When it came time to pull together a menu for a dinner with friends centered around Cooking of the British Isles, the answer was easy: Sunday roast lunch. A proper Sunday lunch was my real introduction to British cooking the first time I visited my friends John and Margaret nearly ten years ago—amusingly enough I’d spent the last year eating a variation of the low-carb/high protein diets popular at the time, and so that meal featuring two different preparations of potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, and a sticky toffee pudding for dessert caused such a carbohydrate overload that I ended up napping on a bus later that day.
The book touched on the role of the roast lunch in British food history, and its place as the source of the leftovers that would turn into things like the shepherd’s pie and rumbledethump I made recently. And also looked at how the Sunday lunch has evolved as British society has, particularly the availability of beef to all social classes. But while I love roast beef, lamb is always my first love for a roast—so standing in front of the meat counter at Whole Foods, it was that bone in leg of lamb that came home with me. Honestly, I can’t speak to how the Sunday lunch has changed over the years. For me it’s stayed the same, because of that first dinner in Ipswich with John and Margaret, a Sunday roast lunch will always be about sharing food with friends—not entirely the celebration of gluttony as Cooking of the British Isles describes it.
Though not entirely traditional, I did the dinner in courses: featuring the cheese I’d brought home from Calf and Kid earlier in the week, a potato leek soup (courtesy of that English goddess of the kitchen, Nigella), roast lamb, a mixture of roast vegetables, Yorkshire puddings, and a trifle for dessert.
The most successful part of the dinner for me was the leek soup—a modern recipe. I struggle, as we go along with some of the very simple traditional recipes featured in the book. British food is about simple ingredients prepared well, but our palette has definitely evolved—even in the last 50 years.
Potato Leek Soup
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
4 leeks, sliced (make sure to rinse the leeks well to remove all dirt)
3 potatoes, sliced
3 tablepsoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons oil
3 cups vegetable stock
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat butter and oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add leeks and saute about 10 minutes or until softened. Add potatoes, stock, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste and lower temperature to medium low. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Cool slightly, then transfer to a blender or food processor and purée. To serve soup hot, return to the saucepan and add the cream. Just heat through, making sure not to reach boiling.