Sunday lunch around the world
No occasion brings us together like Sunday lunch. Our columnist talks to people from a range of backgrounds about what it means to them.
The Sunday roast is, for many, the ultimate in comfort. A labour of love that urges everyone to tuck in and then do little else for the rest of the day. And around the world, Sundays have different culinary traditions just as ingrained – biryani, rice & peas, cook-outs and slow-cooked stews. Wherever Sunday is usually a day off, that extra day is put to good use. Here we celebrate different weekend traditions from around the world, and those that have fused with British traditions to create something truly unique – and totally delicious.
Aktar Islam founded Opheem, a Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in Birmingham, in 2018. Aktar, who is of Bangledeshi heritage, also runs a home delivery service, Aktar at Home. ‘A Sunday roast is my favourite and we often have it twice a week. We also have biryani which my parents make at the weekend. It’s cooked in a pot sealed with pastry which is opened at the dining table, so there’s a real sense of theatre. Everyone goes quiet waiting for the big reveal. A waft of steam and the aroma of cardamom and cloves fills the room. There are layers of rice with mutton, goat or chicken topped with caramelised onions and herbs. It’s served with kebabs, pakora and raita –we’re feeders, so there’s a lot of food. In south Asian homes it’s made on a day when everyone congregates, so it’s perfect for a Sunday.’
Santiago Lastra is an award-winning chef behind Kol, a London restaurant that champions Mexican traditions with British ingredients. ‘On Sundays in Mexico, we go out for a big late breakfast. First, someone comes round with a massive tray of pastries and offers coffee or hot chocolate, then they bring the savoury food. They serve many different dishes – 10 different egg dishes, chilaquiles made with totopos (tortilla chips), roasted with a tomatillo and chilli sauce before chicken, crème fraîche, eggs and onions and more chilli are added. There are also molletes, a sort of beans on toast but with chorizo and manchego, topped with pico de gallo – salsa made with tomato, onion, chilli and coriander. It’s really colourful. ‘You’ll eat and then have a late lunch before dinner. There’s a lot of food, it doesn’t really stop.’
Jessica and Joanna Edun run The Flygerians, a street-food pop-up in Peckham, south-east London. Born to Nigerian parents, the sisters have built a following who love their Naija-British food. ‘In Nigeria, Sunday is a day for family. And we take the food very seriously. In our family there’s Mum, Dad and eight siblings. We’ve all moved out but we all go back on Sunday. Shopping is done on Friday, on Saturday the prep gets done and then cooking starts early on Sunday. ‘A typical spread will be pepper soup to start then jollof rice, egusi soup with pounded yam, meat stew with cow foot, beef, shaki (tripe). My parents keep it traditional but they also love British dishes so we’ll have roast chicken and potatoes too. It’ll be the most random collection of food but it makes sense to us.’
Maria Bradford is a recipe writer and chef who runs Shwen Shwen, a catering company that draws on Maria’s Sierra Leonean background. ‘On Sundays in Sierra Leone we eat Krio stew. It’s onion-based and the onions are slow-cooked so there’s a natural sweetness to the dish. Then you add beef, chicken or fish, and a lot of people do it with a mixture of everything. We serve it with boiled or jollof rice, cassava and yam. ‘The stew originates from the Krio people, who are descendants of freed enslaved black people who were sent to Sierra Leone, which is why the capital is called Freetown. ‘If there are any stew leftovers for Monday, we’ll add peanut butter and make it into peanut butter stew. Nothing ever goes to waste.’
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Helen Tse runs Sweet Mandarin Chinese restaurant in Manchester. Her family has been in restaurants since Helen’s grandmother, Lily Kwok, opened Manchester’s first Chinese restaurant, in the 1950s. ‘On Sundays, Chinese families go out for dim sum. We call it the “dim sum church”. ‘Dim sum translated means “touch of the heart”. Small parcels made with love, very carefully crafted. There are hundreds of different types – spring rolls, steamed dumplings, things poached in a soup like dumplings or chicken feet. Then noodle and rice dishes, and congee, the rice porridge. ‘You go out to a restaurant for dim sum, though during the pandemic, we cooked more at home, going to Mum’s on a Sunday and preparing all the gyoza, cheung fun rice rolls, and the har gow and siu mai, which are the brother and sister of dim sum. You can’t have one without the other. Everything is cooked in a big steamer. It’s served with sticky rice, with little bits of chicken, Chinese sausage and mushroom in it, and fried with shaoshing wine and sesame oil. All the dim sum have a little story about them. When you see all the food on the table it’s like a tapestry of our life. Everybody digs in – there’s something for everyone.'
Shelina Permalloo is a chef, recipe writer and cookbook author who runs Lakaz Maman, a Mauritian restaurant in Southampton. ‘In Mauritius, Sundays are about the barbecue cookout. People migrate to the beaches, find a shaded spot and get the barbecue set up. It’s segregated with the kids’ section, the women’s section and then the men. The women would’ve marinated the meat, prepared the sides and got the drinks ready, and then men turn the chicken, congregating around the barbecue – there’s something very universal about that. There’s lots of fish, seafood and salads, as well as meat. ‘My parents were born in Mauritius but I wasn’t, so my Sunday tradition is a bit different. Sundays would be something like a slow-braised curry made with mutton, goat or lamb. And briani is very traditional for Mauritians to have on a Sunday. It’s got the quintessential layering elements you’d find in a Hyderabad or an Indian biryani, though slightly different spices. ‘If it’s beef, it’s marinated in yogurt and spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander seeds with lots of coriander and mint. Then it’s finished with a liquid made from turmeric, ghee and milk to get that yellow colour typical of layered rice dishes, without using saffron, because it’s so expensive. ‘The sides are important too – salads, satini (a blended chilli paste) and a sour pickle maybe made from green mango, green banana or tamarind. So when you eat everything together, you have sour, hot, fresh and then the wonderful heady aromatic briani which is the conduit for everything else. That, for me, is a great Sunday.’
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