At this time of year, there’s often plenty of discussion over where to find the best Sunday roast. The answer is, simply, at home – whether that’s at yours, or at family or friends’ homes. Sure, there’s the burden of washing up, but nobody will be too bothered if you fall asleep on the sofa after eating 38 roast potatoes, and when hosting there’s no need to worry about getting home while uncomfortably full. Preparing a perfect roast dinner is also easier than many expect: the key is in the dish’s relative simplicity, especially for meats such as roast beef or roast chicken.
According to a study conducted last year, 38 per cent of Brits would choose roast beef over any other Sunday roast offering, making it the most option, over roast chicken or lamb. The research found the perfect Sunday roast consists of roast beef, roast potatoes, gravy, a Yorkshire pudding, carrots, sweetcorn, stuffing, and parsnips.
Having been enjoyed in Britain for centuries, roast beef is considered a signature national dish of England, holding cultural significance which dates back to the 1731 ballad, ‘The Roast Beef of Old England’. As it is known today, the Sunday roast originated in the British Isles as a large meal to be eaten after church on Sunday, breaking the fast.
Two historical points on the origins of the modern Sunday roast are accepted: in the late 1700s, families would place a cut of meat and vegetables into the oven while getting ready for church. On returning home, the food would be fully cooked, with the juices from the meat and vegetables used to make a stock or gravy. Another theory suggests the Sunday roast dates back to medieval times, when village serfs served for squire for six days a week, before assembling on Sundays to feast on roast beef cooked on a spit, as a reward for practising their battle techniques.
For this roast beef recipe, the beef is seared on the hob before being finished in the oven. After being blasted at a high heat for 20 minutes, the meat will take an additional 30 minutes to be cooked rare, or up to an hour for well-done. I’d recommend using a meat thermometer if possible, to make sure your preferences are met as precisely as possible, otherwise you can check by following the outlined timings and slicing the beef to check (remembering the beef will continue to cook slightly while resting). It’s best served with Yorkshire puddings, rich red wine gravy, roast potatoes, and your choice of vegetables.
- Heavy-based, oven-proof frying pan or a metal roasting tin
- Muffin tin
- Meat thermometer (recommended, but not essential)
- 1 kg beef roasting joint such as rump, sirloin, or silverside (avoid using cuts such as brisket for this recipe as they require slow-cooking)
- 4 garlic cloves
- Small bunch fresh thyme
- 250 ml red wine
- 500 ml beef stock
- 1-2 tbsp plain flour
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Neutral oil such as vegetable, rapeseed, or sunflower oil
For the Yorkshire puddings
- 3 large eggs
- 285 ml milk
- 115 g plain flour
- Preheat the oven to 240C/Gas 9.
- On the hob, heat a drizzle of the oil in a heavy-based, oven-proof frying pan or a metal roasting tin. Generously season the beef joint with salt and black pepper and sear each side until the beef has a good amount of colour all over. Pour 150ml of the red wine into the pan, followed by the garlic cloves and the fresh thyme.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for 20 minutes before turning the oven down to 190C/Gas 5. For rare beef, continue to cook for 30 minutes; for medium, cook for 40 minutes, or cook for an hour for well-done beef. If using a meat thermometer, cook the beef to 125F for rare; 135F for medium-rare; 145F for medium; 150F for medium-well; or 160F for well-done.
- To make the Yorkshire puddings, whisk 3 eggs, 285ml milk, 115g plain flour, and a pinch of salt to form a smooth batter. Put in the fridge for the final 30 minutes of the beef’s cooking time.
- Once cooked to your preference, rest the beef for 30 minutes and reserve the other contents of the pan.
- Increase the oven’s heat to 220C/Gas 7 and heat 1 tbsp of vegetable or sunflower oil in each hole of a muffin tin for 5-10 minutes. Once the oil is extremely hot, quickly-but-carefully add batter to fill each hole of the muffin tin and return to the oven. Cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown, keeping the oven door closed for the entire cooking time to prevent the Yorkshire puddings from drooping and becoming soggy.
- While beef is resting, heat the pan with the juices from the beef on the hob until simmering. Add 1-2 tablespoons of plain flour and stir with a large spoon to form a roux. Cook over high heat, constantly stirring, until the smell of raw flour dissipates and slowly add 100ml of red wine to the pan. Cook until the alcohol smell has gone, stirring occasionally.
- Keep on high heat while slowly adding beef stock and continue to cook until the gravy reaches your desired thickness. Strain to remove any lumps of undissolved flour.
- Carve the beef and serve with the Yorkshire puddings and gravy, plus roast potatoes, vegetables of choice, and horseradish or mustard.
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