Friday, 27 December 2013


With Tobes thankfully home before he starts a new life in Vermont to become a doctor, the three of us have had a magical quiet time which revolves around food, hanging out, playing sports, going to plays, and sleeping.

Every year I have a pop at cooking the perfect roast beef, and invariably fail. Too rare...too well done. Tough when it should be tender....too this...too that. Last year was a close but no cookie. This year I decided to go off-piste and try a method I saw on the internet....the CLOSED OVEN METHOD.

Well glory be! It worked, and don't take my word for it. Two satisfied members of the clean plate club told me that this time it was smack on the money.

So it is worth sharing this incredibly simple method. All it requires is a small amount of math, the ability to follow directions, and the kind of patience which comes with FAITH.

1. Order Rib Roast on the bone (we had a two bone for 3 people, but we will be eating this for a while).
2. Remember the weight. Write it down. If it is in Kilos, then multiply it by 2.2 to get the pound equivalent. In our case it was 1.8 kilos, which works out to 4 pounds.
3. This is the math bit. Multiply the weight in pounds by five. 4lbs x 5 = 20 minutes. Simples. Retain this number in your brain.
4. About 2 hours before you cook the roast, get it out of the fridge and let it sit around to get to room temperature.
5. Whack the oven up to the top temperature (260 degrees C, 500F). DO NOT USE THE FAN.
6. Cut some banana shallots lengthways. Don't bother peeling them. No need.
7. Blanch some baby carrots in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes and then drain.
8. Put the former in a roasting tray, cut side down for the shallots. Glug over a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
9. Put the roast boneside down on the onions/carrots.
10. Score the fat a bit, and rub the roast all over with lashings of Coleman's English Mustard powder. Season with generous pinches of Maldon's Sea Salt and Ground Pepper.
11. Squeeze the juice of a lime over the roast.
12. Stick the roast beef in the oven. Remember the number you calculated (in our case 20)? THAT IS THE NUMBER OF MINUTES you cook at the top whack temperature.
13. After said period of time YOU TURN OFF THE OVEN. COMPLETELY. And you do not open it again for 2hrs and 30minutes.
14. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Not even to peek. This is where the faith comes in.

If you are cooking Yorkshire puddings, do this in another oven. You have to allow 25 minutes for this (see below). If you only have one oven, after 2hrs and 30minutes take out the roast and cover with foil while you do the puddings. If you have a meat thermometer, stick it in....Should read about 130 for medium rare. Don't sweat it if you don't eat immediately. That is what au jus was invented for, to heat up the meat.

In the meantime, while you get everything else ready (beef drippings in a pan with a glug of red wine, a stock cube (I used chicken) and a few of the now softened shallots and boil at full whack on the gas to reduce by a third before straining. I had brussels sprouts which I blanched and then stir fried in a wok with olive oil, ponzu, chili flakes and finished with a knob of butter.  I also had roast potatoes which I had parboiled for about 8-10 minutes (Marist Pipers), shook to fluff up, then placed in a small roasting tin in goose fat (bought in a jar) in the top oven at 190C and turned occasionally for 1hr. Obviously you have to work your way back on the potatoes for timing. 

I did the potatoes and yorkshire pudding in the top oven. 


We had a couple of guests at my book club JFDI and one was from Yorkshire. I mentioned I had never done Yorkshire Puds before and he simplified the whole process so that I didn't even have to write it down. 1:1:1, he said. 

1. Start with the eggs. 2 for 3 people. Put them in a measuring cup. Note where they come up to. 
2. Then measure out equal amounts of PLAIN flour and milk. 
3. Mix the three together. You may want to sieve the batter to remove any lumps. Let it rest and whisk it up to get it airy. 
4. 25 minutes before serving, whack up the oven to 220C and put a muffin tin with either a small amount of vegetable oil or goose fat (I used goose fat) in until the oil starts to smoke. Then ladle the batter into the muffin holes about 2/3 the way up. (You can put the roasting spuds on the bottom of the oven for the last 20 minutes)
5. Pop the YPs back into the oven and watch as they start to rise for about 20-25 minutes until they turn a nice shade of brown. As with the beef, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.

Heat the plates in the top oven, and then plate up.

The beef was crispy on the outside, and medium rare and tender. The fat near the surface was succulent and infused with the mustard/salt/pepper. The YPs went down a treat. High fives all round. 

A bottle of Merlot, BOB'S YOUR UNCLE!  Even if his name is not Bob.

Here is a picture from a website which (By Gum) LOOKS EXACTLY as the one I did. Credit where credit is due: Ann Serrane's Genius Rib Roast, which she wrote in 1966! Hats off to Anne, whoever you are! Where the hell have you been hiding for the past 47 years?