‘GIL’S REGULAR RECIPES’  – A nice bit of Beef

Local Chef Gil Keay provides ‘REGULAR RECIPES’ for the Gazette Website

This time Gil tells us all about Beef Joints

Sunday’s Joint

When it comes to joints of meat we are confronted by something of a dilemma. On the one hand, we are told we eat too much meat and that it is not healthy to do so; on the other hand, there are more and more sophisticated intensive rearing techniques, and extensive marketing, which encourages us to eat more meat.

The result of this intensive rearing is a pale shadow, literally, of what meat should, and indeed used to, look like and taste like.

It is ironic that the UK. has an abundance of hill pasture which is obviously unsuitable for arable crops, but perfect for natural grazing, free range animals. The flavour of Welsh Mountain sheep, Highland beef or pork raised in open field or orchard is unsurpassed.

By eating less meat and stopping intensive rearing which does not allow for proper growth and maturity, and in doing so stopping the use and misuse of growth hormones and antibiotics we would reduce the risk of health scares which come around increasingly often.

Of course, our meat would be more expensive but it would be reared and sold by people who care about quality rather than reared by factory owners. The health lobby would be happier because we are eating less of what they believe to be harmful, and we would be happier because the quality of meat we eat would be better in appearance and taste.

Look for the Red Tractor

Oven Roasting

Strictly speaking, roasting is introducing meat to an open fire, turning it on a spit so that the air circulates around it cooking it evenly. True roasting is more like grilling as we know it and some domestic cookers come fitted with spit roasting device, a separate unit can also be found.

But, for most of us roasting means cooking in the oven in a roasting tin.

My method is to begin roasting in a very hot, pre-heated, oven, gas 9, 475°F, 240°C, and then reduce the heat to gas 5, 375°F, 190°C, after about 15/20 minutes to continue cooking.

The blast of heat at the beginning produces a better looking joint with a tasty outer crust, and seals in the flavours during the cooking process. Alternatively, you can flash all the sides of your raw joint in hot oil, in a large frying pan, to seal the outside of the meat before putting it into the oven.

Some people say place your joint on a rack in the roasting pan to get air circulated around the meat during cooking, I don’t personally do this but not doing so can produce a well-cooked bit where the joint has sat on the base of the pan. Some joints such as Rib or Sirloin on the bone handily provide their own rack to sit on!

Pot Roasting

The trouble with standard roasting is that it requires the most expensive cuts of meat and, together with things such as Yorkshire puds and roast tatties, can take up a lot of time with preparation, cooking and attention. Pot roasts on the other hand leave you free to relax, check out the choice of wine, and, because of the slower cooking time, cheaper cuts are better for this, but you still have a joint to carve at the table.

The principal of pot roasting is a long, slow cooked joint, in a heavy cooking pot (with a tight-fitting lid), in a small amount of liquid which can be stock, wine or cider.

The liquid creates a steamy atmosphere inside the closed pot, which keeps the meat moist. Herbs and vegetables can be added also, and the meat could be marinated beforehand. The end result is a guaranteed tender and succulent meal.

Beef

As I have mentioned in the past, at the Crown Hotel we had our meat delivered direct from Scotland each Week.

Scottish beef, Aberdeen Angus, bred in the highlands, grass fed, mature and well hung is the best in the World in my opinion. A close second would be a good Irish beef, but we are now being fobbed off with inferior beef from all parts of the globe, it is immature, barley fed beef, an insipid imitation of what good beef should be, and all to increase profit whilst keeping selling price down.

Breeders often say that this is what the housewife wants, that is, lots of it, tender and fat-free. But, what people so often fail to realise is that fat means flavour, if you want tender, lean meat, you will have one essential missing……flavour.

Nature has so arranged things that when a good piece of meat, with the correct percentage of fat encounters the correct amount of heat, juices are drawn out while the fat melts and bastes the meat from within as well as outside which keeps the meat succulent. Wise cooks will, old and new will baste the joint during cooking, it just makes sense.

If you cannot eat the fat on your plate, leave it, nobody will think it bad of you, its’ presence during cooking is the important, nay, essential, thing.

Cuts for oven roasting.

All sorts of lumps of meat are tied up with string and labelled “for roasting”. The fundamental rule for the perfect roast beef dinner is to buy the right cut of meat.

The only advice I can give you is to go to your local butcher and get an unequivocal, appropriately sized piece of Sirloin for that special occasion, or, a double rib joint, almost as good, it comes from just next door anatomically speaking.

Always buy and cook your joint “on the bone”. You should not be paying any extra for it as good butchers reduce the price a little to compensate. The bone acts as an heat conductor inside the meat which helps to cook it more evenly with less loss of juices and will help to prevent the meat disintegrating come carving time.

You may feel that a large joint is too much for your family but don’t forget the salads and sandwiches will be even better than usual using up the left-overs.

Should you decide not to have the joint “on the bone” you can get your butcher to bone and roll it, but, make sure he leaves the “eye” or undercut in. This is the fillet steak bit of the sirloin which some butchers take out when rolling a joint.

A good sized joint for perfect roasting will be 4 – 5 lbs. in weight.

If you opt for a wing rib for roasting ask the butcher for a “double rib” as a single one is too thin, it will look the same a rolled sirloin but without the undercut.

Cuts for pot-roasting.

The medium priced and cheaper cuts are usually the most suitable for pot roasts, silverside, and top rump are both good, along with chuck and blade boned and rolled. Brisket is a favourite as it is economical and full of flavour, but you need a reliable butcher to roll it for you as it can hide lots of excess fat and gristle inside.

To roast your Sirloin Joint.

Dust the fat surface with a mixture of plain flour and powdered mustard, and sprinkle with freshly milled pepper. Do not use any salt as this encourages the juices to escape.

Pre-heat the oven to 245°C, 475°F, gas 9, and give the joint an initial blast for 15/20 minutes, then lower the heat to 190°C, 375°F, gas 5. Cook for a further 15 minutes per pound (rare), plus 15 minutes (med-rare) plus 30 minutes (well done) not forgetting to baste the meat from time to time as it cooks.

Plan your meal so that the meat has about 30 minutes resting time before carving, keeping it in a warmed place will preserve enough heat for this amount of time, and resting will firm-up the meat making carving easier. It also gives you time to increase the heat in your oven to finish off the roasties and Yorkshire puds.

As the meat relaxes it will exude some juice which can be added to the gravy for increased flavour.

One last comment on the perfect roast beef dinner is to say: carving is only difficult and dangerous with a knife which is not sharp!