Good roast beef begins with the quality of the piece of meat you buy. This should have been aged by the butcher for at least two weeks and perhaps for as long as three. The colour will by then have deepened towards brown, while the meat will have shrunk because of evaporation of internal moisture. Yellowish fat suggests that the animal ate mostly grass, for grain feeding produces whiter fat. If the meat is bright red then it has not been hung for long enough on the carcass to mature.
Restaurants tend to cook meats at a very high temperature and these days flame rotisseries are again all the rage. In some ways this is ironic, since they mimic the earliest roasting in which meat was cooked on a spit in front of an open fire, the domestic oven being a Victorian invention. In the method described below, the meat is roasted by initially applying high temperatures, then reducing these to fairly hot.
Roast beef enthusiasts tend to favour a particular cut and arguably the finest to cook and eat at home is a joint of 5 or 6 wing ribs on the bone. This may, however, weigh as much as
A rib joint also cooks unevenly and is difficult to carve, so when cooking for others use precisely the same boned cut at a constant weight, thereby achieving consistent results for every serving. For best results the joint should not weigh less than
The following recipe was tested in a domestic electric oven without convection. If using fan assistance, adjust cooking times according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This method delivers an excellent, uniformly medium-rare finish, but only if you allow the meat to rest for 20–25 minutes in a warm place before carving it across into 2 cm / ¾ inch thick slices – each just right for a single portion.
The importance of resting meats after roasting is absolute and perhaps the least understood part of the cooking process. The resting process allows the partial reversing of the protein coagulation that has taken place during roasting, and lets the muscle fibres-which had tightened up in the tense heat – relax, recover their fluids and change from tough to tender, giving a more moist and succulent result. Serving roast meat very hot is not as important as this, but compensate by making sure that plates and vegetables are very hot when they come to the table.
Serve with a simple gravy made from the pan juices and reduced stock, horseradish sauce, Yorkshire pudding and crisp roast potatoes. Those who prefer their meat less rare should extend the cooking time by 10–15 minutes.
No single subject excited so much interest or debate from our readers as the Yorkshire pudding, one of the classic accompaniments to roast beef or, traditionally, served as a first course with gravy before the meat and vegetables. Although properly made from plain flour, it really makes little difference if you use self-raising since the most significant activators are the number of eggs you use, how liquid your batter is and how hot the fat is in to which you pour it.
The pudding batter given here is heavy on the eggs by Yorkshire standards but will meet the most exacting criteria of lightness and crispness. You can cook a Yorkshire successfully in oil, but good beef dripping is essential if you are to have the right flavour.
First prepare the Yorkshire pudding batter: sift the flour into a mixing bowl with the salt. In another large bowl, mix together the milk with
Allow the joint to come to room temperature. Season heavily with salt and pepper, rubbing it in all over.
Sit the joint on a rack in a roasting pan and put to
Remove the meat from the oven and allow to rest on its rack for about 30 minutes in a warm place, covered with foil. Increase the oven setting to 230°C/450°F/gas 8.
While the meat is resting, cook the Yorkshire pudding: put
Make a gravy by pouring off the fat from the roasting pan. Put the pan over a high heat and deglaze it with a splash of red wine. Add the stock and boil fiercely, scraping and rubbing the stuck-on sediment with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
© 1998 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.