Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
Say those five words to your average English person, and with the big, dreamy smile will come the memories of childhood Sundays spent at the family kitchen table.
When my family and I moved the the States in '89, the roast beef and Yorkshire puds dinner drifted into obscurity for years, only to be resurrected about ten years later as our annual Christmas feast.
Because of this, when I make this meal now, it totally makes me think of Christmases spent in Arizona with my best friend Alli and her Mum, Dad and sister Mel, which makes me grin as warmly as any childhood memory ever could.
I always always make roast potatoes to go with my roast beef, just as I do with many other roasts, but I'm putting my recipe for those in a separate post. The sweetness of honey-roast parsnips or carrots are brilliant counter for the peppery savouriness of the beef and gravy.
I must also have a heaping dollop of horseradish sauce on my plate. It's horseradish season right now too, so if you can go out onto a country lane and dig up a few roots, you can make your own sauce very easily.
Just do it outside, unless you want to render the air indoors unbreathable for two days.
I've used a piece of grass fed Aberdeen Angus topside, which means you don't end up with ANY globs of fat or connective tissue, which aside from being more pleasant to eat, it's much easier to slice. The trick is to sear the beef on the stove top first and let it rest well after it comes out of the oven. If you can use a pan with a handle to brown the beef that you can transfer to the oven to finish the cooking, it will make making the gravy so much easier than if you use a roasting tin.
This roast is not a pretty meal, nor is there any room for phrases like 'portion control' or 'go easy on the....'. The finished result should be a large plate, every corner filled with another shade of brown or gold, with thick, oniony gravy sneaking into any remaining available space. Open a decent bottle of red wine or ale and worry about your diet some other time.
Roast Beef With Yorkshire Pudding and Onion
Serves six, takes 80-90 minutes, depending on how pink you like your beef.
1.3-1.5 Kg (approx 3lbs) free range or organic topside of beef, tied by your butcher.
2 tbsp coarse sea salt
lots of freshly cracked black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
For the Yorkshire Puds:
300ml (10fl oz) whole milk
110g plain (all purpose) flour
1/2 tsp salt
For the gravy:
1 onion, grated (optional)
2 tsp corn starch
300ml (10 fl oz hot water)
1/2 tsp fresh or dried thyme
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp English mustard powder
Turn your oven on to 200C (400F) and position one shelf at the bottom and one nearer the top, with enough room to accommodate a roasting tray for your potatoes.
Remove your piece of beef from the fridge at least one hour before you plan to put it in the oven. If the meat is cold, not only will it throw off your cooking times, but when it goes into the oven, the fibres will contract, squeezing out valuable juices.
Rub the joint with the olive oil and pat plenty of sea salt and black pepper all over the outside. Heat a large, heavy bottomed, oven-proof pan over a high heat and once searingly hot, carefully place the beef into the pan and allow to brown for 2-3 minutes before turning. Brown all the way around the outside before putting the pan into the hot oven.
Make the batter for your puddings and put a teaspoon of vegetable oil or beef dripping in each compartment of a 12-cup muffin tray. Have this standing by ready to go in the oven the second you take the roast out.
Roast for 11 minutes per 450g (1 lb) for a rare roast or 16 minutes for medium rare (which is what you see in the picture above.) God forbid you should want to ruin a beautiful piece of beef by serving it well-done, but if you must, roast if for 19 minutes per 450g(1lb)
At the end of the roasting time, remove it from the oven, turn the heat up to 220C (430F) and put your muffin tin in. Wrap the roast in a piece of foil and let it rest for 20-25 minutes so that the meat fibres can relax and reabsorb the lovely juices being squeezed out to the outer surface. Don't skip this step!
When the muffin tin has been in the oven for a few minutes and the oil/fat is smoking hot, quickly spoon the batter into each of the cups, about 2/3 of the way up. Return the pan to the oven, set the timer to 20 minutes and don't open the oven door for at least 15 minutes to check their progress.
While the beef is resting and the puds are baking, make the gravy. If there's not much oil in the pan, add a tablespoonful of veg oil and bring up over a medium heat. If you want an oniony gravy, add the grated onion now and sautee for a few minutes until soft and translucent. If you want a simpler beef gravy, leave the onions out and skip straight to the next bit.
Add the cornflour to the pan and stir well into the oil and onions (if using), cook for about one minute. Add the hot water and whisk in well to prevent lumps. Add the worcestershire sauce and mustard, then let this lot simmer for the remaining 15 minutes or so before the puds come out of the oven and you are ready to slice the beef.
Carefully open the foil wrapper containing the beef and pour any blood and juices into the simmering gravy. Put the beef on a carving board and use a very sharp knife to slice the beef, creating a pile of slices as you go, so that they can retain as much of their heat as possible.
Pull the puddings out of the oven and serve immediately with the roast beef, and lashings of the gravy and roast potatoes.