January is all about comfort food - and a roast is at the top of the list, says Richard Hughes

I realise many of you will need a few weeks to recover from the trauma of cooking Christmas Day lunch and that even if you follow our family mantra of it 'just being a big Sunday dinner', some of you will feel quite triggered by the thought of repeating the exercise.

However, these early months of the year are all about comfort food, and nothing is quite as comforting as a roast, (particularly if you don’t have to cook it!)

Pies, stews and puddings all have a place at the winter table, but if you feel the need to prolong the celebrations into 2024, only a roast will do.

Of course beef will always sit at the head of the table, but a beautiful shoulder or loin of pork, a couple or three pheasants or a big chicken will do the trick, and offers terrific value alongside a myriad of dishes using any leftovers.

Talking of lunch on a shoestring, the first time my wife Stacia cooked Sunday lunch for me, I was served ‘roast sausages’ with all the trimmings! I suppose you’ve always got that as an alternative, served with a side dish of slight disappointment.

The British love affair with the traditional Sunday roast stretches back for centuries.

Henry VII’s royal guards would enjoy a ritual roast beef dinner every Sunday after church, their salaries enhanced with this choice meat, giving rise to their ‘Beefeaters’ title.

In later years, it would become a tradition for the meat to be placed in the oven as families got ready to go to church, with the potatoes and vegetables being popped in just as they left, so that dinner would be ready on their return.

Those without ovens might drop off their meat at the local bakers – who didn’t bake on a Sunday – to use the residual heat in the ovens for a long, slow cook for a late lunch.

Today, a pub lunch on a Sunday is now a firm tradition for the 21st century.

But is it our national dish? If you ask the French they would undoubtedly say yes.

Having worked with many French chefs over the years, I take the oft-used greeting of ‘hey! Rosbif!’ as a term of affection, though I’m not sure that’s the spirit it was intended.

If you think of Italy you think of pasta, Spain has paella, the French? Well, there’s a so much to choose, but the humble baguette, jambon beurre, is probably close to the top of the pile. All of which can be classed as ‘food for the nation’, accessible, inexpensive and available to all walks of life. I’m not sure a roast and all the trimmings is in the same category.

Nevertheless, be it for high days and holidays, celebrations or a weekly highlight, a roast is always something to be proud of.

I’m using sirloin for this recipe. It’s quite expensive, a prime cut and often makes for a smaller joint.

But I understand not everyone can stretch to this unless for a very special occasion, so talk to your local butcher and a lovely local cut of topside or top rump, wrapped in fat to produce a neat, easy to carve, joint will be absolutely delicious.

And for our vegetarian friends (or in my case, wife)? She’d agree there’s no better offering than the famous Cranks Nut Roast.

Nobody wants a risotto for Sunday lunch, it’s just a shame that so many restaurants and pubs haven’t got the memo.

A cylindrical ‘joint’ of fake meat might warrant mustard, but it certainly doesn’t cut it!

Here’s to long, lazy lunches on Sundays – well, for your guests, at least: just make sure you let them let YOU relax while they wash up!

Roast Sirloin of Beef

Serves 6 to 8 (or four with leftovers!)

• 2kg sirloin of beef

• 1 tbsp vegetable oil or sunflower oil

• Freshly milled black pepper

• 1 tsp Maldon Sea Salt

• 2 large carrots or peeled potatoes, halved lengthways

• 2 bay leaves

• 2 tbsp plain flour

• 500ml fresh beef stock

Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7


1. Let the meat come to room temperature for an hour before you roast it.

2. Dry the meat with kitchen paper, then rub the oil all over. Sprinkle with sea salt and plenty of freshly-ground pepper

3. Lay the carrots or potatoes in a large roasting tin to make a trivet and sit the beef on top, fat-side up. Roast for 15 mins in the hot oven.

4. Turn the heat down to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and roast for another 35 minutes for rare , 50 minutes for medium, 1 hour and 10 minutes for well done .

5. When the meat is ready, transfer to a board, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for at least 25 /30 minutes before carving.

Rare, medium or well done? A meat thermometer will remove the need for guess work – it’s one of my favourite gadgets in the kitchen! Push the probe into the meat as close as possible to the centre (avoiding any bones) and leave it for 20 seconds before taking the reading. Rare beef should read 50C, medium 60C and well done 70C. If you don’t have a thermometer, check your beef is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the joint with a skewer - if the juices are pinky-red, the meat will be medium-rare, slightly pink and it’s medium, and if you want it well done, they should run clear. And don’t forget the all-important resting of the joint!

Great British Life: Roast vegetables. Photo: contributed by The Assembly House NorwichRoast vegetables. Photo: contributed by The Assembly House Norwich

Roasted Root Vegetables

Serves 4

• 5 carrots, peeled and quartered

• 5 parsnips, peeled and quartered

• 1 celeriac, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

• ½ a swede, peeled, cut into 2cm cubes

• 2 tbsp olive oil

• 3 springs rosemary

• 1 garlic bulb, halved

• Sprinkling of sea salt and freshly milled black pepper

• clear honey, to drizzle


1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

2. Toss all the veg with the oil, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic in a large roasting tin, then roast for 40 mins until starting to soften and turn golden.

3. Remove the tin from the oven, drizzle the veg with honey and return to the oven for 10-20 mins more until golden

Cauliflower Cheese

Serves 6

• 600g of cauliflower

• 30g of plain flour

• 30g of butter

• 400g of whole milk

• 1 bay leaf

• 1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

• 150g of mature Cheddar, smoked Cheddar and parmesan, grated

• ½ teaspoon Colman’s Mustard

• 1 tbsp of breadcrumbs

• Sea salt and freshly milled black pepper


1. Cut the cauliflower into florets and finely slice the stalks. Par- boil for around five minutes, until the cauliflower is just cooked. Drain.

2. Gently heat the milk in a pan or microwave with the bay leaf.

3. Place a saucepan over a medium heat with the flour and butter inside. Use a wooden spoon to stir the ingredients into a paste (a roux) and cook for a minute or two to cook out the flour.

4. Whisk in the warmed milk (discarding the bay leaf) bit by bit until you have a thick, smooth sauce, beat in the mixed grated cheeses, reserving a handful for the topping. Once fully melted into the sauce, add in the mustard and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and taste to check you're happy with the seasoning.

5. Add it the cauliflower to the pan of sauce and gently stir to combine. Pour out into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and remaining cheese

6. Bake at 200C/180C fan/gas 6 for 25 minutes or until the topping is golden and crisp.

Homemade Horseradish Sauce

• 4 tbsp grated fresh horseradish

• 2 tbsp crème fraîche

• 2 tbsp double cream

• ¼ tsp English mustard

• A pinch of sugar

• Salt, to taste


1. Mix the fresh horseradish with two tablespoons of crème fraîche and two tablespoons of double cream, ¼ tsp English mustard and a pinch of sugar. Season with salt to taste.

• Unlike the purchased condiment, this will keep for just five days in the fridge.

Great British Life: Nut roast and cauliflower cheese. Photo: contributed by The Assembly House NorwichNut roast and cauliflower cheese. Photo: contributed by The Assembly House Norwich

Crank's Nut Roast (serves 4)

· 1 medium-sized onion

· 25g butter or margarine

· 225g mixed nuts - peanuts, walnuts, cashews etc.

· 100g wholemeal bread

· 300ml vegetable stock or water

· 2tsp yeast extract

· 1tsp mixed herbs

· Salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop the onions and sauté in the butter until transparent.

2. Grind the nuts and bread together in a liquidizer until quite fine.

3. Heat the stock and yeast extract to boiling point, then combine all the ingredients together and mix well – the mixture should be fairly slack.

4. Turn into a greased shallow baking dish, level the surface, sprinkle with a few breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven at 180°C (350°F/ Mark 4) for 30 minutes, until golden brown.