I remember the days of roast beef when I was a nipper (Northern England parlance for young child) – endless chewing on what could only have originally been a precursor to boot leather. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and was only offset by the saviour of Yorkshire Puddings and gravy. However, as the years have passed on this mortal coil beef has morphed in to a far more pleasant experience for me. Not only have I personally learnt a lot about the preparation and cooking of the meat, but I think the influences from chefs out there have shown us that this staple of the carnivorous can be transformed in to a dish that is flavoursome and delicate. Also in my younger years there was a fear in the consumption of ‘uncooked’ or ‘semi-cooked’ meat due to health reasons, and that in part has rescinded.
One of main tests of a cook or chef is being able to cook a steak perfectly, which I will at some point embellish on in another blog post. For now, I wanted to share this gargantuan of steak dishes – the very slow roasted rib of beef. It’s been inspired by Heston Blumenthal and by Harold McGee, the amazing writer and food scientist that has challenged a lot of the traditional ways of cooking by understanding the science of what happens in the kitchen and applying practical theories to better prepare food.
This dish takes over a day to prepare. The technique used here is to slowly roast the meat so that the internal temperature reaches 50 deg C. For the heat to transfer to the middle of the meat takes time, but in doing so slowly there is no chance of over cooking the beef, as with the traditional boot leather method. Also the slow cooking helps to retain the moisture in the meat as well as break down the connective tissues (sinew). It is one that I have made twice, and one that I still want to play around with. For example, does the beef need to be cooked for so long? But whatever the answer, there is no denying that using this method steak has taken on a new and untouchable level of culinary pleasure.
To accompany the beef I wanted something simple so I serve it with a beurre noisette, or brown butter, and a cracking little salad that just came to me one day.
Slow Cooked Roast Beef with Spinach, Sorrel and Truss Cherry Tomato SaladPrint
- For the Beef:
- ■ weight is variable but about a 1.6kg 3-boned rib of beef | If you can buy aged meat it will improve the quality of the final dish.
- ■ 30g in total salt and pepper mix | Equal measures of sea salt, smoked salt and black peppercorns. If you don’t have smoked salt then replace it with sea salt.
- ■ 5 tbsp. grapeseed oil | Used for frying.
- For the Beurre Noisette:
- ■ 100g French unsalted butter | French butter has something magical about it. I use Lescure unsalted.
- For the Salad:
- ■ 2-3 handfuls baby spinach | I am lucky to have this growing in the garden – it is so good.
- ■ 10-15 large leaves sorrel | This has a wonderful citrusy kick to it – again something I grow in the garden.
- ■ 12 or so truss cherry tomatoes | I get these on the vine as they seem to have more flavour, but there is no real need to.
- ■ a drizzle of caramelised balsamic vinegar | You can use a good aged balsamic instead. It brings the whole dish together.
- ■ seasoning sea salt |
- ■ a drizzle of olive oil |
The first thing to note before starting this dish is that you need a good oven that can retain an average temperature of 50 degrees Centigrade. Also, an oven thermometer is vital to ensure that the oven is the correct temperature. My experience is never to trust the scale on an oven temperature adjuster. Set the oven temperature to 50 deg C (112 deg F).
Ensure the beef has had chance to come to room temperature; out of the fridge for about 2-3 hours. Take the three boned rib of beef, rinse the outside with cold water then dab dry with kitchen paper. Put a heavy based frying pan on high heat, heat until the pan is very hot and then add 3 tbsp of the grapeseed oil – the oil should be smoking once added. Now quickly sear the outside of the beef until browned. Take care as this spits like there’s no tomorrow. Also take care not to start cooking the flesh of the meat – it just needs browning.
Once browned put the beef in a roasting tray and then pop it in to the preheated oven. It takes about 4-6 hours for the centre of the meat to reach 50 deg C. Cook then for a further 18 hours. Get some sleep.
After the 18 hours are up, take the beef out. The outside will look dry and unappetising, but the inside will be beautifully medium rare and full of moisture. Put the meat on a rack over a drip tray, cover with foil and leave to rest for about 4 hours. Once rested, cut the meat from the bone, cutting down along the ribs and then across the chine (backbone). Carefully trim away the dry outer of the meat and then cut the meat into three equally thick steaks. Set aside and put your heavy based frying pan on high heat again.
For the salad pre-heat your oven to 210 deg C. To a roasting tray add the cherry tomatoes, on the vine if yours have a vine, sprinkle with the sea salt and then drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to ensure the tomatoes are completed coated with oil. Put in the oven for about 20 minutes. They will eventually sizzle and spit as they soften and their skins split. After 20 minutes, or when you feel they are done, take out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
For the salt and pepper mix add the salt(s) and peppercorns to a mortar and grind with a pestle. The back pepper should still be a little course. Sprinkle each steak (both sides) with the pepper mix, add the rest of the grapeseed oil to the hot pan and when smoking put the steaks in the pan. Cook for 30 seconds, and then turn. Repeat this until the steaks have been cooking for 4 minutes (I then put the steaks on their edge to render any fat – for about 20 seconds). Remove the steaks from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest on a rack with drip tray, for about 5 minutes.
To finish the salad, add the washed and dried spinach leaves to a bowl. Stack the sorrel leaves, roll the stack lengthways and then shred across the width – this technique is known as chiffonade. Add the shredded sorrel to the spinach, then pick the vines from the tomatoes and add the tomatoes to the salad. Drizzle balsamic over the salad, and then get your hands in there to coat the leaves with the juices of the tomatoes and the balsamic – it’s good to squash those tomatoes gently.
Finally drain any oil from the steak pan, put back on a medium heat and add the butter. Whisk the butter until it has melted and has turned a lovely nutty brown colour.
Serve the steak and salad in your own creative way, and spoon that unctuous nutty brown butter over the steak. Bon appetite!