Christmas is around the corner and the preparations have begun. I haven’t really been in the swing of things this week, although my trees are up and so are the rest of the decorations. My beautiful mum has been over to help me, although I suspect she came over to keep me company first, helping me out second – something which I always relish. To me, she is truly one of a kind. I love her to bits. I’m having people over this year for the day and although I still feel the pressure (even though I know I don’t need to) she somewhat managed to ease my nerves. I hope to offer a little bit of that by the some of the recipes here on C&T.
During the past couple of weeks I have received loads of questions about roasting and/or braising meats. Understandably so as we all worry about cooking for a crowd, especially during the holiday season. Hopefully calmness will prevail, and after all, when it all boils down (excuse the pun) it’s only lunch. Christmas lunch, yes, but lunch all the same. So this week my offering is a simple way to cook beef in the oven. Technically I don’t think it’s a roast as you find it in the British books, but it’s the way someone in the Med would do it, and there’s nothing shameful about this method. You will also end up with a no-faff gravy; the amount depends on how much stock you want to add to the pan.
I must confess that I don’t do roast beef very often, and when I do, it ends up being a little different every time I make it. Sometimes I opt to soften the vegetables first, then brown the joint later, however I think that there isn’t much disparity between methods and after all my mantra is always the following: do whatever you like – whatever’s simplest for you. Recipes like these are only a guide. (Of course the only exception would be when it comes to baking. There you have to be more precise.) I remember one year where J and I tried brisket with a coffee sauce. Now as much as I love coffee, that particular recipe wasn’t my favourite. I always find that the less complicated the gravy, the better it is for me.
I would say that a 1.5kg piece of meat will stretch for 6 to 8 people easily, bearing in mind that this will be served with various sides, being Christmas and all that. I like these types of cuts because you can choose the weight according to the number of people you’re planning to feed. Just remember to order whatever you want from your trusted butcher. Do it now and ask rhem to keep the joint for you if you don’t have a place for it in your fridge/freezer right now. I have ordered a 2.5kg loin of pork for this year’s meal last week. I just wanted to tick it off from my to-do list as early as I could and am so glad I did. Being in the shops is a nightmare at the moment.
I will be posting more recipes during the next couple of weeks so keep coming back. Also, message me or write a comment here with any questions you might have on this and on other tips for Christmas. I will try to help you as much as I can. As always, see the end of this post for more seasonal recipes from the archive. Happy cooking!
- 1.5 kg beef joint (brisket, topside or top rump are all good and widely available)
- mustard powder
- around 2 tablespoons olive oil
- around 1 tablespoon of butter
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
- 2 large strong cooking onions, roughly chopped
- 1 stick celery, roughly chopped
- 1 large carrot, roughly chopped in chunks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons red vermouth or a robust red wine
- ½ litre of beef or vegetable stock
Start by bringing the beef to room temperature. Thaw it properly if you had it in the freezer, or take it out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Rub the beef with a mixture of mustard powder and a little pepper, making sure to cover all sides of the joint.
Place an oven proof casserole dish on medium heat (my preference is always cast iron). When it gets hot enough, pour in the olive oil and brown the beef on all sides. Carefully remove it from the pan and set it aside on a plate and in a warm place until needed later.
Tip the tablespoon of butter (together with a little oil if you see the need) in the same pan and add the garlic, onions, celery, carrot and let them soften. Add a little salt and pepper. Now add the red vermouth or wine, and let the liquid reduce just a bit. Add the stock, bring the liquid to the boil, then down to a simmer for a few minutes.
Add the beef joint back to the pan, cover with a lid or kitchen foil and off to the oven it goes. After 30 minutes turn the temperature down to 150°C and carefully remove the lid. Roast for another hour. The amount of time you have here is enough for the meat to cook medium rare. That’s how I usually like it, especially when cooking it at home. If your guests don’t mind give them slices from the end of the joint. If you want to play it safe, then by all means leave the meat to cook for longer.
It’s important to leave the joint to rest a while. This will allow the juices to redistribute all around the joint. Carve into slices and serve with any sides you have prepared for the day.
Have a browse through the C&T archive for more Christmas recipes and ideas: