A small confession to begin with! For many years, although I love roast beef. it was my least favourite meat to cook. I always felt it was the meat I cooked least well - pork, lamb, poultry I have cooked with confidence, and always been pleased with the results - beef less so.
Then I read an excellent book called Sunday Roast by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott and finally it all fell into place.
Firstly choose your meat carefully - it is better to buy a cheaper cut of meat from a good butcher, than a good cut of meat from a cheap butcher if cost is a consideration. Always ask for a piece that has properly hung, the meat should not be bright red, it should be much darker - Johnny Scott suggests somewhere "between garnet-coloured and near black. We are also looking for meat with a good layer of fat on top and plenty of marbling throughout.
I'm cooking a rib of beef here, a 2.25 kg joint will comfortably serve 8.
1 rib of beef - 2.0 -2.25kg
sea salt, black pepper and good quality mustard powder
an onion, or perhaps a couple of carrots
for the yorkshire pudding:
165g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
450 ml milk
beef dripping or goose fat
As with all meat it is important to bring the joint up to room temperature before cooking, so remove from the fridge at least two hours before cooking. If cooking for lunch, I generally remove the night before and leave uncovered in the kitchen (no central heating on). The effect is quite startling, the meat loosens, the fat turns a creamy yellow and yes, the kitchen will smell of meat!
Take a large roasting tin and place the rib of beef with the bone side down. Now take the onion or carrots, slice the onion in two, and tuck in the space under the ribs , they will roast and caramelise wonderfully whilst the meat roasts and add great flavour to the gravy.
If not already done so by the butcher, cross-hatch the fat carefully with a sharp knife (try not to cut through to the meat). Mix the sea salt, black pepper and mustard powder and rub into the fat on the top of the joint.
Pre-heat the oven to 230 C.
Just a note on cooking times here. Meat on the bone cooks quicker than meat off the bone. obviously cooking times differ depending upon the oven, and particularly the accuracy of the oven thermostat but generally the following is true. Cooking time for very rare is 12-13 minutes per 500g, 15-16 minutes for rare, 20 minutes for medium to well done. I usually go for 18 minutes per 500 g, but 20 is probably the safe option for guests who don't like too much rare meat in the middle. (Off the bone, timings are 15, 20 and 25 minutes respectively).
Incidentally if using a meat thermometer, insert away from the bone and fat for accuracy - rare will be at 51 C, medium-rare 54 C and medium 60 C. Please allow for the fact that the internal temperature of the meat will rise by approximately 2 C during 15 minutes of resting.
Place the meat in the middle of the oven and roast for 15 minutes at 230 C (if the joint is 2.5kg 18 minutes, over 2.75 kg 20 minutes). After the allotted time, turn the oven temperature down to 160 C and cook for the remaining time, using the timings above.
When done remove the rib of beef from the oven and allow to rest on a warm serving plate for 15 minutes. Don't worry the beef will continue to cook whilst standing, and be lovely and juicy, and most importantly easier to carve for having rested.
Now for the Yorkshire Puddings!
Sift the flour with some salt and pepper into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and mix well. Now add the milk using 2/3 rds initially and then adding more until happy with the consistency of the batter. We're looking for a good thick batter, not too runny. Try and beat in as much air as possible, but don't over beat. Allow the batter mix to stand for 30 minutes.
I'll assume that we have two ovens here, but if not I'll cover that in a second!. Preheat the oven to 220 C and get the pudding tin in the oven with a tablespoon of dripping or fat in each individual mould. When the oven has reached temperature remove the pudding tin, and to ensure that the fat is smoking hot I place the pudding tin on the hob - just be careful, no accidents!
Quickly pour in the batter mix into each mould and get it back into the oven. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, but resist the temptation to open the door to monitor progress!
Now if there's only 1 oven available, turn the temperature up from 160 to 220 C, and reduce the beef cooking time by 10 minutes to allow for the higher temperature. The beef will only have 10 minutes at the higher temperature as it will be resting for 15 minutes. This will also allow the potatoes to crisp up if using the same oven.
Use the delicious juices and fats, plus roasting vegetables to make the most delicious gravy, which I'll cover in another recipe.
Bring the rib joint to the table in one piece. Carve at the table and serve with roast potatoes, gravy and some horseradish sauce or mustard.
The most British of all dishes ! Enjoy!