Roast Highland Beef
Let’s start with the basics – after all, Delia Smith did with her “how to boil an egg”! Most of us who are worried about roasting joints are only so because of lack of experience – how many of us roast a lump of beef for say 8, 10 or even 12 people regularly?
The first question to be tackled is whether to buy a joint on the bone, or one that is already boned and rolled by your kindly butcher. The difference is simple – the joint on the bone, when cooked, will have more flavour than the boned and rolled joint, but the boned and rolled joint will be simpler to carve. If you are worried about carving, it is often possible to avoid doing it in front of everyone. Let them enjoy a glass of wine and chat, while you either carve in the kitchen - well out of sight - and place the slices on a warm platter or ashet before bringing it to the table, or put the joint on the side board and carve with your back to everyone! If you have a sirloin or rib of beef, it might be easier to take the meat completely off the bone – once it has rested - and then bring it to the table where it will be easy to carve even slices. A good sharp carving knife, together with a long pronged fork, are essential for the task. A blunt knife makes the job ten times more difficult and increases risk of carving you as well! If you follow these simple instructions for cooking the beef, you and your guests will enjoy a wonderful lunch or dinner.
It is always preferable to buy a piece of meat a little larger that you need. Firstly, a large joint will cook better that a small one, secondly, it does look more impressive, and there is nothing like the ‘wow’ factor to make the poor cook’s efforts seem worth it. Then there is also the chance that your guests are bound to want some more of this fine and superbly cooked Scottish beef and, of course, cold roast beef the following day is well worth having, and is truly delicious.
So having said all that, assuming you elect to have your meat on the bone, for 8 people you will need a 3.2kg piece of rib or sirloin of beef which should have a good layer of fat over it. (If the meat is particularly lean, you can ask your butcher for some fat specifically to put over the meat whilst roasting it). Yes, I do know we are all supposed to eat less animal fat these days, but it is the fat that adds the fabulous flavour to the meat and it is needed to baste it - and anyway, most of us do not eat like this everyday, so indulge yourself! If you elect to have meat off the bone, you can choose between boned and rolled rib, rolled sirloin or topside, the latter perhaps with a little added fat for basting. You will need a piece 2-2.5kgs in weight, which should give you plenty for everyone, plus the pleasure of the leftovers the next day.
Take the meat out of the fridge at least an hour before you want to put in the oven.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 9, 240C, or use the top (hot) oven if you have an Aga.
Slice up an onion and place in the roasting tray and lay the meat on top. (This will add flavour to your gravy). Brush the surface of the meat with a little oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with a little dried thyme. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes before turning the heat down to gas mark 5, 190C, or place it in the next coolest of the Aga ovens and continue to cook for 15 minutes for every 450g. If you like your beef rare, take it out of the oven now. If you prefer medium rare, leave it for another 15 minutes, and if well done is your choice, leave it another 30 minutes. Whilst the meat is cooking, it is worth taking it out of the oven two or three times to baste it with the meat juices and fat to seal in the flavour, and ensure it remains moist. Approximately an hour before the end of the cooking time I usually pour about half a bottle of red wine into the roasting tin. This will help dissolve some of the sticky bits on the base of the pan, will stop the onion from charring, and most importantly, give the base to a delicious gravy.
When you finally take the meat out of the oven, remove it from the roasting tin and place it on a warmed serving dish, cover loosely with foil and put in a warm place to allow it to rest for half an hour. This will allow the meat to relax as it cools a little, the juices to settle into the meat, and will ensure easier carving. It also allows you to cook the Yorkshire puddings (of which no-one should be deprived) and make the
My method of making gravy is to pour all the juices and fat into a sauce pan - scraping every last little morsel - and letting it settle for a minute of two before either spooning or pouring off most of the fat. (You can do this in a gravy separator and be more scientific about it, but I don’t have one!) Now bring the contents of the pan to the boil and add more wine if much has evaporated. Continue to boil and add a pint of vegetable water (which you will have saved). In a small bowl, slake a tablespoonful of cornflour with enough cold water to give a pouring consistency, and whilst stirring vigorously pour it in a steady stream into the boiling liquid. If it seems thick enough before all the cornflour is used, then stop. Taste and then season. Add a dessertspoonful of redcurrant jelly if it does not seem sweet enough, and a glass of Madeira if you have it. Strain it through a sieve and put it back into the pan, taste again (and season further if necessary, according to your particular taste) and leave it to bubble gently while you dish up the vegetables, check the Yorkshires, and have a well deserved glass of wine. By the way - have you remembered the horseradish sauce?
© Emma Elkerton 2002
You can read more recipe's and articles from Emma at Macbeth's Butchers