21-day-aged, rare-roasted topside of beef with horseradish
Back in third year of uni, I was up to my oxters (armpits, southerners) in work with the uni paper. I’d work all week on my course, head to the office on a Friday, and get about 5 hours sporadic sleep between then and heading back to class for another week of creative inspiration on Monday morning. I was kicking the crap out of myself.
My diet at that point could best be described as toxic – I’d stopped smoking, but I’d replaced it with a steady stream of Rockstar Energy that we were furnished with by the student council – they’d had 4.5 tonnes of it delivered for Freshers’ Week, and had given away a fraction of that. We whittled away at the rest for a whole year, and drank it instead of coffee, instead of tea, instead of water. Food-wise, we had the vending machines, and Pizza Hut on speed dial – but on Sunday morning, when sanity was slipping, and with the paper on the home stretch before heading off to the printers, one of the guys would always head out to Marks and Spencer. I’d have a rare roast beef sandwich, and for the duration of that butty, I wouldn’t feel like death warmed up.
So that’s the food memory, and here’s my take. I did roast beef a while back, but this is much, much better for all sorts of reasons. Firstly, there’s the meat – it’s dry-aged for three weeks, letting the flavour develop perfectly. It’s cooked better – rare, and rosy pink in the middle. Bloody as hell when it came out of the oven, and moist as a motherfucker when it’s finally sliced wafer-thin with a ridiculously sharp knife for the sandwich. The bread is home-made white, un-toasted as I got up at the crack of dawn to assemble this puppy – just a spread of unsalted Lurpak inside, as well as the obligatory spoonful of horseradish to get that heat with the meat. A little herb salad caps the whole thing off, with just enough greenery to make you think of the big beast that was mooing and chewing its cud, before laying down its life for this tank of a butty. Maybe it was this cow, maybe it wasn’t. (It wasn’t)
One little bonus before closing – I love sourdough. To bits. It’s a fabulous thing to be making sandwiches with, but it kills the Scotsman in me every time I hand over a crisp fiver and get nothing but some silver coinage back, along with my beautiful loaf. I’ve made the empty promise of making my own for a long time now, but then I got given this stunner of a loaf by my girlfriend’s mum. As if that wasn’t enough, she also gave me a tiny, hand-grenade sized jar of starter to get my own going, which is now chowing down and getting big in the kitchen. So now there’s no excuse. At all. Gulp.
Roast beef, Yorkshire pudding & horseradish
With a friend down from Edinburgh and after chatting about it with some other mates on Friday night, I decided that this weekend would be an ideal time to fire up the oven and put on a roast – a nice cut of beef, some roast veg, and home-made yorkshire puds. Smashing. Of course, roast dinner inevitably means roast leftovers – and given Saturday’s trip to the pricey wonderland of Borough Market, everything was set for another epic attempt at a big, beefy butty.
My trip to Borough furnished me with some great kit for this sandwich – a huge, sourdough loaf from Neal’s Yard (which I’m told is sourced from the renowned St. John’s bakery), as well as some lovely un-pasteurised French butter and a massive frisee lettuce. I’ve yet to kick off my own Sourdough starter, so this beast has served as good inspiration – a chewy crust and tart, firm dough inside. About half of the bread was gone by the time the roast even hit the table, along with a good lump of the epic butter, thanks to my hungry pals.
When it came to the sandwich, the beef was cut much thinner than the previous roast sarnie – as much as I love a good stakey filling, it can get a bit chewy by lunchtime the next day when everything’s cool. On top of this, there’s a tranche of my home-made yorkshire, made as a huge, single effort in a baking tray due to the lack of any other suitable oven goods (suspiciously, creating something the perfect width to fit in the sandwich), a glug of home-made gravy, and a big handful of frisee. Under the lid, there’s a good lick of spicy, creamy horseradish sauce to clear the head and make your nose burn. A great roast, a great Sunday, and for the first, difficult day of the week – another great sandwich.
Roast topside of beef
The more I write, the more you’ll become aware of the range of things about sandwiches in the UK that get my goat – few figure higher in this illustrious list than the clammy, tasteless sheets of woe that come packaged as supermarket roast beef slices. A fond favourite of the cold finger buffet, pre-cut roast beef is amongst the most disappointing sandwich fillings out there, in stark contrast to the beefy heaven of its namesake, the Sunday roast. So, is this post about me taking my nemesis by the throat, and wrestling it into something mind bending? Not a bloody chance. No, this is about making a roast beef sandwich worth of its title, and to do that, I’m going back to square one.
First things first – the meat. Given this whole idea came from a moment of impotent fury in front of the cold meat aisle in my local supermarket, it was there I bought the cut of meat for my roast. Boo, hiss, I know, but I would say that having done a little searching, I’ve found a local butcher with a good reputation (Godfrey’s of Highbury), so I won’t be buying my meat in a plastic tub again, if it can be avoided. That said, this was a cracking little cut of beef with just enough fat, and really nice marbling throughout the 500g of flesh. Keeping things simple, I added a good pinch of salt, a hearty grind of black pepper, and about a tablespoon’s worth of dried oregano on the top, and stuck it in the oven for about 40 minutes.
What comes out the other side is proper roast beef – rare in the middle, moist as hell and damn tasty (as confirmed by my flatmate, who shared in the bounty of a freshly cooked roast). There’s enough in this half kilo to make two days’ worth of sandwiches if you have a sharp knife, and a good appetite. In this case, I’ve cut the beef a little thicker than I would normally, and served it on freshly toasted slices of wholemeal, seeded bread. On top, there’s a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, as well as some thick red onion rings and British lettuce (round, not iceberg). Lastly, I’ve put a thin layer of chilli and ginger relish under the top slice, just to give things a little sweet/spicy kick.