#180 Roast Beef

It was Charlotte’s birthday last Sunday, so she got to choose a birthday meal. She chose well – in fact she chose the most British meal you could possibly imagine – Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding. We British love our roast beef, and were very good at cooking it; the French called us rosbif, not to be rude, but out of respect, as we had the roasting of meat down to a fine art. In fact French chefs would come to Britain to learn the art of roasting on the spit. These days of course, we used our conventional oven to roast our meat, so technically we are making baked beef, not roast beef.

Roasting beef (or any other meat, in fact) is not hard as long as three simple rules are followed: buy good quality beef that has been hung for at least 21 days, season it well (especially if you are crispy fat fan), and roast it from room temperature – don’t go straight from fridge to oven. I bought a rib of beef from my new favourite butcher – Axon’s of Didsbury. A six pound monster that came to £30 – you may think this is expensive, but you get what you pay for and is enough to provide for six or seven people. Also, I have been making good meals from the leftovers: beef and oyster mushrooms in oyster sauce (I picked the mushrooms myself whilst walking in the woods!) and an oriental beef and noodle soup. So in the end, it actually pays to spend a bit more, as you get more out of it. Lecture over.

For roast beef, Griggers suggests either rib or sirloin on the bone with undercut. You need at least 5 pounds in weight. The first thing to do is to season you meat well with salt and pepper the night before. Keep in the fridge overnight by all means, but make sure you remove it from the fridge in plenty of time for it to get to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Weight the meat and calculate the cooking time: 15 minutes per pound for rare, add an extra 20 minutes at the end for medium-well done. The joint needs to be able to sit on a rack inside the roasting tray in the oven, but first place the tray on its own with enough beef dripping to cover the bottom for five minutes before adding the joint and rack. If you are making Yorkshire puddings, you could make them in the traditional way of pouring the mixture into the roasting tin, or pour batter into trays if you prefer. Either way put them in 40 minutes before the end of cooking. When the time is up, remove the beef (keep the Yorkshires in, if need be) and allow it to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving and slicing. Place on a serving dish surrounded by cut-up pieces of Yorkshire pudding.


Whilst the beef is cooking, make the gravy by frying a sliced onion in some beef dripping with a teaspoon of sugar until it turns a deep brown. Add half a pint of beef stock and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Season and serve, or if you like a smooth sauce, strain it. Serve with roast parsnips, roast potatoes and horseradish sauce, plus some seasonal green veg.

#180 Roast Beef. I cooked my beef rare because it shows off the quality and taste of good meat, and very good it was too. The outside fat was crispy, and the inside was pink, juicy and tender – proper melt-in-the-mouth stuff. I give it 8.5/10 – as far as beef goes it’s just excellent, but roast lamb in the winner when it comes to red meat.

#162 Horseradish Sauce

To accompany the salt beef, I made this classic accompaniment, though it goes very well with smoked fish such as trout.

It’s very easy to make: lightly whip ¼ pint of double cream and stir in 2 tablespoons of grated horseradish, then season with salt, pepper and the juice of up to half a lemon. It’s important to just lightly whip the cream as the acids in the lemon make it much thicker. Griggers also make the point that the outside of the horseradish root is alot hotter than the centre, so if you like it milder, grate across the root, rather than down the side.

FYI: horseradish can be found growing wild in most places in Europe and has been cultivated by the Egyptians and Romans and, according to Greek Myth, Apollo was told by the Delphic Oracle that it was worth it’s weight in gold, though why I don’t know.

Again, no pic, sorry – my camera’s doing some funny things

#162 Horseradish Sauce – 6.5/10. This very pleasant and creamy, though lacked the punch I expected, even though I was pretty generous with the horseradish. It was ok, but I think I prefer a jar of proprietary horseradish sauce! Is this bad of me!?

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings

After the reasonable success of the ham I cured, I was keen to try something else so I went for salt beef. You can of course just buy your beef already salted, but if you want to have a go at your own, follow this link. My friend Evelyn had also made a request for it a while back, and although beef and dumplings are in no way summery I thought I’d do it anyway.

Put your beef – silverside or brisket – in a large pot and pour in enough water to just cover it. Bring it slowly to a simmer – taste the water after 10 minutes, if it’s salty change the water and start again. Add 2 unpeeled onions that have been studded with four cloves each, a small piece of nutmeg, two blades of mace and a generous seasoning of black pepper. Once the beef is simmering turn it down to the lowest heat possible so that the tiniest amount of bubbling occurs. Now cover and leave to simmer – the time depends upon the weight of the meat, to calculate it use the same method as on this entry, but a 3 pound piece of beef will take 3 ½ hours in total.

Toward the end of the cooking time, make your dumpling mixture: sift 4 ounces of plain flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt into a bowl and stir in 2 ounces of shredded suet (i.e. packet suet). Add just enough water to make a slightly stick dough and with floured hands make little balls of the dough (about ten, I’d say). Add a little grated horseradish in their centres. Alternatively use a cube of fried bread or mix chopped parsley into the dough.

When the beef is cooked, remove it and let it rest. Add the dumplings and let them poach for 10-15 minutes.

Serve it with gravy made using some of the cooking liquor and glazed carrots, says Lady Griggers. I did peas too and some horseradish sauce.

#161 Boiled Salt Beef and Dumplings – 8/10. Really delicious and definitely the best of the cured meat thus far. The beef was flaky and pink with the saltiness perfectly balanced with the aromatic herbs, spices and sugars from the brine cure and stock. I’ve never bought salt beef, so I’ve nothing to compare it to, but I shall be definitely doing this one again, but perhaps during wintertime! The dumplings were okay – they could have been fluffier, however, they were cooking for longer than 10 minutes as I lost track of time getting everything else ready. Oopsey!

Sorry there’s no photo – I took one, but for some reason it’s no longer on my camera’s memory! Double oopsey!!

#92 Smoked Trout

I bought some smoked trout from the Port of Lancaster Smoke House’s stall at Hoghton Farmers’ Market and was keen to try it. I was a little unsure about it, I have to say, as I’m not a huge fan of smoked salmon, and assumed it was going to be rather similar. Jane does say in English ooh, however, that smoking trout is the best way to eat it these days, as the trout you’re buying is (almost) sure to be farmed and therefore insipid in flavour. Smoking simply rescues it. I must admit, it have had trout before, and found it quite bland. It’s not everyday you see high-quality smoked trout so I snapped it up. The way to eat it, according to Griggers is very simple; a nice, quick light lunch or starter:

Make a horseradish cream with lightly whipped double cream and fresh or creamed horseradish to taste, plus a little sugar and lemon juice. Serve a fillet of trout per person, with a buttered slice of brown bread, a lemon wedge and some of the horseradish cream on the side.


FYI: if you buy fresh horseradish, don’t grate and freeze it to use later. I used frozen for this and there was absolutely no taste it. I have no idea why! I recommend you use creamed horseradish for this as you won’t need much of it.

#92 Smoked Trout – 7.5/10. Very tasty indeed; a pleasing cross somewhere between smoked mackerel and salmon. Everything went so very well together – the bread, lemon and cream. It’s a shame the cream didn’t taste of horseradish! Oh well, you live and learn – everyday’s a school day…