with Peter Blakeway
Food writer, caterer and private chef
During the last few weeks I’ve been talking about the changing of the seasons and how that changes the way we eat.
This has brought me, almost inevitably to the Sunday roast. As I sit here in my office on a wet and cold Sunday afternoon, writing my column, the air is filled with the aroma and warmth of a slow-cooking roast gently sizzling away in the oven.
The anticipation of a cosy family gathering, insulated from the outside elements, makes it really quite hard to concentrate. I find my mind wandering to how the Sunday roast came about.
To find its roots we have to go way back to March 7, 321AD, when Emperor Constantine, a convert to Christianity, passed the first law making Sunday a day of rest.
During the years since many rules have been passed, banning all kinds of activities on Sunday. Except, of course, eating.
Historically, Sunday would have been the working family’s only day off and probably the only meat day as well. Everyone was expected to attend church in the morning and so the slap up meal was both the best meal of the week and a reward for being so virtuous.
In fact, during the Middle Ages in England the Lord of the Manor would provide a roast ox for his serfs, thus starting the tradition of the Sunday roast.
In the days before ovens in every home, the poorer families would have used the local bakery, popping their joints of meat in the big bread oven that was still cooling down from the early morning baking.
They would pick up their perfectly roasted meat on their way home from church.
Thankfully, today it’s all a bit easier and the recipe below is the family favourite. Some of you might be curious about the curry powder – don’t worry you’ll barely taste it but it will make an amazing flavour-enhancing crust to the beef fat. Happy roasting.
Roast sirloin of beef on the bone
2.5kg-3kg sirloin of beef on the bone
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp plain flour
1 cup red wine (optional)
1 litre of stock or water
Mix all of the powders together and spread on the fat layer of the sirloin. This will make it very crispy.
Put all of the chopped vegetables in a high-sided roasting dish and sprinkle with the plain flour.
Place meat on top of the vegetables and flour. Put the roasting dish on the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 240 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes per 450g plus 15 minutes extra, turning oven down to 190 degrees Celsius after first 20 minutes.
Carefully lift the meat off the now caramelised vegetables. Wrap the meat in foil and leave to one side to rest. Rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.
While the meat is resting make the sauce by placing the roasting dish with the caramelised vegetables over a high heat on the stove top. Get the dish hot again then deglaze it with red wine if using.
Let this reduce by half, then add the stock or water making sure you get all of the lovely tasty bits off the bottom. Once boiling, sieve into a saucepan and keep warm.
Top tip: If you have a meat thermometer then these temperatures will guarantee ‘doneness’.
Core temperature for rare: 50 degrees Celsius.
Core temperature for medium rare: 56 degrees Celsius
Core temperature for medium: 65 degrees Celsius
Core temperature for well done: 75 degrees Celsius.
225g plain flour
Salt and pepper
Beef dripping or duck/goose fat
Sift flour into bowl and, making a well in centre, break eggs into it, gradually incorporating flour.
Now beat in milk, water and seasoning. Heat muffin tray, with a bit of dripping or duck fat in each muffin slot, on top of stove until smoking hot.
Add a bit of batter to each and place on top shelf of pre-heated oven at 220 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes. Serve with roast beef.