Sunday, May 1, 2016

Roast sirloin and Yorkshire pudding

For months my neighbour Frances has been talking nostalgically about the roast sirloin of her childhood.  So last week I finally got organised to cook her one. We ordered it at the excellent Gipps St butcher, and she came with me to pay for it and check that it was what she wanted. 
       I'd never cooked a rolled sirloin roast before, and I don't think I'd ever eaten one. As I wrote in The Colour of Food, in my childhood roast beef always meant "a round of chewy beef [probably brisket] criss-crossed with wooden skewers and tied up with string". Only in recent years did we start having roast fillet.  So I was a bit nervous about cooking this magnificent beast, aged for 18 days.

I took advice from the butcher and the internet, where I found very useful instructions from a London restaurant, and adapted them. To make sure it tasted as much as possible like Frances's childhood roast, I used salt only and seared the meat in dripping.

Rolled roast sirloin
1. Take roast out of fridge at least 2 hours before cooking, so that it's at room temperature when it goes into the oven.
2. Pre-heat oven to 180C, fan cook.
3. Season well with garlic, thyme and salt. 
4. Get a roasting pan smoking hot.
5. Sear in hot pan [with a little dripping to keep it old-school] until coloured all over. (2-3 mins approx).
6. Place on oven tray in pre-heated oven. Turn oven down to 170C fan cook for desired time (see below).
7. Rest, uncovered, on a warm plate (not too hot to touch) for at least 20 mins before serving.

The timing is always the trickiest bit. I usually like my beef rarish or medium rare, but in this case, I knew Frances would prefer medium, and of course sirloin is different from fillet. 
        Our sirloin weighed 2.1 kg. My meat thermometer gives an internal temperature of 71C for medium beef. It took about an hour and three-quarters to go a little over that, but the meat was still spurting reddish blood when I took the thermometer out. So I consulted with Frances's daughter, who came to dinner along with two other neighbours, and we agreed that it needed a little longer. I gave it 5 minutes more and that did the trick - it was about 77C by then. 

It rested for half an hour, loosely covered in foil, while I made the Yorkshire puddings (recipe below). When I carved it (so easy with a rolled roast) it was exactly what I wanted: the inner slices a very pale pink, the outer ones perfect for Frances and others who preferred it medium. 

She got the outside end, of course - as you can see, it was quite crusty and brown. When she took her first bite she said "Oh joy!" So I knew I'd got it right. 

With it, courtesy of my other neighbours, we drank two bottles of beautiful 2008 Trinity Hill syrah which they'd given me a few years ago, and I'd kept for just such a worthy occasion.
         Frances really appreciated the Yorkshire pudding, too. My first husband came from Yorkshire and his mother Marion taught me to make it properly, but I hadn't done it for years. 
          Again, I found the perfect recipe, matching everything I remembered, on the internet - and I did use dripping. (Yes, I know it's bad for you, but once a year is not going to matter.) As this requires a high oven temperature, I made it at the end, after I took out the meat and veges (all very trad - potatoes, onions, carrots, broccoli).

Yorkshire puddings

4 large eggs (200 g)
150 g all-purpose flour (about 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons)
200 ml trim milk
2 g salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
100 ml beef dripping, lard, shortening, or vegetable oil (about 1/2 cup)

1. Combine eggs, flour, milk, water, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until a smooth batter is formed. Let batter rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, for best results, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate batter overnight or for up to 3 days. Remove from refrigerator while you preheat the oven.

I made the batter the day before and put it into an empty soda bottle, allowing me to pour it easily into the muffin wells. It doesn't look like much, but it did 8 puddings and would have been enough for 9 or 10 less exuberant ones.

2. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Divide drippings (or other fat) evenly between two 8-inch cast iron or oven-safe non-stick skillets, two 6-well popover tins, one 12-well standard muffin tin, or one 24-well mini muffin tin. Preheat tins in the oven until the fat is smoking hot, about 10 minutes.  (This is the crucial bit that I remember Marion teaching me.)

3. Transfer the pans or tins to a heat-proof surface (such as an aluminum baking sheet on your stovetop), and divide the batter evenly between every well (or between the two pans if using pans). The wells should be filled between 1/2 and 3/4 of the way up (if using large pans, they should be filled about 1/4 of the way up). 
I used a 12-well muffin tin - this amount of batter makes about 9 or 10 puddings, but I overfilled my tins a bit and made 8.

4. Immediately return tin to oven. Bake until the Yorkshire puddings have just about quadrupled in volume, are deep brown all over, crisp to the touch, and sound hollow when tapped. Smaller ones will take about 15 minutes (popover or skillet-sized ones around 20-25 minutes).

4. Serve immediately. (It says you can cool them completely, transfer to a zipper-lock freezer bag, freeze for up to 3 months, and reheat in a hot toaster oven before serving, but I really dont see the point of doing that!)

Mine came out enormous and properly brown, but they did collapse more or less straight away (in the photo some have done that already) and were a little difficult to get out of the wells. It might have helped if I'd brushed the fat up the sides as well as putting it in the bottom. But it didn't matter - they were the Real Thing, especially when covered in dark brown gravy.

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