Plate of beans probably only acceptable on toast?
May 18, 2014 6:02 PM   Subscribe

What can I, a simple vegetarian Yank, bring to a regular English Sunday dinner?

Some friends of ours have given us what amounts to a standing invitation to their weekly Sunday dinner, which is incredibly generous. We expect that we'll be going pretty regularly. We've been a few times already and it's a great spread, with roast meat and vegetables, stuffing, and gravy, according to them a pretty traditional English Sunday thing (They're from the UK.).

So far, we've brought alcohol and/or a storebought dessert, and I'd like to do more without straying too far from the tone of the meal. But my knowledge of traditional English meals ends somewhere around Harry Potter and a bit of searching only shows the foods they're already serving. What can I make that will feels like it fits in? Side dish, beverage, or dessert, I'm up to hear about any of it.

I'm a decent cook and baker and will usually have plenty of quiet Sunday morning for food prep. I'm vegetarian and wouldn't mind something that rounds out the roasted vegetables, but there are no other dietary restrictions that I know of. The kinds of things that are already well in my repertoire that I've been thinking of, all made from scratch: bread or rolls, a vegetable quiche, a vegetable/phyllo dough pie, some kind of salad (but what?), strawberry shortcake, poached pears.
posted by tchemgrrl to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Various thematically appropriate puddings:

Steam Jam pudding
Spotted dick
Summer pudding
Sticky toffee pudding
Eves pudding
Jam roly poly
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:08 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

If they're not already serving it, maybe some Yorkshire pudding with a vegetarian gravy? Yorkshire pudding is delicious! I second all the English desserts as well. Oh, and maybe a trifle or veggie pigs in a blanket (sausage rolls).
posted by Blitz at 6:11 PM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Welsh 'rabbit'.
posted by Poldo at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2014

As a former vegetarian, I almost always bring a vegetable side to potlucks. You can't have too many different options, most people don't think of it, and it doesn't read as too much of a "brought my own special vegetarian person food because I can't eat any of yours" thing.

FWIW Yorkshire puddings are traditionally not vegetarian, as the fat in the batter is meant to be meat drippings. I guess there are vegetarian recipes, though? YMMV, but it wouldn't be my first choice for a "traditional" meal.
posted by Sara C. at 6:15 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A side dish of a different stuffing from the one they normally serve (especially if their one is cooked with the meat and not suitable for vegetarians). There are lots of recipes around for fancy stuffings using apricots or prunes or other fruit.
posted by Azara at 6:17 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

A bottle of decent red.
posted by pompomtom at 6:32 PM on May 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Are they trying to re-create a bit of England at each dinner, or are they just serving what they like? Personally, I'd just bring a dessert that uses whatever is in season. If it's hot weather, I don't know that anyone wants to eat a steamed pudding with hard sauce, no matter how traditional.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:51 PM on May 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yorkshire pudding is absolutely traditional and appropriate for a sunday roast. Also, very few people use lard anymore, so its normally a vegetarian-friendly dish. However, I wouldn't bring them because they are tough to reheat without going hard. I would bring a vegetable side dish or another stuffing, as multiples of those are always welcome at a sunday roast!
posted by Joh at 8:15 PM on May 18, 2014

Yorkshire pudding is absolutely traditional and appropriate for a sunday roast.

You're not honestly going to bring some sort of premade Yorkshire pud to someone else's roast? To reheat?

OP: Do not do this.
posted by pompomtom at 8:34 PM on May 18, 2014 [15 favorites]

(Sorry, Joh, that's not really directed at you...)
posted by pompomtom at 8:45 PM on May 18, 2014

Best answer: Eton Mess. A delightful combo of meringue, strawberries and whipped cream - perfect for an English summer. Needs to be assembled just as you're ready to serve, but the component parts are easy to transport and it's really simple to complete the final steps. Here's a slightly lighter version that uses a yoghurt mixed in with the cream. Yum!
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 8:46 PM on May 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Popovers are simple to make and are similar enough to Yorkshire pudding that they would fit right in with the rest of the dinner.
posted by corey flood at 9:11 PM on May 18, 2014

Best answer: What about apple and blackberry crumble? You could either make the custard or take icecream.
posted by saturnine at 9:11 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're not honestly going to bring some sort of premade Yorkshire pud to someone else's roast? To reheat?
I even said in my comment not to do this! I was just bristling at the suggestion that yorkshire puddings were not appropriate for a traditional meal. I am on team yorkshire pudding.

Anyway, stuffing can be reheated pretty well so that's a good choice. Sage and onion stuffing is pretty standard UK fare, but I don't see it here in the US, so that would probably go down well if you made it from scratch. Vegetables dishes that can be cooked at the party are ideal - so not roasted veggies as oven space is typically at a premium. FWIW I do potluck British roast dinners fairly often here in the US, and enjoy my US friends bringing something that they feel is typical of a US roast dinner - like popovers, biscuits, sweet potato and so on.
posted by Joh at 9:51 PM on May 18, 2014

Best answer: Popovers are simple to make and are similar enough to Yorkshire pudding

No, don't do that.

The problem you face is that depending upon the very specific regional and family tradition that your hosts are following, Sunday lunch/dinner is often just a self-contained meal, and in many takes on it, there's no dessert, as that's often reserved for Sunday tea, which is lighter and sweeter: sandwiches, cake, etc.

So if they are definitely up for dessert, you have options upthread. But if it feels like you're forcing pudding on them for your sake when they're full as guns, you might want to think about something that you can leave with them for later. But perhaps what you need to take is a loaf of bread, or a nice bottle of red, or offer to do the washing up.

Because it isn't a potluck. Again, it depends on your hosts, but it can be like getting invited to a concert and you're asking what instrument you need to play. Sunday dinner is food as performance, with a slightly sacramental character (especially for expats) and what you're bringing is yourself.

But this is one of those Ask vs Guess situations, and you're probably not going to be able to guess here. You need to ask your hosts.
posted by holgate at 11:04 PM on May 18, 2014 [20 favorites]

Best answer: As a vegetarian my favourite Sunday lunch centre pieces are a good pie or a nut roast. I don't know how it goes in the US, but in the UK, being stuck eating a bland, insipid nut roast when everyone else is tucking into glorious, glistening roast meat is the vegetarian cliché. Here is my favourite veggie pie that I regularly eat at Sunday lunch (it uses dried prepacked stuffing, I don't know if you get that in the US, but it would work with fresh stuffing too). And here is my askme question from last christmas with many knock-out nut roast recipes.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:32 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Delia Smith's Delia Online has a lot of recipes for very traditional English roast dinners. You can browse by season, ingredient, etc and many of the side dishes are vegetarian. A particular favourite of mine is the Parmesan baked parsnips.
posted by mosessis at 11:53 PM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree with those who have said that bringing food to an English Sunday Roast is kind of weird, in that it's normally a meal which has a lot of family history and meaning to it. Throwing a new savoury dish into the mix that the cook hadn't planned for feels very different to bringing something to a buffet or a barbecue.

Your intentions are good, but if you want to do more to demonstrate your gratitude, I would recommend stepping it up a level with the quality of alcohol you're bringing, rather than interfering with the menu.
posted by the latin mouse at 12:38 AM on May 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If the deserts you've brought to date were eaten after the meal you can probably bring deserts that feel light, even if they are not low calorie. Strawberries and cream, homemade single portion sized meringues & summer fruit&whipped cream to be assembled before being served are both things we have in my family after Sunday lunch. We sometimes have crumble as well but that's much more a winter thing because people are full after a roast.

As others have said I'd not interfere with the roast and accompaniments itself as every family has specific traditions and preferences. But unless there is a specific agreement that you bring desert reciprocating in other ways would be fine. Things like nice alcohol, flowers for the hostess, inviting them over for a meal regularly as well would be options. But you should really ask them how you can show your appreciation. A proposition that was put to me once was that I had a standing invitation to have Sunday dinner at my step cousin's house but could I take his son back to my cousin's ex wife's house on the way back (more or less on my way) if it was his weekend to have him as dropping him back home was a 50mile round trip. So ask them- presumably you are close enough with these people to be able to do that if they are happy to spend time with you most Sundays?
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:08 AM on May 19, 2014

Best answer: I agree that it's not usual for people to bring a dish to Sunday Dinner. I'd suggest instead baking something for later on in the day. Normally people eat til they're stuffed and declare they're never going to eat another bite, and then around 5-6 start feeling a bit peckish and look for what there is to have with a cup of tea.

Sponge cakes
Any cakes
Pretty buns (cupcakes if you must call them that)
Little savouries, so mini quiches would be nice

That way you're bringing an edible gift, which is nicer than wine I think in that your host will have made efforts with the cooking and this shows effort on your part also (although, of course, nice wine is always good). It also means the host is under no pressure to serve your dish if it doesn't "fit in" with the rest of the meal, and they can share it with everyone later or save it for when the guests are gone and they want to relax.
posted by billiebee at 1:12 AM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You could become "the cheeseboard people", each week bringing a new cheese and biscuit cracker selection to end the meal on. Easy to transport, no cooking involved, they don't even need to be refrigerated in most cases - simples!
posted by humph at 2:07 AM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm English and very familiar with a Sunday Dinner.

If you brought extra side dishes to my Sunday Dinner, that would be weird. I would be slightly embarrassed and think you didn't like my food, or last time you came, there wasn't enough to go round and you left hungry, or I didn't cater to your dietary requirements properly. Sunday Dinner is NOT a pot luck.

If you asked in advance "can I bring an apple crumble?" I might say yes (or not if I had planned something else). An American fruit pie would be a good offering in this vein, or anything that's pretty much Pudding rather than Dessert.

If you brought cheese that would be appropriate but people might well be too full to eat much of it.

Of course there is one thing that is appropriate at pretty much any English gathering (except a Muslim one) and that's BOOZE. Bring a bottle of something that they drink, and don't pay much mind to whether they open it while you are there or not.

Finally it is always acceptable to bring flowers from your garden, or a fairly small not-too-fancy box of chocolates, or just invite them back for a meal at your place some time.
posted by emilyw at 2:58 AM on May 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: This is reading basically like several people are just reeling off all of the English desserts they can name. This is weird and the food matches are weird. Furthermore, I think a number of people have never made and possible never eaten the foods they are suggesting, as several of them would congeal revoltingly if made in advance and brought with you.

In addition to emilyw's excellent suggestions, I would vote for the simple Victoria sponge. (If you happen to bake by weight rather than volume, here is the basic recipe off the BBC, but probably just go with the US one because it will account for the difference in fat between US vs Euro butter.)

The BBC recipe is useful however because it demonstrates that often the two tiers are layered, with whipped cream and either jam or fresh fruit in the cream layer. I vastly prefer fresh berries.

As a bonus, these cakes freeze very very well, so if you want to bring a baked dessert at some point in the awful summer, you can pull out of the freezer 24 hours before and just whip your cream day-of.

But just so you know, any fruit pie or tart or chocolate dessert or something like banana bread would be perfect, too.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:19 AM on May 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Related to this thread I've just been having a terminology discussion so I thought I'd share this useful link about puddings
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:39 AM on May 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Marking useful food notes and useful cultural notes as best answers. I was raised to Always Bring Food, so the comments about food-as-performance or ways in which it could be seen as embarrassing to my friends are very helpful.

The dinner is the start of an extended game-playing session, so desserts or snacks usually get eaten after some digestion. Someone brought Oreos last week which were welcomed, so strict traditionalism isn't much of a problem. :) I may bring a loaf of bread which can be easily set aside for evening sandwiches but will mostly stick with drinks and desserts for the time being.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:55 AM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

People in the UK don't really eat spotted dick anymore - I am 32 and have only ever seen it in tins bearing the Heinz label, next to the Fray Bentos tinned pies - and honestly I don't know anyone who even makes sticky toffee pudding from scratch. Honestly, though, we have cheesecake here and we're allowed to eat it. It doesn't have to be a Traditional English Pudding. Last time I did a roast for friends I think we had tiramisu afterwards.

A sponge would be a good thing to bring - keeps well even if you make it the day before, and always goes down well; you can bake the sponges and do the icing/jam thing on the day. Scones are dead easy to make too. I really really like sponge puddings, but they really don't work on a hot day. Or if you want something that's easy to eat while gaming later, some nice home-made biscuits. WHICH YOU CAN DIP IN TEA TRUFAX.

How about some nut loaf? Usually that's the veggie option when pubs have a Sunday dinner menu - that or something involving goat's cheese.

(The link about puddings - 'sweet' or 'afters' aren't as much a local thing as a class thing. It's said that the working classes say the aforementioned, the middle classes 'dessert', and the upper-classes pudding. Really, though, if someone is bringing cake they can call it whatever they like. The important thing to remember is that Proper Persons do not care what you are calling your sugary treat as long as you are enjoying it, or even better, supplying it.)
posted by mippy at 8:01 AM on May 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Offer dessert, but honestly you'd be considered a great guest if you just brought plenty of wine!
posted by welovelife at 1:07 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sticky toffee pudding from scratch is amazing though, and it reheats reasonably. Save it for good cold weather!
posted by kadia_a at 1:19 PM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

nippy: People in the UK don't really eat spotted dick anymore - I am 32 and have only ever seen it in tins bearing the Heinz label, next to the Fray Bentos tinned pies - and honestly I don't know anyone who even makes sticky toffee pudding from scratch.
I am also English.

Spotted dick does have something of a schools dinners/cafeteria food association.

However, sticky toffee pudding is easy to make and really good. As kadia_a says, it also reheats fairly well. FWIW, I know many people that make it from scratch.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 2:38 AM on May 20, 2014

Ah, it's a games night thing! I can chime in on this! Bring a bottle of red for the lunch OR a case of beer for the games. Then bring a container of nice mixed nuts and / or some fresh berries. Bust out the snacks at a midway point during the game.

That way you're contributing without having to cause embarrassment over turning a non-potluck into a potluck AND you've got a healthy sustaining option during the game (we're all getting a wee bit too old to gorge on Cheetos once a week, aren't we?).
posted by AmandaA at 7:10 AM on May 20, 2014

« Older WTF just happened with my scooter?   |   Hikes in NE US - with beer. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.