This article was published in the February 2016 issue of the Irish American News under the “Guilty Pleasures” column.
Being in Belfast over Christmas and New Year made me realize how much I miss things. Friends and family not withstanding, I found I had been longing for Michael’s Mummy’s Sunday roast.
Not long after we arrived for our holiday visit, Mummy sensed our longing and invited us for dinner without Michael suggesting the idea.
When we arrived at the snug bungalow, she was busy in the steamy kitchen, fussing over the stove. All four burners were lit with pots of vegetables simmering away and gravy warming for the potatoes. My father-in-law was slicing the beef with an electric kitchen knife; his wiener dog Henry sat eagerly at his feet waiting for a stray scrap to fall onto the floor.
Soon everything was ready and Mummy summoned us to the table. We sat cozily together catching up after months apart as we tucked into the lovingly made dinner.
Later, when my father-in-law and I were washing the dishes after dinner – a ritual we’ve cultivated over the years – we found the carrots and parsnips accidently abandoned in a pot on the stove. In all the commotion of having her son and daughter-in-law home for dinner, Mummy had forgotten to put the sweet root vegetables on the table.
The Sunday roast tradition strongly stuck with me. In Chicago, when my own parents still lived in the Windy City, we continued the feast with a Midwest flair. Often that meant my Dad would fire up the grill on the back porch and cook a steak “to perfection” as he likes to do no matter the weather. Mom would make a salad or savory vegetable dish and I would peel apples for an apple pie made from scratch. Michael would soak up all the steak grilling tips from my Dad while sharing a Scotch on the rocks with the next-door neighbor.
One year, after returning home from the holidays where we’d spent a portion of our time in Yorkshire, Michael got it in his head that he wanted home-baked Yorkshire puddings. So I wasn’t surprised when Michael asked my Mom, who is an excellent baker, to take on the challenge of coaxing flour, eggs, milk and water into a savory bread not unlike a New England popover. The first few attempts were not as she hoped. The puddings would look amazing in the oven: golden brown and fluffy, but upon leaving the heat they would deflate and go soggy. After fits and starts she refined the recipe and achieved a gorgeous end result.
“You have to resist the urge to open the oven while they are cooking,” she told me. She also advised me to let the batter rest all day.
Now, with no family within hundreds of miles of us, Michael and I keep the ritual alive most winter Sundays. There’s something special about setting aside time on a Sunday to prepare a delicious, home-cooked meal. My kitchen fills with the rich aroma of roasting beef, the sweet smell of bright orange carrots and of course, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.
The ‘meat and two veg rule’ is something the Kearney family lives by, but sometimes we’ll break from tradition and have a curry dish or stir-fry. What remains constant is the extra time and attention dedicated to this heartwarming early evening feast.
Cathy’s Take on Yorkshire Puddings
(Adapted slightly from Elaine Lemm’s Yorkshire Puddings recipe.)
4 large, fresh eggs, measured into bowl, jug or Pyrex
Equal quantity of milk to your measured eggs
Equal quantity of all purpose/plain flour to measured eggs
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. peanut oil per muffin tin section
Measure equal parts eggs, milk and flour. Then beat milk, eggs and salt until mixed (should be light and airy). Slowly add in flour through a sieve. Thoroughly beat mixture again; eliminate any lumps in the batter. Let stand for two hours or more on the kitchen counter.
Heat oven to 450 F. Place ½ tsp. peanut oil in each hole of a 12-hole muffin tin. Place tray in oven until peanut oil is smoking then remove from oven. Whisk the batter while adding a bit of water and then place equal measure of the batter in each muffin tin hole. Return tray to oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven during the baking process. Switch on your oven light and peer through the glass window to check on the puddings.