals is roast beef.
Roast beef is a signature national dish in England and has a cultural meaning dating from the ballad "The Roast Beef of Old England". Roast beef is so popular in England that in the 18th century, the French started calling Englishmen “les Rosbifs”.
So, what is roast beef, how is it prepared, and how it differs from Yorkshire beef? Let’s find out!
Simply said, roast beef is a dish of beef that is roasted. It is a beloved meal in England, often served as the main dish. As mentioned above, roast beef has become a signature meal in England and its history dates back to the ballad "The Roast Beef of Old England" from 1731. In fact, the song was once a national anthem and was sung by the audience in theatres. It’s still played when officers of the Royal Navy sit down to eat!
The song The Roast Beef of Old England, written in 1731, was once a national anthem, sung by the audience in theatres. It's still played when officers of the Royal Navy sit down to eat. Moreover, big roast beef was the usual Christmas food in England, because male cattle were often killed at the end of the year. Later in the winter, the Brits preferred salted beef that was rinsed and boiled, while today people put it in sandwiches.
It seems that breeding cattle for meat, instead of for the dairy trade, is invented in Britain, and people were singling out breeds for eating from the 15th century onwards. It is believed that British beef is much better than the others because, in England, cattle are still fed on grass and fodder. Grass-fed cattle always provides much healthier meat, better taste, more vitamins, less fat, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
The Sunday Roast
The most popular tradition associated with roast beef in England is known as the Sunday Roast. The Sunday roast is still a tradition today as it was hundreds of years ago. It has even spread from the family dinner table to pubs and throughout the whole week, not only on Sunday.
The Sunday Roast was invented during the reign of King Henry VII in 1485 when the British consumed a considerable amount of meat. In that time, it was recommended to consume meat every day and to roast the beef for four hours, which demanded a sizable fireplace.
The poorer people didn’t have much money for that much meat and for a large fireplace. For that reason, they roasted a smaller beef at the baker’s bread ovens before going to church. This gave access to all people to cook meat, which became a tradition of the British Sunday lunch known as the Sunday Roast.
Basically, Yorkshire beef is a roasted beef served with Yorkshire pudding. Yorkshire pudding is a very popular English side dish and is a baked pudding made from butter, consisting of milk, flour, and eggs. This pudding can be served in hundreds of ways depending on the ingredients and the size of the pudding. However, as the main dish, it is served with roasted beef and is part of the traditional Sunday Roast.
Originally, Yorkshire pudding was cooked beneath the meat as it was roasting on a spit above a fire. This meant that the fats and juices from the meat would drip on the pudding and would add flavour and colour. Traditionally, a Yorkshire pudding was cooked in a large, shallow tin and then cut into squares for serving. In today’s Sunday Roast, the pudding is included with any type of meat, not just with beef as the tradition is.
Yorkshire Beef has become a huge part of the British tradition that it has its own National Yorkshire Pudding Day - the first Sunday in February. This day is celebrated since 1007. Interesting, right?
Even though today meat is no longer roasted on the fire, but is baked in modern ovens, the terms “roasted beef” and “Sunday roast” are still used. People are still gathering together on Sundays all over the UK for a roast dinner, in their homes and in pubs and restaurants. For most people, cooking and serving Sunday roast lunch at home is the heart of British food.
For that reason, if you are visiting someplace in England, make sure to try this traditional dish and tell us your impressions!
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