Roast Beef, Burnt Vegetables & Roast Potatoes

A great roast is one of life’s reliable pleasures and yet, a lot of home cooks are apprehensive about undertaking it. So here is how you can achieve perfection without freaking out too much. Start with the obvious; a good piece of meat. It doesn’t need to be the most expensive and if I was you, I’d stay well enough away from high grade Wagyu or Kobe. I find it too fatty and it really is a lot more difficult to get right. The cut I prefer is the thick end of the rib eye. It has a nice bit of fat in it, is generally well marbled without being too greasy.

How much beef? Go for 200g a head and you’ll have enough for a couple of sandwiches the next day. Less than 180g a head is bordering on meanness in my opinion, unless you’ve invited supermodels. What you see in the picture is a good 780g, which fed three people very nicely and filled two sandwiches for lunch the next day too.

Unless your meat smells funny (in which case you should probably feed it to the dog), or is a little slimy, I recommend that you don’t wash it. Just pat it dry with kitchen towel and you’re on your way. Salt! You can eye this, but science is more reliable. Weigh the meat and then use 2% of the weight to salt the beef and you’ll be just fine. Pepper is up to you, but I recommend generosity One to one salt and pepper does it for me. Feel free to use pretty much any type of pepper, or even a mix of several, though I would stay away from 100% white pepper.

The most important aspect is the timing. Season early. The idea that salt “dries out” the meat is well and truly debunked and the horrid practice of some cooks to under-salt and then let the customers add what they want is a complete copout from the side of the chef as well as an insult to you, the guest. And while we’re at it, adding salt after cooking the meat will make you add many times more than you would have needed had the chef done his job in the first place and it will still leave you with a dull piece of meat covered in salt.

So season the meat at the very least two hours before you plan to cook it. I salted this piece at 8am, planning to cook it for lunch. I would have done it the night before and kept it in the chiller, but I forgot. Cover it with clingfilm and keep it somewhere cool. I put mine in to the wine chiller, which is at 12ºC, but you can also keep it in the chiller, if you want. The colder the meat, the longer it takes for the salt to do its job. And its job is imparting flavour and tenderising the beef. Now, it’s never going to turn shoe-leather into a fillet steak, but it will help break down the fibers a little.

You can see how the colour of the beef has deepened and the fat has yellowed a little. Those are good things, believe me. Now you just have to sear it. My extractor hood has given up, so I have to do this at least and hour before the guests arrive and the air the place for a good hour, it produces that much smoke! Heat a fair amount of oil in a pan that can comfortably hold the piece of beef and once the oil is smoking hot, place the beef in. I say a fair amount, but that does not mean you should try and deep fry the thing!

And this is where you’re heading. A light browning, not a deep chestnut crust. Do use a pair of kitchen tongs and sear the sides as well, if you can be bothered and you really should be. Now you are ready for the roasting. I sear the meat in advance and then just keep it out at room temperature. The heat from the searing will slowly travel to the center of the meat and your roasting time will be shortened and your doneness will be much more even.

Now to the tricky one. How long to roast the beef for? First of all temperature. I used to blast the meat at super high heat, but I’ve changed my technique and prefer to sear well and then set the oven to 180ºC fan forced. The relatively gentler heat and longer roasting time gives me a good crust and tender meat. As for time, it really depends on so many different factors that any exact instructions are mostly useless. As a rule of thumb, for anything thicker than an inch you will need 20 minutes at the least, if you start from room temperature. My room temperature here in air-conditioned Malaysia is about 24ºC, so my two inch piece of beef took exactly 35 minutes roasting and ten minutes resting.

This may seem like very thin advice, so let me tell you how to cheat. First of all; if the meat feels like it’s raw when you press it, it definitely is. So wait until you feel some resistance, then choose the side you want to present. This is the one you leave intact. Turn the thing over and stick your knife into it, then cut enough for you to be able to have a peek inside.

You should see a core that is a little less cooked than this, just a centimeter of raw right inside. Residual heat will finish your meat to a beautiful medium rare while you rest it. Look at the edges as well. If your roast is red right to the crust, you will definitely need more time.

One last piece of advice: Don’t stress over your roast; a little overcooked or a little undercooked, it’s not a disaster. I personally like my roasts a little more cooked than a one piece steak. I find the texture more agreeable and leftovers will make a much better sandwich than a rare roast would.

Now to the side dishes. I am absolutely besotted with these super easy to make burnt carrots and French beans. All you need to do is peel your carrots and cut them into wedges, remove the string from the beans, wash and dry them and you are set. You will need about one and a half carrots and a good ten beans per person. It may sound like a lot, but the stuff shrinks like crazy.

Grab a very large pan that can hold your vegetables in one messy layer, meaning they overlap a little at first but will have enough space once they start to shrink. Pour a generous amount of oil into the pan. You will need about three tablespoons for six carrots and two dozen beans. Once the oil is smoking hot, add the carrots and beans and stir to coat with the oil. Then you must leave them alone! Don’t salt, don’t pepper and don’t stir until they have started to take colour on one side. Now flip them around as best you can and let them brown some more.

You are not aiming for even frying. The difference between some real blackened ones and some just wilted ones is most pleasing to the palate. Once your vegetables look like the ones in the picture, give them a liberal sprinkling of flaky salt and a good grind of black pepper and serve them.

For my amazing roast potatoes, check out this post: https://planestrainsandanchovies.com/2020/06/12/the-super-potato/

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