A friend recently told me that she loved eating beef but she’d never cooked it. I asked her why and she really didn’t know – by all accounts she is an experienced and accomplished cook so this did seem rather odd. I showed her a picture of a rib of beef I’d cooked for my birthday and she asked how long I cooked it for, looking slightly surprised at the short cooking time and saying she wasn’t sure if she’d be brave enough to tackle something like roast beef as surely it was quite complicated.
There are lots of people who think a large roast is a complicated thing but really, it’s all down to planning and organisation and, more often than not, it’s all the accompanying dishes that cause the headaches. Unless you’ve got a fantastically complex meal in mind, roast meats (and beef in particular) are pretty easy to get right and a simple but delicious hunk of meat is always going to please.
Obviously if you are vegetarian or vegan you will massively disagree with me but there it is.
For me, the quality of meat is a defining factor and, put simply, the higher quality meat then the better the finished dish. I insist on free range, high welfare meat as not only to do I think this is morally the only choice, but there is no comparison when it comes to quality of flavour. Buy the best you can afford – it will be worth it, trust me.
As for timing, I always follow the blast-then-low method (which I learned from, the ever-dependable Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) – where the oven is preheated to its highest setting and the meat gets a good 20mins or so to start the cooking process. The temperature is then reduced for the rest of the cooking time and the results are always spot on. You can adjust how long the lower temperature cooking is depending on how you like your meat cooked – I insist on rare for beef and lamb but I will give you times for medium too. Well-done is simply unacceptable in my opinion and doesn’t bear thinking about.
Also, the resting time is vital – if you try and carve meat straight from the oven you will not get the best results. Meat needs to relax after cooking, to let the juices sink back in – in short, to rest is best! Also if you’ve slightly under-done it, your roast will continue to cook slightly as it rests which can be a big help. I rest meat for a minimum of 30 minutes but longer is fine – just don’t cover the joint too tightly with foil or there is a risk the residual heat may overdo your carefully timed roast.
I always have beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, greens, gravy and hot horseradish sauce but you can have whatever you prefer. But if you are one of those strange people who has cauliflower cheese with a roast dinner I’d rather not know about it.
This quantity will feed 6-8 depending on how greedy you are.
- 1.8-2kg rib of beef (or any other roasting joint)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- An hour or so before cooking, get you meat out of the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature
- Pre-heat your oven to its highest setting
- Slosh a glue of olive oil over the meat, season generously with salt and pepper, and rub it all over, making sure the whole piece is covered with the oil and seasoning
- Place your meat on a rack in a roasting tray (you can put sliced onions and veg to aid your gravy underneath if you like) and put it in the middle of your screaming hot oven
- After 20-25 minutes, open the oven door to lower the temperature and reduce your oven to Gas Mark 3/160c then cook for 10 minutes per 500g for very rare, or 12-15 minutes per 500g for medium
- Once the cooking time is up, remove from the oven and put the beef on a warm plate and cover loosely with foil (don’t wrap it tight or it’ll over-cook) for at least 30 minutes
- Use the juices and whatever is in the tray to make gravy
- Carve, eat, rejoice
- Just don’t have cauliflower cheese with it….