'When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food' - Tom Parker Bowles

PUBLISHED: 09:41 04 February 2013 | UPDATED: 22:04 21 February 2013

'When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food' - Tom Parker Bowles

'When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food' - Tom Parker Bowles

'When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food,' cries Henry Fielding in The Grub Street Opera, 'It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood.' So close to so many a Britons' hearts', but just how well do we know our treasured roast beef?

When mighty Roast Beef was the Englishman's food, cries Henry Fielding in The Grub Street Opera, It ennobled our brains and enriched our blood. Here was patriotism made flesh, literally, as a great side of cow becomes succulent, fat-marbled battering ram with which to bash all-vapouring France, with their strange and finicky ragouts. Back then, in Albions glory days, we had stomachs to eat and to fight. And when wrongs were cooking to do ourselves right.

Now Fielding was a fine writer, and the play far more satirical than serious. But The Roast Beef of Old England quickly became branded into everyday culture, and remained popular long after its 1731 debut. The British, or Les Rosbifs, have been closely associated with it ever since. Partly due to our temperate climate, with all that lush grass. And a profusion of breeds ideally suited to specific geographical areas. Plus our skill at roasting (first on a spit, then in the oven) was one of the few culinary spheres, along with puddings, where we traditionally excelled. Wood was always plentiful. As was meat. Well, for the rich at least, where it was seen as a sign of status. The poor, as ever, got by on a meagre, dreary diet of pottage. With the odd scrap of salt pork thrown in for a treat.

But dull would he be of palate to be unmoved by a great, burnished rib of beef, cooked pink, sliced tissue paper thin and surrounded by an adoring entourage of crisp roast potatoes, billowing Yorkshire pudding and rivers of deep flavoured gravy. The same goes for golden skinned chickens, crackling-coated pork and legs of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary. This is feasting food, miles removed from the quick-fix, flavour-free horrors of the average ready meal. The roast is rich in succour and good cheer, eaten with pleasure and digested at leisure.

So why do we so often get it so wrong? Well, for a start, theres no sauce behind which to crouch, no spices to mask any shortcomings. Pick a shabby, tasteless imported bird to roast and the skin will refuse to brown. And the flavour will be but a distant dream, a sorry cipher of the real thing. Now its all very well for me to wag my finger from my food writers ivory tower, telling you to eat good meat. But when it comes to roasting meat, its all about quality. Which does cost more.

Buy British, and the best you can afford. Go to the butcher and talk to him. Thats what hes there for. And forget all the labels of organic and free range and the rest. Flavour is all that matters. Trust your palate, rather than falling for the marketeers silver-tongued spiel.

Of course, cooking times vary from oven to oven, and cut to cut. The tougher bits, shin, shoulder and the rest, demand a low, slow cooking time. While the parts that have done less work, fillet, sirloin et al, want a quick blast of serious heat. But whatever the animal or cut, the resting is as important as the cooking. Leaving the joint in a warm place for 20 minutes or so allows the juices to redistribute around the meat. You get more succulence, and more satisfaction too. This is the sort of lunch that, done properly, gets the taste buds hollering with patriotic delight. Oh! The Roast Beef of England. And old English Roast Beef...

Thanks to Tom Parker Bowles.

0 comments

More from Food & Drink

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The new restaurant at Manchester’s five star Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel was always going to be a little bit special, but The Peter Street Kitchen is truly something else, says Kate Houghton

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Kate Houghton returns to a old favourite.

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The newly created upstairs terrace at Australasia has a unique afternoon tea offering.

Read more
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Kate Houghton visits the Anthologist on St. Peter’s Square.

Read more
Monday, August 13, 2018

Candice Brown talks about the thrill of working with Tom Kerridge at Pub in the Park

Read more
Friday, August 10, 2018

Joe Liptrot is head chef at Cottons Hotel and Spa in Knutsford. Here he tells us a little about what inspires him.

Read more
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Fine dining in elegant surroundings makes Pier Eight at the Lowry a destination dining restaurant you’ll want to visit time and again, says Kate Houghton.

Read more
Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Kate Houghton reviews the latest restaurant to bring creative fine dining to Manchester, The Rabbit in the Moon.

Read more
Thursday, June 14, 2018

Catalan cuisin in the heart of Manchester

Read more
Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tyrone Blake is Head Chef at Blue Smoke on the Bay, in Windermere. Here he gives us a little insight into his journey to becoming a chef in the UK and what it is like in front of the grill at the newest Low Wood Bay dining experience.

Read more
Monday, June 4, 2018

Party on down in Alderley Edge

Read more
Friday, April 6, 2018

We test the new menu for spring at Australasia

Read more
Monday, March 19, 2018

Concoct a cocktail that’s entirely bespoke to you and to your expressed tastes

Read more
Monday, January 22, 2018

Join Arlene Phillips and Strictly Come Dancing favourites Aljaz and Janette on this exclusive 8-day river cruise along the Danube

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Living Edge regular newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Latest Competitions & Offers


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Manchester Property Search