I’ve spent a lot since I posted a couple of days ago, and will postpone the usual grocery challenge round-up until tomorrow – I’ve decided to start tracking from payday to payday instead of the calender month, so I’ll finish up March’s challenge tomorrow when I get paid. Obviously it’s not too much of a challenge this month as I’ve knocked a week off the end – but to be honest, we’ve got most of the food we’ll need in for the next two weeks now.
I had some unexpected spends today as I invited my parents over for a spur-of-the-moment Sunday lunch, so had to go and get some ingredients (and freeze the mince that I’d bought for the planned cottage pie, which we’ll have next Sunday instead). I wanted to make roast chicken, but Morrison’s was out of whole free range chickens, so I decided on beef instead.
Roast beef and all the trimmings
This is more of a template than a recipe. I love doing a roast for guests, because it looks impressive, all meat eaters love them and you aren’t spending much time in the kitchen except during the last 20 minutes. Plus the ingredients list isn’t super long. I find it helpful to consider a roast meat meal as a series of parts, as follows:
- When you cook a roast, the first thing you need to think of is the meat. My favourite roast to do is chicken, and I will write about that soon. This time, I was roasting beef, and used a 900g roasting joint, which was done to medium. This served four plus enough for two big sandwiches later.
- The second thing you need to think about is your starches, and people tend to have two for a Sunday roast – some form of potatoes and something else. For a big feast, like Christmas, you might do three or four starches. Examples include roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, stuffing, bread sauce and Yorkshire puddings. I’ve even seen roast lamb served with risotto as a starch. For this meal, I made roast potatoes and jumbo Yorkshire puddings.
- Thirdly, you need to pick 2-3 types of vegetables – I tend to keep it simple and just boil them, except for a Christmas type meal, where I’ll roast parsnips. Ninety percent of the time I serve carrots and green beans with a roast – I just like this combination. Obviously cabbage, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas etc all work well, too.
- Finally, you need to sort out sauces and gravies. I made a red wine gravy with this, and didn’t bother with any mustards or horseradish sauce as I’m not really a fan.
Roast beef timeline
Here was my timeline today (recipes for the roasties, Yorkies and gravy following):
1.30pm – preheat oven to 200C. Prepare a roasting tin by peeling and chopping a few small onions into quarters and chucking them into the bottom of the tin, and adding some carrots (good use for very bendy ones) and celery if you have it. Pop the meat on top of this, well seasoned.
1.40pm – put the meat into the oven on the middle shelf. Peel and halve the potatoes, and put into a pan of cold, salted water.
1.50pm – pour enough vegetable oil into a second roasting tin to cover the bottom several millimetres deep. Put into the oven on the top shelf. Bring the potatoes to the boil and cook for a few minutes. Drain, pop back into the pan, put the lid on a give it a good bash to fluff up the outside. Sprinkle with some plain flour and bash again.
2.00pm – put the potatoes into the roasting tin and turn so that every side is coated in hot oil. Prepare the veg and sit in saucepans of cold salted water. Mix up the Yorkshire pudding mix and sit aside. At this point, I made the cheesecake, but it was slightly tight for time, so if you’re doing a dessert I’d recommend doing it before you start with the main.
2.30pm – pop the Yorkshire pudding tin (with the oil in it) into the oven to preheat (I had to put it on the oven floor as I only have two shelves)
2.40pm – take the meat out of the oven, move the roasties onto the second shelf and pour the Yorkshire pudding mix into the depressions on the tray, moving to the top shelf. Turn the heat up to 230C. Move the meat onto a plate and make the gravy.
2.45pm – put the vegetables on to cook.
2.55pm – drain the vegetables as they finish cooking (cook according to taste) and return to the pan with a little butter. Strain the gravy, carve the meat and the potatoes and Yorkshire puddings should be done at 3pm.
- 1-2 potatoes per person (I used 8 altogether), peeled and cut into halves or quarters if large
- vegetable oil
- plain flour, for dusting
To make good roasties, you need to pop the roasting dish into the oven about ten minutes before you add the potatoes, with a decent amount of vegetable oil at the bottom (i.e. enough to more than cover the bottom and come up a few millimetres deep. The ideal temperature is 220C, but I usually do them at 200C so the meat doesn’t burn.
While the oil preheats, boil the potatoes for a few minutes in some salted water. Drain, put back in the pan, pop the lid on and bash them about inside the pan to make them go a bit fluffy on the outside. Dust with flour and bash again, to distribute evenly. Put into the roasting tin filled with hot oil and turn so that all sides have been coated in oil. Roast for around 50-60 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
Yorkshire puddings (makes four giant ones)
- 70g plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 100ml milk
- vegetable oil
As with the roasties, pour some oil into the bottom of each depression in a Yorkshire pudding tray (again, you need a decent amount), and pre-heat. They need to be really hot – 230C – so what I do is put the tray in to preheat ten minutes before taking the meat out, then turning the temperature up as I take the meat out and put the puddings in. If you haven’t got a proper Yorkshire pudding tray, you’ll need to use a muffin tray and make eight little ones.
As the oil heats up, mix the flour with the eggs using a fork, and then slowly pour the milk in, keeping the mix as smooth as possible – small lumps are inevitable and not a problem. When the oil is hot and after you’ve removed the meat from the oven, pour a quarter of the mix into each depression on the tray (an eighth if using a muffin tray). Pop back into the oven on the highest shelf and cook for 20 minutes or so. Most importantly, DO NOT open the oven door or they won’t rise!
Red wine gravy
- the debris/juices from the meat pan
- a bay leaf
- a glass of red wine
- around the same amount or a bit more of beef stock (homemade or bought – I used a stock cube)
- a little sugar, if needed
- 1-2 tsp plain flour
Once you’ve taken the meat out of the oven, transfer to a plate and cover with tin foil to keep warm. Put the roasting tin (with veg still in) onto a hob and turn onto medium heat. Add the flour and bay leaf and whisk in to the juices until mixed in, then add the wine and bring to the boil. Add the beef stock, continuing to stir. Simmer away until reduced and thick (add more water as needed, especially if you are cooking for more people). Taste and season, using sugar if the wine is a bit acidic in taste. Strain through a sieve, pressing the vegetables with the back of a spoon to get as much liquid out as possible.
Lime cheesecake (serves 8-10)
This is (very) adapted from a BBC recipe for a lemon cheesecake, but I prefer lime and don’t bother with the berries. A 23cm springform tin is the best thing to use – mine is a little bigger, so is a flatter cheesecake. This is a very simple dessert to make, but very tasty and impressive. You’ll need to make it an hour or two ahead of serving.
- 14 digestive biscuits, crushed
- 100g butter, melted
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 750g mascapone
- 200g caster sugar
- juice and zest of two limes
Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter and golden syrup, and press into the bottom of the cake tin – I’ve found that you don’t need to grease it if it’s a springform tin. Pop into the fridge to chill while you make the topping.
Mix the mascapone with the sugar and lime zest, until well combined, then add the lime juice and fold in gently (overmixing here could cause the mix to split). Spoon into the cake tin and smooth the top. Chill until it’s time to serve.