Perfect Roast Beef and British Roast Dinner Week

Roast Dinner Week

My waistline will attest that I love food and I adore eating almost anything, apart from desiccated coconut and the dates you get in those little wooden boxes at Christmas. Feed me Chinese cuisine, Italian cooking, sticky-icky smoky barbecue food and I’m a happy chef but the food I think I love most and would be my death row last meal choice, although at this moment in time that is not an option I’m considering, is the classic British roast. Succulent roast chicken with crispy skin; chunks of tender lamb flavoured with garlic, rosemary, and anchovy; melting, fatty pork with salty crackling or medium rare roast beef with rich red wine gravy, it is very difficult to choose which I prefer most.  Which is your favourite? Which is the most popular roast in the country? Well, the roast that everyone worldwide knows is as British as roast beef, well is er….. roast beef.

Roast Beef - Copy.jpeg

So if the king of the British roast is a joint of beef, in my humble opinion it is the equally aristocratically sounding Sirloin* that is the best beef to roast. There are moderately cheaper joints such as a corner cut topside that make for an excellent roast, if you can afford it a rib on the bone is perhaps the most show stopping roast to present at a table, but I prefer is the sirloin. The meat itself is very lean, however, that lovely layer of fat will help keep the meat moist when cooking. The taste is terrific, there is a minimal waste and it is fantastically easy to carve at the table if you feel like impressing your guests.

*You are perhaps aware of the story that an effusive monarch was so taken with his beef dinner he knighted the remains of the joint on the spot. It has been attributed to Henry VIII, Charles II and the host of English kings in between and was so popular it was referenced by Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson, but the origins of the word sirloin are much less regal. The old English word would be originally written as ‘surloyn’ or ‘surloine’, and was derived from French word ‘surlonge’, sur meaning over and longe meaning loin, the sirloin was then quite simply a cut of beef taken from above the loin. Interestingly most of our words describing cuts of meat or the name of the meat are from French origins, the names of animals or livestock are more often of Anglo-Saxon descent.

Now as a family we sit down about one o’clock for a traditional roast on a Sunday, just as I did with my parents and grandparents, this week, however, is National Roast Dinner Week* encouraging you to eat a roast when and where ever and I am all for that. I have posted the recipe for Yorkshire Pudding, the classic accompaniment to roast beef previously, so here is my recipe for the perfect roast beef. A good local butcher will be able to provide you with a great piece of beef from a reputable, quality supplier. If you can find grass fed, mature beef, hung for three weeks it will be simply delicious, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 *I have a theory about space and time and alternative universes that postulates the somewhere in a never-ending series of multiverses it will always be a named something day or week, Free the Herring Day, Shred more Paper Week alternatively this is just the creation of canny marketers to get you to purchase something you neither want or need.

Roast Sirloin of Beef and Rich Red Wine Gravy         serves 6-8

1 ½ to 2 kg center cut Sirloin, rolled and tied

( Ask your local butcher to do this )

250 gr Beef Dripping or Lard

1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves

½ tablespoon English Mustard Powder

1 teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon ground Black Pepper

For the gravy

350ml red wine

200ml beef stock

75ml port

1 small White Onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 Carrot, peeled and sliced

1 stick of Celery, washed and sliced

1 clove of Garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons of Vegetable Oil

1 heaped tablespoon Plain Flour

1 Bay leaf

A few sprigs of Thyme

Heat your oven to 400 F / 200C/ Gas Mark 6 and weigh your joint of beef. Put the dripping into a roasting pan and place in the oven. Mix the thyme, mustard, salt and black pepper and rub all over the beef and when the dripping is melted and hot, place in the beef fat side down and return the roasting pan to the oven. Roast the beef for thirty minutes, then remove from the oven and turn the piece of beef over before placing back in the oven.

Turn the heat down to 360 F / 180C / Gas Mark 4. For every 450 gr of raw weight, cook your joint for ten minutes per 450 gr for a rare piece of beef and for fifteen minutes per 450 gr for well done. When the beef is cooked to your particular preference, take it out of the roasting pan, cover with foil and allow to rest somewhere warm for thirty minutes.

To make the red wine gravy, place the roasting tin on a high heat with the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay lea, and thyme. Fry the vegetables for a couple of minutes then add the flour, cook for a couple more minutes stirring continuously. Pour in the port, scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen any debris from the tin and add the red wine. Continue to simmer and reduce by three-quarters before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce by a quarter and season to taste. Pour any juices from resting the meat back into the tin, warm and pour the gravy through a sieve into a warm jug. Carve the meat and serve with the gravy and Yorkshire puddings.


National Yorkshire Pudding Day and My Perfect Yorkies


Let’s call Yorkshire pudding
A fortunate blunder:
It’s a sort of popover
That turned and popped under.

Ogden Nash

The Yorkshire pudding it is said can only successfully be made by someone from that august county of England. My mum is from Yorkshire and makes wonderful Yorkshire’s and perhaps the skill is inherited because I am pretty proud of most of my attempts. A Yorkshire pudding is made from a milk, egg and flour batter which was originally poured into a tin set under the roasting joint. The pudding cooked in the hot meat fat and absorbed any juices from the roast. A large slice was served to each dinner with meat gravy before the main course. The meat and vegetables then followed usually served with a parsley or white onion sauce.

In 1747 in ‘ The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy ‘ by Hannah Glasse, one of the first English female cookery writers, there is a recipe for Yorkshire pudding. This is the first time a batter or dripping pudding is recorded with the name, although a flatter less aerated dish had been cooked for many years previously. Traditionally any leftover pudding could be eaten as a dessert with sugar and perhaps orange juice.

The Yorkshire pudding recipe popped over to America ( excuse the pun ) and the first recipe for a Popover is recorded in ‘ Practical Cooking ‘ published in 1876 by M. N. Henderson. Popovers may be served either as a sweet, topped with fruit and whipped cream for breakfast or with afternoon tea or with meats at lunch and dinner. Popovers tend to be individually baked in muffin tins and often include herbs or garlic in the recipe other popular variation replaced some of the flour with pumpkin puree. The name popover originated from the fact that the cooked batter swells or pops over the top of the baking tin.

You can fill your fancy popovers or Yorkshires with just about anything that takes your fancy, here are a few ideas from some I made in Jersey today; Chicken Liver Parfait and Red Onion Marmalade, Goats Cheese, Rocket and Balsamic, Vanilla Ice Cream, Raspberries and White Chocolate Shavings and Apple Crumble and Custard.


In 2008 the Royal Society of Chemistry held a competition carried out to create a vouchsafe Yorkshire Pudding recipe and decided that a true Yorkshire Pudding cannot be less than four inches tall. They examined the effects of temperature, ingredients and even altitude in the search for perfection. My knowledge of chemistry is limited to an ancient ‘ O ‘ level but quite simply the heat causes the two raising agents, the egg and beaten in air, to expand the batter mix. My tips for success are simple are make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature and get the fat in your baking tray smoking hot.

Individual Yorkshire puddings can be cooked after your joint while it is resting before carving.

Perfect Yorkshire Puddings

90 gr Plain Flour

1 Fresh free-range Egg

240 – 270 ml half Milk / half Water

¼ teaspoon Salt

A good pinch of freshly ground White Pepper

1-2 tablespoons of Beef Dripping

Preheat your oven to 220C/425F/Gas mark 7. Place a damp cloth on your work surface to stop your mixing bowl slipping. Sieve the flour, pepper and salt into your bowl, make a well in the middle and add the egg. Start to beat together then gradually add the milk / water. Continue adding the milk/ water until the batter is smooth and the consistency of pouring cream. Leave the mixture to stand for ten minutes. While the mixture stands divide the beef dripping into Yorkshire Pudding tins and place the tins in the oven until the fat starts to smoke. Give the batter a final stir and pour quickly into the tins. Put them back in the oven and cook until well risen and golden brown, this will take about fifteen to twenty-five minutes depending on the size of your tin.

For the full Royal Society of Chemistry press release

Weekend Top Tip

I’m pretty sure Frankie wasn’t talking about sirloins and saddles of lamb but the important word here is RELAX. Every chef I know worth their salt* and every TV chef you watch will all tell you to let cooked meat relax. It is just not important it is imperative ! An impeccably sourced, correctly seasoned piece of meat will be dry and tough if not allowed to rest. Simply after cooking keep a steak warm and covered with foil for 5 minutes before serving. For an average chicken or joint of meat cover with a foil tent and keep in a warm oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The core temperature will actually rise and the meat will reabsorb its natural juices making it tender and tasty. From a duck breast to a glazed ham to a whole side of beef , when allowed to relax the difference is truly amazing.

 * In ancient Rome soldiers were paid part of their wages in salt – from which the term salary derives

Don’t Grouse – Cook it !

Grouse_shootIf you are not lucky enough to live on your own landed country estate you may not know that today, the twelfth of August or the ‘ Glorious Twelfth ‘ is the start of the shooting season in the United Kingdom. Well it is for the unfortunate Red Grouse and to a much lesser extent the Ptarmigan, as enshrined by the Game Act of 1831. If you do own, work on or visit a game shoot, this is one of the busiest and most lucrative days of the season, with large amounts of game being bagged or shot. A grouse moor is valued by the number of brace ( a pair of grouse shot ) and the prices can reach into the tens of millions of pounds. Why ? Well there are plenty of people prepared to pay a lot of money to dress up in tweeds and yield a shotgun.

British Red Grouse-001I take a sanguine approach to life and expect the whole shebang is jolly good fun but what I know is that correctly prepared grouse is tender and delicate but still rich and fragrant and well worth the cost ( at least for a brace ). Traditionally there is a race between many of London’s grand hotels and establishment gentleman’s clubs to get the first birds shot, cleaned up, roast and on to the table. This recipe combines the elements of a classic roast game bird garnished with watercress, toasted breadcrumbs and bread sauce and includes some classic techniques that you can transfer to other recipes. You can ask your friendly butcher or game supplier to pluck and draw your birds for you if you have not bought them back straight from the moor.

Not all game have the same start to their open seasons – most begin on September 1, with October 1 for Woodcock and Pheasant.

Roast Grouse Serves 2

2 fresh young Grouse

50 gr softened Butter

4 rashers of Streaky Bacon

200 gr freshly prepared Mirepoix*

150 ml good quality Madeira fortified wine

1 tablespoon of Redcurrant Jelly

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

1 bunch of watercress, thoroughly washed

*For the mirepoix peeled and finely dice one onion, two medium carrots and one stick of celery, sauté in a little good butter until soft add 2 crushed peppercorns a sprig of thyme , parsley with root if possibly and a bay leaf. Mirepoix is used as a base for many classic sauces such as demi glace and a good ragout.

for the bread sauce

1 small Onion, peeled

2 Cloves

1 Bay Leaf

250 ml Milk

1 tablespoon Butter

110 gr stale White Bread, crusts removed, cut into small cubes

Nutmeg to taste

for the game crumbs

6 tablespoons Butter

2 handfuls fresh White Breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon Dry Sherry

2 tablespoon freshly chopped Parsley

Heat the oven to 200C/ 400F/ Gas Mark 6. Prepare the grouse by washing and thoroughly drying each bird with paper towelling. Liberally season the cavities with plenty of salt and pepper and place a teaspoon of butter and redcurrant jelly in side. Rub a good teaspoon of soft butter on each breast, then using the back of a cooks knife stretch out the bacon on a chopping board. Wrap each bird carefully with two pieces of bacon. Put both birds in a small roasting tin and place in the centre of the oven for 18-25 minutes: Eighteen minutes for young birds and twenty five minutes for larger ones. After the first ten minutes of cooking add the mirepoix to the roasting pan.

Roast GrouseRemove from the oven when done and tip any juices from the body cavity of each bird back into the tin before transferring the grouse to a warmed serving platter. The legs should be just cooked (please don’t be alarmed by their faint bloodiness — this is how they should be eaten) and the birds perfectly pink at the breastbone.

Put the roasting tin over a medium heat on the stove and add the Madeira. Bring to a vigorous boil, scraping to lift the sediment from the bottom of the pan, and reduce the liquid by a third. Check the seasoning. Melt in the remaining redcurrant jelly. Strain into a small pan, return to the heat and finish by whisking in the remaining butter until glossy.

For the bread sauce, stud the peeled onion with the cloves and bay leaf , this is technically called a cloute. Place it in a small saucepan with the milk and bring to a very gentle simmer over a low heat. Simmer for about 10 minutes, to allow the flavours to infuse the milk, taking care not to let the milk boil over. You can do this two hours before roasting and leave to steep. Strain the milk through a sieve into a clean pan and return to the heat, discarding the onion. Stir the butter into the milk then remove from the heat. Whisk the bread into the hot milk until it forms a smooth sauce. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. To prevent a skin forming, cover the sauce with a piece of buttered greaseproof paper until ready to serve, this is called a cartouche.

For the game crumbs, melt the butter in a heavy bottomed frying pan over a medium heat. Tip in the breadcrumbs and fry gently for about 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Stirring to prevent burning. Pour in the sherry stirring constantly and cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the parsley and season with salt and black pepper.

Place the grouse on two warm plates and garnish with breadcrumbs and watercress. Pour over a little of the pan gravy and serve with the remaining juices and the bread sauce served on the side.