Roasting Joints of Beef: Cooking Notes, Times and Tips

I have had very mixed results over the last couple of years cooking Sunday joints of beef, even so-called top of the range butcher’s joints have been turning out dry and none too tasty.  I decided it was probably my cooking at fault rather than every joint I seemed to buy, so decided to do the usual hampshirecook in-depth research.  I came across a different cooking method and used it with a (frankly fairly cheap and rubbish) joint of beef from Tesco that cost a fiver.  There were no high hopes but the surprise was the method worked beautifully and my rubbishy joint was declared the best roast ever in my house…hence my reason for sharing!

Method:

1. A note on roast beef joint sizing: if our lot were not so utterly into their roast beef and not all growing boys (and a man who should have stopped growing some time back), a 1kg joint would serve 6 easily accompanied by lots of side vegetables and Yorkshire puddings.

2. If the joint is pre-stringed, keep this on throughout cooking and up to carving as it keeps it all together.

3. Most current advice seems to hinge around blasting the heat up very high for the first 20 minutes or so to “seal” the joint, and then turning the heat down to the low end of medium for the rest of the cooking time.  Well, this method was different.  Instead, lightly sear the joint all over in a large, hot pan on the stove with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the roast with salt and pepper.  Then, rather than into a roasting tin, place the joint directly on the wire rack of an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees Celsius/approx 355 degrees Farenheit, with a tray underneath on a second rack to catch the juices.  This way, the heat circulates round the joint and ensures a more even roast.  Makes sense to me, and this is indeed what appeared to happen.

4. Roasting Times: 30 mins per 500g + 20 minutes resting time for a medium roast up to 1.5 kg.  Subtract 10 mins of cooking time per 500g for rare roast beef, and add 10 minutes of cooking time per 500g for well done beef.  Add resting time, up to 40 minutes, for large joints of beef.  When resting the beef, cover with foil and leave in a roasting tin or some kind of receptacle so you can collect the juices for making gravy.

4. Basting: The methods I was looking at were all talking about basting the joint twice throughout cooking, but mine came with so little natural fat that there was no juice really to baste with, so I was a little concerned.  I need not have been worried at all, things worked out just fine!  Next time I should ask the butcher if there is any chance of a piece of white fat to wrap over the top.

The joint carved very nicely, and was moist, done exactly to our liking with good colour on the outside, pink circular middle but no real blood and raw gore as the younger ones can’t handle that yet.  Perfect.

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Maltese Baked Potatoes Recipe

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In my occasional series on doing potatoes differently (2 posts to date, see slow fried roast potatoes), this recipe for Maltese baked potatoes is a simple, no-fuss delicious winner, the fennel adding a slightly exotic note to an otherwise rather humble dish. Most dauphinois/casseroled/ranch-style potato recipes use milk or cream but this dish is more like “boulangere” potatoes, using stock and oil. No parboiling first either, which saves a lot of time and trouble.

I can attest to the authenticity of this recipe as hub and I were served this dish with almost every meal on a business jolly a few years ago in Valleta and I asked how it was made, then did the usual trial and error experimentation, trawling the blogs and so on back home.

For a Sunday lunch, Maltese cooks add meat, usually pork, to the base of the dish. Although the fennel is traditional, adding in a teaspoon of mixed curry spice is an option too–though Maltese cooking is very sparing with spice and generally tends towards plain and unfussy. The cuisine in Malta to me seems to be lots of grilled fish & seafood, rustic stews and casseroles, simple robust flavours, great pizzas from their Italian links…what more could you want?

Ingredients (to Serve 4 as a Side Dish):

  • 4-6 ordinary white Potatoes, depending on size, e.g. 4 large or 5/6 medium, peeled and sliced at a medium to thick setting on a mandolin, or as evenly as can be managed if by hand
  • 1 large white Onion, peeled and sliced, not transparently thinly but not great huge chunks
  • 2-4 medium Garlic Cloves depending on taste, crushed rather than minced as this gives a softer taste, roast garlic would be nice too
  • 1/2 Pint/225ml Vegetable Stock
  • 1 tbspn regular Olive Oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 level tbspn very lightly crushed Fennel Seeds
  • Salt (or not depending on the stock used) and a few grinds of Black Pepper to season

Method:

Mix the garlic, stock, fennel seeds and oil together, infuse for a few minutes. Place the sliced onions at the bottom of a casserole dish, layer over the sliced potatoes and pour over the liquid. Season lightly. Cook in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius/375 degrees Farenheit for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is browned and crispy and the potatoes cooked through. The potatoes should be moist, with a very small puddle of gravy juices. This dish is similar to boulangere potatoes as I said, but that version commonly uses thyme/rosemary as a flavouring and alternate layers of potatoes and onions with stock. It is technically possible to overcook these potatoes and end up with brown mush but I am sure that will never happen to you…

Recipe Method: Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Slow Fried Roast Potatoes

Oxfam Books: a favourite haunt for “new-to-me” recipe books.  Today, I bought Richard Olney’s 1997 Good Cook’s Encyclopedia in perfect condition for £3.00.  It has a wealth of reference information with great photos: want to pluck and draw a gamebird? shirr eggs? make a puff pastry basket?  I love those kind of cookbooks, it seems such a comfort to know I have the instructions somewhere, even though I will never in this life pluck and draw a partridge (but I might yet attempt a souffle!)

The book has an interesting method for slow frying roast potatoes.  In the spirit of relaxed, fuss free family cooking, I thought I should try it out.  Usually, fried tatties in our house are the leftover boiled potatoes from the night before, served re-heated in a skillet with bacon and eggs for breakfast.  However, this method is done from raw in a large, deep frying pan, with a lid, or a shallow pot in oil/butter so that they sort of steam, roast and fry all at the same time.  My thinking was it would certainly save oven space on the weekends  if decent roast potatoes can be done on the stove and not in it.  We shall see!

Method:

Cut your potatoes into even chunk sizes.  If using regular small potatoes, then there will be no need to trim them to size, and you can keep the skins on too if you like.  Wash and pat dry your potatoes with kitchen towel to try to get rid of any starch; I used 500g of “new” potatoes, of varying sizes from a “Basics” range bag from Sainsbury that cost £1.  I threw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves too as suggested.

Warm enough butter or oil (or combination of both as I used) in a suitable pot or deep frying pan to coat the potatoes.  Add the potatoes and garlic cloves.  Set over a low heat, I used the smallest gas ring on the lower setting but I might use a diffuser too next time.  They are supposed to take around 30 minutes, during which time you wipe off the excess moisture a couple of times from inside the lid to stop water dripping back into the pan.  After 30 minutes and checking the potatoes are soft, you then take the lid off and let all the moisture evaporate for another 10 minutes.

Slow Roast Potatoes, 20 Mins into Cooking Time

Slow Roast Potatoes, 20 Mins into Cooking Time

And the result?  After 30 minutes they were perfectly cooked, and after a further 10 minutes, then drained on kitchen paper, they were superb.  I thought they would be a bit limp and soggy, but not at all.  They were slightly crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy delish on the inside, more akin to the sweetness you would expect of a baked potato.  They did not stay crispy for ages, but in our house, they would be eaten up immediately so that would never be an issue.  Also, perhaps I had too few in too large a pan, so they coloured up a little more than I expected, and I did use too much oil/butter, the method says to coat and I probably drenched…But hey, am not complaining, these were fab and they suit my needs.  I may just have expanded the old repertoire!

The Good Cook’s Encyclopedia is still available at Amazon, I can thoroughly recommend it if you need a decent “how to” manual and don’t trust the t’internet to tell you the right thing or get fed up with search engines constantly returning rubbish from amateurs like myself…

Easy Gravy with Chicken Giblets Recipe

Recipe: Gravy made with Chicken Giblet Stock 

Chicken Gravy

Supermarket chickens round my way are often sold without giblets, so I was delighted to see the giblet pack in this week’s Sunday chook.  Gravy made with giblet stock is a bit more work (judge for yourself below how much more work) but the taste is quite lovely, not as “chemical” as chicken stock cubes and far less salty.

Chicken Giblet Stock Ingredients (Makes 1 pt/approx. half a litre) 

 

Chicken Stock Ingredients

  • Contents of your chicken giblet pack (usually a peice of neck, some liver, possibly the heart too, though my chicken did not include the heart today.)
  • 1 Onion, quartered or halved
  • I large Carrot, cut in half and the halves sliced in two lengthways
  • Couple of sticks of Celery, cut in the same way as the carrots above (this is so that the vegetables are big enough that they do not go into mush when cooking, but have enough exposed surfaces so that all the flavour comes out into the stock.)
  • Small bunch Parsley
  • Sprig of Thyme if you have it
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Tsp Peppercorns
  • 1 1/4 litres or 2 pints cold Water

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for one hour on a low heat.  Check after about 10 mins and skim off any grey scummy froth on the surface and discard: the grey scum is bitter-tasting so can change the stock quality quite dramatically. I let the broth naturally reduce without the lid on to about half the original volume.  Set aside to cool and then strain out the stock into a jug, discarding all the strained ingredients.  You can add more water if you need to, it can cook for longer too if that suits you, but about 2 hours is the outer limit.  I do not add salt because I might not want to have a salty stock depending on the eventual dish the stock is going to be used for.  The celery does add a saltiness anyway. 

Chicken Stock Made with Giblets

Gravy Ingredients:

  • Cooking juices from a Roast Chicken, taking as much fat out as possible.  I suck up the dark tasty juices using a turkey baster directly out of the roasting pan and then discard the remaining clear fat, adding the juices back into the original roast pan.  There is probably an easier way to do this!
  • Half a glass of white Wine
  • 2 Large Tsp Cornstarch or Bisto Mix (which is the same thing as cornflour but with a caramel colour to make it brown) made up with half a glass of cooled stock or cold water
  • Your chicken giblet stock

Method:

Heat the de-fatted roasting juices in a suitable pot or use the roasting pan if it has a heavy enough base over a medium heat on the hob.  Add in the white wine.  Scrape the pan base to get all the nice flavours mixed in, and simmer hard to reduce the white wine down to about half the original volume, this takes a couple of minutes.  Add in the chicken stock, as much as you want in final gravy volume, and bring again to a simmer.  Take off the heat and whisk in the cornstarch or Bisto, if the gravy is too thin, mix up a little more starch and repeat, too thick then dilute with remaining stock or with some water.  Brown shiny lumpy bits = not enough liquid, add in more liquid and whisk through, it should come back to a gravy consistency easily enough.  Simmer and serve!

Relaxed, Easy Sunday Roast Chicken

The weekend food shop is a biggie this week as we are stuck at home saving money for our hols in August.  In total, that’s seven home-prepared meals from Friday night to Sunday night, including, of course, the big Sunday Roast.

It’s roast chicken this week, it takes minimal preparation, most people love roast chicken, and has the least number of ways in which things can go horribly wrong.  With this way of cooking a chicken below, even a standard supermarket bird can be tasty, tender and moist.  Preparing the chook takes less than five minutes and it does not involve any temperature adjusting, fussing or trussing on the cook’s part.

Ingredients for Relaxed Roast Chicken:

  • Fresh or completely defrosted whole Chicken (see weights further down), with any elastic trussing string, packs or loose giblets and kidneys from the cavity removed.  The kidneys, browny squidgy things, are sometimes lingering stuck on at the back of the cavity and you can scoop them away with a spoon or your fingers.
  • A fresh Lemon, cut into half or into quarters if very large
  • Two or three small Onions (Shallots), or half of a medium-sized onion, peeled and either halved or quartered depending on size
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of Garlic, peeled and very lightly crushed with the back of a spoon
  • Couple of teaspoons of dried Mixed Herbs, Thyme or Herbes de Provence
  • Dessertspoon of Olive Oil, or use a couple of knobs of Butter if preferred
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method:

Pre-heat the oven, 20 minutes or so should do it.  Temperatures may already be printed on the packaging, but my general rule is roast chicken is cooked at Gas Mark 5, 190 degrees C or 375 degrees F.

If you have not pre-heated the oven, it is not a disaster, but the chicken may take an extra 15-20mins or more to cook through.  Do not wash your chicken first, as it potentially spreads germs right around the kitchen–here are GoodHousekeeping’s views and explanation on this.

Place the lemon halves or quarters inside the empty chicken cavity, along with the onion and garlic clove.  This adds steamy, fragrant moisture from the inside out when cooking, so that the meat does not dry out.  Place the chicken in a roasting pan.  Drizzle and rub olive oil or butter by hand over the outer skin.  Grind over some salt and pepper.  Sprinkle over the herbs.  That’s it, ready to cook!

Cooking Times for Roast Chicken:

There are a LOT of mixed up, wrongly converted timings and temperatures for cooking chicken on the web, one of which is potentially so dangerous I emailed the site.  It wasn’t even an amateur blog, which you could kinda forgive, it was one of those conglomerate recipe resources.  So, did they bother to reply?  What do you think?  There ought to be a law against it.  Or at least someone you can complain to.

There are also lots of variations on a basic roast out there too, this blog article in the Guardian newspaper tested many different recipes: cooking at a higher temperature first or not; pumping up the temperature towards the end; blah blah, covering the bird with foil; uncovering at a certain time etc, turning it on its side for half the time…  Of course all these ideas can produce nice results, but they are not strictly necessary and just mean more work and more of the cook’s attention. The simplest, easiest  and safest timing for the entire cooking period is this:

20 minutes per per 450g (or per lb) plus 15 to 20 minutes 

@ 190 degrees Celsius or 375 degrees Farenheit 

 

A 3lb (1.4kg) chicken will serve 2-3, and take 3 x 20 mins + 20 mins to cook

80 mins total = 1 hour 20mins

A 5lb (2.3kg) chicken will serve 5-6, and take 5 x 20 mins + 20 mins to cook

120 mins total = 2 hours

Or use the wrapper instructions.  These timings and temperatures have been used by me for years, and I have checked them against trusted published sources like Delia Smith, with supermarket recipe sites like Waitrose and I checked too with Tesco’s very handy roasting chart.  Finally, I looked at the UK government’s Food Standards Agency which is a really valuable resource.  So, while Hampshirecook might be just another amateur cooking blog, its going to be a jolly well-researched amateur blog.

The cooked bird also needs to rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving, with a kitchen foil cover to keep in the heat, so I add that on to my “target” dishing-up time.

Ovens vary, timers run slow/fast and on freezing cold days in an unheated kitchen it can take rather a long time for an oven to crank itself up to temperature.  I really do quick-check to make sure that the juices run clear from the thickest part of the leg before I decide its done.  There should be no pinkness at all.

On basting, it is not necessary to baste multiple times, basting at least once half-way through the cooking time can be enough.  Usually I aim for twice, but if too rushed to manage, it doesn’t matter.  I rotate the roasting pan around by a half-turn after basting to make double-sure the chicken gets an even cook.

Now that just leaves the veg, the gravy and the stuffing…

Happy weekend!