Given a choice between lamb or beef I am likely to choose lamb…around 9 times out of 10 for certain. I think growing up with my mum’s roast beef has left some mental scarring that is proving difficult to shift.
For the record, my mum is a great cook, but she has always had a blind side when it comes to roast beef. I grew up believing that roast beef was a dish more grey than brown & pink, and each mouthful needed to be chewed so much that it would actually be easier to chew a spoonful of teeth.
Lamb rules…even when it is not cooked brilliantly it still tastes ok, whereas beef just nosedives. But my opinion is shifting – beef will never top lamb, as far as I am concerned, but I will reach for it now a lot more often than I have ever done before, and after many, many experiments I think I have found the right balance and approach to getting roast beef right every time.
See what you think…but here’s my view.
The main thing is to get a superior cut so go for topside, silverside or top rump. Don’t be scared of getting one with some fat on it as it all adds to the flavour. I am yet to try cooking my own rib roast, but that will be coming at some point later this year (it’s not cheap!).
Make sure the beef is at room temperature before you do anything with it, so take it out of the fridge at least an hour before you are going to start cooking and place it in the roasting dish to slowly bring up the temperature.
Prepare it with loads of butter and sea salt. I smother it in the stuff and brush a little mustard all over too. French mustard is better for this as our own English mustard is a bit too strong for this. Add some chopped thyme on top too.
Then in roasting dish put some carrots, onions, parsnips and a cut up clementine. This is not for veg to eat, rather it is to flavour the beef while cooking and to make the basis of a damn fine gravy…especially as the meat juice and butter will seep in through cooking.
Put in the oven at 220° (200° fan oven) for 20 minutes then follow the weight instructions (usually 30 minutes per 500g + extra 20/30 mins) but roast it at a slightly lower heat such as 170° (160° fan) with the roasting dish covered in foil.
Baste it around 3 or 4 times in its own juices while it is cooking – this helps the meat to be tender and increases the intensity of the juice flavour which is important if you are going to make your own gravy with it.
Avoid making the mistake of carving it straight from the oven – you need to leave it to ‘rest’ for 20 minutes. Meat is muscle, and the muscle fibers contract while you cook it…they need time to relax again after being in the oven and it is this ‘resting’ phase that makes the meat more tender.
Once rested take the meat out of the dish and get carving.
The Art of Good Gravy
Pour all the juice and veg from the roasting dish into a jug and add a splash of decent red wine. A good stock needs to be added – I’m not a fan of stock cubes but do like the Knorr Stock Pots. Mix it up in a pan and bring it to a decent heat, but don’t boil it. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. A dash or Worcester sauce also can work here. The gravy should add a riot of flavour, but make sure the taste ringleader is the juice from the roasting dish – don’t spoil all that flavour by adding too much red wine, or water it down with too much stock. Usually too much gravy is made…make a bit less to preserve the power of the juice. The more volume of gravy you make then the more you reduce that intensity.
So…that’s my take on it, and after a few failed, average and then very good experiments this is how I’m doing it from hereon.
Always keen to get your views…is there something I am missing? Please leave a comment below.