Sunday, 29 June 2014

The perfect roast beef and Yorkshire puddings

How do you cook the perfect roast beef and Yorkshire puddings? 

This recipe is really simple. It will help you create a beef joint that is crispy and caramelized on the outside and pink in the middle, fluffy roast potatoes and puffy Yorkshire puddings. But as always, the key is not to skimp on good ingredients. And also, don't feel compelled to over complicating it with garlic and herbs. Keep it simple for the best flavour. And as this dish is more a British institution than just a meal, then it deserves to be done properly. Once you've tried it cooked this way, you will never want to go out to a pub or restaurant for Sunday lunch again.

Ingredients (dinner for 6 adults or 4 adults and 4 children):

1.5kg beef joint. Go to a good, independent butcher rather than a super market and buy a matured, hung sirloin joint (or a cheaper alternative might be a rib-eye joint). And get your butcher to trim, score, roll and tie it for you. My own preference is for Welsh Black beef, but there are plenty of other types of good, pedigree beef around. 
1 onion, roughly sliced
25g of unsalted butter

200g plain flour
3 eggs
300ml full fat milk
20g of beef dripping (your butcher should have some, if not use cooking oil)
Salt and pepper

6 King Edward Potatoes, peeled and halved or quartered
A tub of goose fat (again, your butcher will have it, but if not, you'll have to use olive oil)
1 tea spoon of Mustard powder
A small palm full of rosemary leaves, finely chopped

A table spoon of cornflour
1 litre of strong beef stock (if you are using cubes or stock pots, dissolve 4 in a litre of boiling water)
(A sprig of thyme - optional)

The cooking:

Your first job is to make the batter for your Yorkshire puddings. If you are reading this recipe in time, and you are still aiming for the "perfect" outcome, then ideally this should be done the day before you are eating them and kept in the fridge over night. Don't panic if you haven't planned that far ahead. As long as you give it about an hour it should be fine (albeit, not perfect).

In a mixing bowl, season your plain flour with plenty of salt and pepper (stir it in), then add your eggs 1 at a time making sure each one is absorbed into the flour before adding the next. Then gradually pour in your milk. A few splashes at a time, stirring it in thoroughly as you go. Once all the milk has gone in, whisk the batter smooth to make sure that there are absolutely no lumps. Then cover your bowl with some cling film and leave it in your fridge over night.

Next job, beef preparation; allow your beef to "chambreuse" or acclimatize to room temperature before you roast it, rather than put it in the oven straight from the fridge. Half an hour should be enough. While it is standing, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and dot the top with slices of unsalted butter. That's it. That's all you need.

Lay your onion slices in a heap in the middle of a roasting tin and place your beef on top. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees. Once at temperature, put the beef in (uncovered). After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature down to 200 degrees and roast for a further hour. It is really important that every 10 minutes or so you baste the beef with its own juices. The added acidity from the onion will also help ensure that the juices you are basting the meat with will make it really tender when cooked. Once the beef is done, you will need to let it rest for 30 minutes before carving it. It will secrete a lot of liquid while resting which I suggest you may want to add to your gravy, so I would normally place the beef on a wire tray over a bowl so as it rests, all the liquid is being captured.

While the beef is still cooking, put your peeled potatoes in a covered pan filled with cold, salted water. Bring the water to the boil with the potatoes in it, and once bubbling, boil your potatoes for 10 minutes (or longer if they are especially big). While they are boiling, spoon the goose fat from your jar into an oven proof dish or roasting tin and put it into the oven with the beef for 2 to 3 minutes to melt thoroughly. Once your potatoes are done, drain all the water from the pan, then holding the lid firmly in place, give the pan a really good shake so the potatoes inside crash into the sides of the pan and each other. This is what will make them fluffy once roasted. Using a slotted spoon, lift each potato out of the pan and into the hot goose fat, rolling them thoroughly so they each get a full coating of the hot fat. Then sprinkle them with mustard powder, salt, pepper and coarsely chopped rosemary leaves. Turn them all over, and sprinkle the other side as well. Put into the same oven as the beef and roast for 45 minutes, (or until golden and crispy all over). Turn them every 12 minutes or so to stop them from sticking.

Now your Yorkshire puddings need to be cooked at 220 degrees (a lot hotter than the beef and potatoes) so if you have 2 ovens, happy days. If not, you will need to plan for this. The good news is, they cook in 30 minutes - the same amount of time you need to leave your beef to rest before carving, so as long as you time your spuds to be ready at the same time it need not be a drama (but you will obviously need to either keep them warm or reheat them for serving). I usually bake my Yorkshires in a baking tin intended for making small tarts and pastries. Before baking your puds, distribute equal sized lumps of beef dripping into each cup in your baking tin and put it in the hot oven until all the dripping has melted down to a hot liquid. Using a ladle, spoon your batter into each cup so it is full and return the tin to the oven. Make sure you have allowed plenty of room for the puddings to rise (because they rise a lot!!) and do not open the oven door until the half hour is up and they are cooked. If you like them crispy, leave them in for an extra 5 minutes or so.

Finally; your gravy. Drain away all bar two table spoons of meat fat from your roasting tin and warm it on a medium heat on your hob. Add a table spoon of cornflour and using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the fat and make a paste. Stir it for a couple of minutes until it starts to darken in colour. Then start to add your stock a few splashes at a time. Be prepared for the fact that it will congeal. Just keeping stirring through it, so it stays smooth, and keep adding more and more stock to thin it out. Once all the stock has been added turn the heat up high, add the juices collected from the resting beef joint, and the onion slices that were roasting under the meat and stir it all together. If you want to make a more "herby gravy", an optional extra would be a couple of sprigs of thyme. It's not necessary but some people prefer it that way. Once you have reached the desired thickness for your gravy, strain it to remove the onion (the thyme if you added any) and any lumps, return it to your roasting tin and let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes or until you are ready to serve it. It should continue to darken through the simmering. Whisk it through to make sure it is thoroughly smooth and de-glazed before serving.

Dish up with carrots, peas and may be some cauliflower with cheese sauce as well if you're feeling flash. It will knock your socks off it's so good and just what you need for a family get together. Enjoy with red wine.

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