Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Traditional Sunday Lunch or Dinner and An Idea for Leftovers

Sunday dinner is a big tradition throughout much of the world. Cooking Sunday lunch or dinner for your family - particularly the first time - can be a nerve wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be. There is an easy way to get a fantastic roast beef dinner on the table in under three hours and keep your sanity while doing so.

Also, aside from the actual meat itself and its gravy, everything I am going to give you recipes for here is vegetarian - so if you do have some vegetarians amongst your guests you can serve them almost the same as everyone else, just leaving out the actual meat and gravy. (In this case I’d recommend providing some really good vegetarian sausages as their main dish. They don’t take long to cook and you can keep them separate from the meat.)

So first of all you need a good roast - and for this meal I’m suggesting a sirloin of beef as it really is one of the easiest things ever to cook. I like to get a bigger roast, both so I have leftovers and also so I can please everyone. The outside pieces are more well cooked for those who like their meat more well done and as you cut towards the inside you can please those who prefer medium rare. So I usually buy a three to four pound roast from the butcher and that will serve six to eight generously, with leftovers.

You will also need:

1 - 2 large potatoes per person
(I tend to allow one for women and two for men and somehow that works out that everyone has enough)
vegetables - I suggest carrots and broccoli. A large bunch of broccoli and five to six carrots will serve six to eight people generously. Or serve 3 to 4 cups of frozen peas.
mild olive oil (not extra-virgin) or other vegetable oil
4 eggs
12 ounces of milk
8 to 12 ounces of beef stock
dessert - I suggest a nice fruit salad or a bought dessert when making a full roast dinner, or something you can prepare the day before and serve at room temperature. Traditionally in England a hot pudding is served after Sunday lunch but that can be a recipe for a nervous breakdown in the kitchen when you have so much else to think about. One possible alternative is Apple Crumble Cake, which you can make in the morning and leave at room temperature. If your guests are the sort who insist on a hot pudding, simply pop it in the oven after you have removed the Yorkshire puddings and turned the oven off until serving time. Failing that, serve it at room temperature with hot custard.

Right, on with Sunday dinner! You need to allow at least two hours. In an ideal world I would say two and a half hours is perfect.

All you have to do to prepare the beef is:-
Get the roast out of the oven thirty minutes before you want to cook it.
Put it on a roasting dish and salt and pepper it lightly.
Preheat your oven to 350 or about 180.
Put it in the oven.
A three to four pound roast will take about an hour and forty five minutes to cook if you want the centre to be medium rare. If everyone likes the roast well done, you will need to cook the meat for about two hours. The best thing is to use a meat thermometer to be sure it is done to your liking. I prefer the ones you stick in the meat after you remove it from the oven, not the ones that you leave in during cooking. Anyway, the beef will be at different temperatures depending on how near the end you put the thermometer, so ideally you want to test at both ends, and in the middle.

Rare is 120 - 130 (50 - 55)
Medium rare is 130 - 140 (55 - 60)
Medium is 140 - 150 (60 - 65)
Well done is 150 - 165 (65 - 75)

Meanwhile you need to think about four other things (well, five if you are doing veggie sausages, but if you are doing those you can cook them a few minutes before the end depending on the package directions. You might even be able to stick them in the oven with the Yorkshire puddings). So the four things are:

Roast potatoes
Yorkshire Pudding

You can learn how to make my Crispy Crunchy Roast Potatoes by clicking here. Be sure to put them in about an hour before the end of the beef’s cooking time, so you need to think about peeling them and parboiling them immediately after you put the roast in the oven. You may notice my instructions recommend you cook them at a higher temperature than the beef, but in this case, just keep it as it is and they will cook just fine.

Click here for the recipe for my Yorkshire Puddings. You don’t need to cook the Yorkshire Puddings until the very last minute so don’t worry about them now, but do remove the eggs and milk from the fridge so that they come up to room temperature. The Yorkshire Puddings go into the oven after you have removed the beef to rest before carving, so in this case you should increase the oven temperature as recommended in my recipe.

You can prepare whatever vegetables you like, and in this case I do recommend keeping things simple. Just steam some broccoli and carrots or even cook some frozen peas if you are very new to cooking. You can add a bit of dried minced onion to them before you cook them to make them taste even nicer if you like. You don’t need to cook the vegetables until the beef is roasting as broccoli and carrots won’t take more than seven or eight minutes to steam and frozen peas only take about five minutes to cook.

The gravy is also a fairly last minute thing, but you need to get the ingredients for it ready. You will be using some of the meat juices, but you also need about 2 tablespoons of plain flour and about a cup to a cup and a half of beef stock or boiling water. If you use boiling water I recommend adding a bit of salt and pepper too. And for a really fabulous gravy, you need my secret ingredient - 2 generous tablespoons of smooth redcurrant or cranberry jelly. (And if you are serving vegetarians, be sure to provide some vegetarian gravy for them. In this case I might consider buying ready made as you really do have a lot going on with everything else. However if you want to make a veggie gravy from scratch, just substitute 2 tablespoons of butter for the meat juices, and vegetable stock for the beef stock or boiling water.)

So here is a timetable for an easy Sunday dinner:

 1.  Get the roast out of the fridge a half hour before cooking.
 2.  Prepare the roast as above and put in the oven.
 3.  Remove the milk and eggs from the fridge.
 4.  Peel and parboil the potatoes.
 5.  Prepare any other vegetables and set aside.
 6.  Put the potatoes in the oven.
 7.  About ten minutes before the roast is done, mix up the Yorkshire Pudding batter.
 8.  When the roast is done, remove it from the oven. Carefully take about 4 tablespoons of the meat juices out of the pan and put in a cold saucepan.  Cover the roast in aluminum foil and put it in a warm place. (On the counter in the kitchen is fine.)
 9.  Remove the potatoes from the oven and keep warm.
10. Turn the oven up for the Yorkshire puddings.
11.   Pour the Yorkshire Pudding batter carefully into the warmed muffin tins and put in the oven. Do not open the door again until they are done!
12.  Cook the vegetarian sausages if using.
13.   Heat the beef stock in the saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour. Gradually whisk in the beef stock or boiling water, until a nice consistency is reached. Whisk in the redcurrant jelly or cranberry sauce. Keep warm.
14. Carve the beef.

The roast above is cooked to medium rare.
15. Serve the meal on to plates or serve family style so everyone can help themselves. Serve the gravy in a gravy boat.
16. Enjoy!

Of course you can use leftovers for delicious roast beef sandwiches or my yummy Leftovers Stroganoff. Click on the link for a delicious meal that will make you look forward to leftovers!

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