Sunday, 29 December 2013

Roast Rib of Beef

My childhood memories of Christmas are of all of my 婆婆's mates coming over on Christmas day: Uncle Jack and Aunty Chow Ping with Ang and Ben, 陳伯 and 陳母, 姑姐 and cousin Suzanne, and also the Tsai and Lee families. 婆婆 would cook a massive Chinese meal, with stir-fried king prawns in tomato sauce, steamed sea bass with ginger and spring onions, dried oysters cooked with hair moss (髮菜) and lettuce - there were many many more dishes, I remember the table used to heave with them. After the meal, 婆婆 would play mah jong with my dad and her friends. My mum and various aunties would watch Chinese videos and we children would be sent upstairs to play and chat. My memories are heavily laced with the smell of cigarettes and brandy, and the loud (and comforting) noise of mah jong tiles being swept around and mixed, occasionally accompanied by the loud bang of one being slammed onto the table, followed always by some cursing at the poor quality of the tile. This used to go on until at least two in the morning!

I don't know when we moved from a Chinese-style Christmas to a Western-style Christmas. It will probably have happened as my 婆婆's friends passed away, and she became more frail and less able to organise and rule our household. I can't even remember whether we ever had a Western-style Christmas whilst she was alive. I do remember my first ever attempt at a roast, aged maybe 15 years old. My dad was convinced I had the temperature settings all wrong, and kept sneaking past and turning up the heat on the oven. Eventually it came out burned to a crisp on the outside and bloody on the inside. We ended up slicing it, then stir-frying it with soy sauce.....

20-odd years later and we're still arguing about roasts! I used a halogen cooker for the joint this year, and he murmured "I think you should turn it", "perhaps you should turn it", "I would turn it if it was my roast", until I snapped and yelled "All right, all right! I'll turn it!", whilst my father-in-law creased up at the exchange. Once I'd taken the lid off, Dad then said "here, let me turn it, you don't know how to".... and once again I reverted to a petulant teenager (although I nearly dropped the roast in the process of turning it...).

This joint was enormous - 5.14kg in total, 17 people at the dinner table on Christmas day and we are still eating it 3 days later. It's since been turned into a very successful beef and tomato, and also accompanied noodles twice. I absolutely love The River Cottage Meat Cookbook, I find the temperatures and timings to be spot-on for roasting. I think that this book actually changed the way I think about and buy meat, and would thoroughly recommend it. A larger roast (greater than 3kg) requires a longer initial "sizzle" at high temperature, before a shorter cook at low temperature. I went for medium-rare, and the results were pretty well received. I was planning on taking photos of all of the trimmings, but got carried away and forgot. We had the roast with pigs in blankets, yorkshire puddings, sprouts with bacon, chestnuts and onions, mustard-roast potatoes, carrots boiled with orange and cumin, braised red cabbage, roasted golden beetroot in balsamic vinegar, and beef and red wine gravy. And copious condiments, of which horseradish was my favourite.

It's important to rest the joint once it comes out of the oven. This gives a chance for the juices to "settle" back into the meat, and even up the outside and the inside of the roast. I tend to put it on a warmed tray, cover it with foil, then throw a teatowel over the foil, and get on with making the trimmings.



  • 1 rib of beef on the bone - I asked for 5 ribs, which came to 5.14kg (1 rib would serve around 3-4 adults)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sunflower oil
Serves 16-20



  • Pour a few tablespoons of sunflower oil into a bowl and add a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Mix together, then rub the mixture over the joint. If the joint is not already tied with string, bind it between the ribs - this will keep the meat nice and firm, and prevent excessive loss of the yummy juices during cooking.
It only just fit in the halogen oven!
  • Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees fan, and place the joint inside. Cook at this temperature for 20 mins (joints up to 2kg), 30 mins (joints over 2kg) or 40 mins (joints over 3kg)
  • After the initial sizzle, turn the oven down to 165 degrees fan. For a medium-rare joint, roast for 13 minutes per 500kg (joints up to 5kg), or 11 minutes per 500kg (joints over 5kg)
Halogen oven kept the meat lovely and moist
  • (For guidance, I cooked this joint for 40 minutes at 220 degrees fan, then 115 minutes at 165 degrees fan, and turned it once, halfway through cooking)
  • After roasting, remove the joint from the oven, cover it with kitchen foil, and rest for 30-45 minutes (this for me is the time to get the roasties and the rest of the trimmings on)
This is the roast when it came out of the oven
  • Remove the string, carve into slices according to your desired thickness and serve immediately
Roast rib of beef

1 comment:

  1. Lovely memories! I also recall murder in the dark even though nobody seemed to know how to play, and turning the chairs upside down in the hallway for some game