Last night I had a couple of friends over and at the last minute realised that the chicken I planned to make was two small for 4 people. So roast beef it was. I had all the ingredients so it was just a question of timing.
Ingredients (serves 4):
1.2kg roasting beef
2 large parsnips
4 medium carrots
1-1/2 medium sized potatoes, quartered
salt and pepper
2 red onions
200ml red wine
First oil and season the beef and brown it in a heavy bottomed pan to seal it. I spiked it with bits of garlic afterwards but not essential. Put it on a rack and pour about 200ml of red wine in the pan, as it adds a bit of flavour to the meat as it evaporates. Cook it for 20 mins on high setting around 240C, then 30-35 minutes on 180C (10 minutes per pound rare times 1.2 per weight). After the first 20 minutes I added an onion sliced into 6 wedges, as onion is the secret ingredient for good and easy gravy.
The beef ended up very pink in the middle, with juices running clear. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, it should be more but everything else was ready and we were starving.
To make roast potatoes I followed this recipe. Parboiled parsnips for a few minutes (5-10 depending on size. I added them to the potatoes for the last 5 mins of parboiling). Roast them in olive oil (or duck or goose fat) for 30-40 minutes on 180C, with the red onion cut into 12 wedges, sprinkled with dried rosemary (fresh better if you have it). Carrots are quick and easy – cut into long chunks, season, put in a pyrex bowl, add a knob of butter, cover with cling film. Put in a microwave for 4-5 minutes, depending on how many there are. They should still be crunchy, with the butter and carrot juices at the bottom of the bowl.
Serve the juices from the meat, the onions are crunchy by now, in a separate bowl as gravy. I usually have hot creamed horseradish with the beef.
This is one of my favourite slow cooked dishes, another example of French regional cooking, adapted from Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine via Sunday Telegraph’s magazine.
250g (9oz) unsalted butter (I NEVER use this much. OK, the dish does need a lot of butter so I use about half the amount as required by the recipe, then let the dish cool down, fridge it for a while and then scoop out the butter that becomes very visible. In my experience this hasn’t affected the flavour but considerably reduced the fat content)
6 onions, peeled and cut into thick half moons
1.5kg (3lb 5oz) beff topside cut into portion-sized steaks
2 bay leaves (I always add more)
2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed (again my hand slips and I add more :P)
1 tbs red-wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil (I include in this amount the oil from anchovies)
5 anchovy fillets chopped
2 dried red chillies ideally bird’s-eye
1 very large handful fresh flat leaf parsley
Take a heavy casserole with a lid, and rub the inside all over with three quarters of the butter. It isn’t just a greasing agent – it’s really a part of the dish. Scatter in some of the onion. Season the beef and layer some of it over the onions. Continue to layer the beef and the onion. Throw in the bay leaves. Smear a sheet of greaseproof paper with the remaining butter and place, butter-side down, on top of the meat and onion.
Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. Place the lid on the pot and heat over a flame until it starts to sizzle. Transfer to the oven and leave for two hours or so, until the meat is very tender.
Place the other ingredients in a food processor and blitz to make a paste. As I don’t have one, I use mortar & pestle and get a very satisfying amount of gooey paste that smells absolutely delicious. Stir the paste into the meat and juices. Replace the lid and leave to infuse for 30 minutes off the heat. Gently reheat for about 25 minutes over a low flame and serve with mash potatoes and something green.