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Columnist Alison Powell discusses the delights of a roast dinner

THERE are few meals more glorified, eulogised, discussed and debated than Sunday dinner. Christmas and Easter dinner for sure, but what are they if not even more elaborate variations on the former? I don’t cook a dinner every week. My son would choose just a pile of meat and roast potatoes, but is perfectly happy with those from the freezer rustled up by a favourite Aunty called Bessie. My daughter would just eat Yorkshire puddings and a few raw carrots, so it feels a bit of a damp squib to indulge in the frippery and fanfare of making breadcrumbs for homemade stuffing and slicing celeriac for a gratin and it wouldn’t matter whether maple syrup went on the parsnips because even with chocolate spread on them, my kids would turn their noses up.

Give them noodles, pasta, anything Mexican or cooked over coals and flavoured with herbs from Greece or Turkey and they will happily dive in, but the conventional Sunday roast holds little appeal. I think a roast dinner is like a big fry up, in that it feels from first peel to final chop, a bit of an effort. It’s as much about timings and trying to find the space to keep everything warm as any gastronomic flair. Its’ more sleeves rolled up, deep breath and ‘I’m going in’ rather than, watch me drizzle some jus with a flourish.

That is not to say that I don’t like either a roast dinner or a fry up. If anything, I am a passionate devotee of both. It is also not to say that I wouldn’t cook either in a single portion with only myself to feed. I have done that often and had a lovely time. I don’t need to share my love of black pudding and sausages or roast beef and rich, dark, meaty gravy with anyone to enjoy it. But, both are more satisfying, I find when done for an eager to be fed crowd.

If I am roasting pork, scoring the skin, dousing it in oodles of salt, a sprinkling of fennel seeds, throwing in bay leaves underneath, I do want to see the satisfied smile on someone’s face as they crunch that crackling. I want to make a mound of fluffy, buttery mash with a couple of roasted garlic cloves squeezed in to it and note the scrape as my guest gobbles up every last gravy soaked forkful. I want someone to ask about the secret ingredient in my oozing cauliflower cheese (Dijon mustard, should you ask) and yes, I am pleased when someone comments that my roast potatoes, par-boiled, air-dried and shaken to fluffiness before plunging in hot olive oil are the perfect mix of crisp and airy.

It reinforces my firmly held beliefs that cooking for oneself is about self-love and we are worthy of deliciousness and culinary indulgence any day of the week, but cooking for those we care about really is the crackling on top of the joint.

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