The return of the big roast dinner: the simple way to cook it

Gráinne O’Keefe: As I got older, I started to lament the dinners I had when I was growing up in the 1990s

A roast dinner feast for carnivores and vegetarians, with all the trimmings. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

When I was growing up in the 1990s, roast dinners were a big deal. It was usually on a Sunday, when we would be subjected to peeling potatoes and the air would be filled with the aroma of cabbage being boiled in the ham water.

When I visited my grandparents, though, there was a roast dinner every day. My grandparents were farmers in Leitrim and they always had an early start on the day so dinner would be at around 2pm and was always a mountain of fluffy potatoes, with some form of roast meat and vegetables buried underneath.

Being raised in Dublin, I had only half digested my hot Weetabix a couple of hours before dinner was put in front of me. After dinner was tea, with sandwiches being made from the remnants of dinner, and then the very few scraps being tossed out secretly to the wild cats. No meal will ever live up to those ones and no sandwiches have ever tasted as good.

As I got older, I started to lament these dinners, even the roast that I had at home as a kid, that I didn’t want. I have so little time now to spend with family and friends that every time I make a roast dinner, it’s a very special occasion.


Roast chicken is one of my all time favourites and I have already shared a few recipes for great chicken but I also love a great veggie Wellington, made in the same style as the a beef version, but filled with sweet, earthy root vegetables. Cheese can be added to make it an extra decadent vegetarian roast dinner.

Lentil and beef cottage pieOpens in new window ]

Roast pork is a classic but often can be too fatty, with flabby bits of the rind making for an unpleasant dining experience. The key is to buy a lean piece from your butcher and ask them to trim off any excess fat. You can, of course, stuff the pork, but I find that this walnut salsa verde is the perfect accompaniment.

Potato dauphinoise, broccoli and horseradish sauce are staples to serve alongside most roasts and can be served family-style, to share, making a roast dinner that bit more manageable.

Recipe: Vegetarian Wellington with walnut salsa verde

Recipe: Crispy roast pork with sage and jalapeño salsa

Recipe: Roast dinner sides: Potato dauphinoise, broccoli gratin and horseradish sauce