Picture the scene: you’re banged up in chokey (obviously you’re innocent of all charges – a grave miscarriage of justice has taken place, you’ll escape and live as a soldier of fortune or something, but for now, bear with us) and are awaiting the death penalty (ok, so we’re asking you to suspend disbelief a touch more). The night before your execution, as is customary, you’re offered a last meal. A spread that will adequately serve to encapsulate your time spent on this mortal coil. What do you choose? Apart from a feast that takes, oh, at least 40 years to prepare?
Roast bleeding beef of course. You’re British. It’s engrained in your DNA. Sunday’s aren’t worth diddly-squat without such hearty fare. So, with that in mind, how to prepare the perfect roast beef? With all the trimmings, natch - Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy that you’d be happy to bathe in.
Who better to ask than Nigel Haworth, the Michelin Star head chef at northern gastronomic Shangri-La, Northcote Manor? Nobody, that’s who.
“Try and buy aged beef. A minimum of three weeks, but go for four weeks if possible as this will add extra flavour. Look for good marbling (the white flecks of fat within the meat muscle): the more marbling, the better the cut, and, most importantly, the juicier the meat will be. Try and buy English rare breed as these produce a smaller eye of beef than their continental counterparts so it is easier to cut. Wherever possible buy from a butcher; they really do add value and can answer any questions you might have.”
“Sirloin, rib eye and rump are the classic cuts of meat to roast. If you’re really going all out, pick sirloin.”
“Take the meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking. Apart from seasoning with some salt and pepper I don’t do anything else to the meat. However, you could try rubbing mustard into the meat – score the fat and rub the mustard (Dijon or rustic grain) into the grooves. Then place on a trivet or rack in the oven – this allows you to roast your potatoes underneath.”
½ sirloin trimmed medium weight 2-2 ½ kg Medium to rare 30 minutes
Whole sirloin weight up to 5kg Medium to rare 40 minutes
Allow to rest
Then baste with butter (baste on a medium heat pouring hot foamy butter over the roast – this adds extra flavour) then roast for a further 10 minutes, season again with salt and pepper. Let the meat rest for 10-15 before serving.
They have to be light with a soft bottom. You want them to rise without being soggy.
300g plain flour
3 whole eggs
Pinch of salt
Dripping or cooking fat
Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and make a hollow in the middle. Add the eggs, milk and water and mix thoroughly (to a similar consistency of single cream) pass through a fine sieve.
Place the dripping or cooking fat into the Yorkshire pudding moulds or tray and melt the fat in a pre-heated oven (200 degrees c) until spitting hot. This can be one large square tin, round or a bun tin.
When the fat is hot enough pour the batter to half full.
Cook at 200 degrees c. large tin for approximately 30 minutes, small bun tins for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, until risen and golden.
The most important accompaniment. Choose a good potato – Maris Piper and King Edward’s are good for roasting. Parboil in seasoned water for three to four minutes. Pour off the water and put aside. Give the potatoes a good shake – this lets the fat permeate, which then gives you incredibly crispy potatoes, but light and fluffy inside.
Cauliflower cheese is good with roast beef. Be guided by the seasons: root vegetables – butternut squash, pumpkin, baked squash – are all perfect right now. Cabbage is another good accompaniment. Steam some Italian black cabbage with a generous knob of butter, some salt and pepper and a touch of water for two or three minutes.
Homemade shows attention to detail. Peel a horseradish root, grate (any excess can be frozen and used next time) and add some whipped cream. Then add some crème fraiche or neutral mayonnaise as this will add body. Season, and, if you want add some shop bought in too.
As the meat is resting you have time to make the gravy. Take the water that you blanched the potatoes in and having skimmed the fat off the excess juices of the meat add to the tray. Pour in some good red wine and reduce. Add some beef stock – a good beef bouillon or chicken even. You don’t want to overpower the gravy. Gently reduce that down – you’re looking to reduce it by half. Thicken with cornflour or potato starch. Add a knob of butter if you’re feeling frivolous. Combine any juices that come from the meat while resting – this will only add flavour.
Serve with red wine – a good Châteauneuf-du-pape or a Portuguese red, such as Ciconia from the Alentejano region. If you fancy a beer, go for Thwaites Bomber or any good full bodied bitter.