Roast rib of beef with red wine gravy

Roast rib of beef
Roast rib of beef, straight out of the oven

I’m blogging from my new MacBook Pro, an anniversary present from the inestimable Dr W. I’m still getting used to it; there are all kinds of PC keyboard shortcuts hard-wired into my brain that I’m having to relearn, and I don’t have any photo-editing software on here yet. In short, if anything looks a bit funny in today’s post, please be gentle with me – things should be better next week when I’ve got to grips with the various things the command button does!

Is there anybody out there who doesn’t love a big chunk of well-aged, grass-fed roast beef? This joint was a present from my in-laws, who have amazing taste in gifts. It’s from Lishman’s butcher’s in Ilkley, and had been sitting in the freezer for a few months, waiting for the weather to turn in a roasty direction.

If you’re not into turkey at Christmas, a beef rib is a fantastic substitution; it’s traditional but rather special, and there are very, very few Brits of a certain age out there who don’t have happy childhood memories of family occasions centred around a pre-BSE joint. To my mind, it’s the best of the roasting joints; the meat is rich and savoury from its proximity to the bone, and there’s a perfect amount of fat for lubrication and flavour in there. As a rule of thumb, you can count on each rib in the joint being sufficient to serve two people, so it’s easy to work out how large a chunk of meat to buy. I like to cook a rib nice and rare; if your uncle Bert likes his meat cooked until there’s not a trace of pink, just give him a slice from one end of the joint.

The gravy I served with this is a bit special; it’s intensely dense and savoury, and rich with the flavour of red wine and caramelised onion. Don’t use one of those undrinkable £3 bottles marketed as cooking wine here; while I don’t want you raiding the cellar for the Burgundy your Dad laid down in the 1980s, you should make this gravy with something you’d be happy to drink. If you can get hold of some real beef or veal stock made with a roasted bone, that’ll be fantastic here. The gravy has so much other flavour supporting it, though, that you can happily use some decent chicken stock instead. (And your freezer is full of home-made chicken stock, right?)

I served this with a huge, rustling pile of roast potatoes and parsnips, and a shredded spring cabbage sauteed in a little butter with some peeled chestnuts; these are all great for soaking up the gorgeous gravy. To roast a rib of beef rare (add five minutes per 500g if you want it medium, and ten if, for some unaccountable reason, you want it well-done), you’ll need:

A rib of beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon plain flour

1 red onion
250ml red wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
300ml good beef or chicken stock
2 tablespoons plain flour
Juices from the joint
Salt and pepper to taste

Roast beef
Roast beef

Take the beef out of the fridge in plenty of time, so it’s at room temperature when you come to cook it. Preheat the oven to a blistering 240ºC (460ºF). Pat the joint dry with kitchen paper. Mix the salt, flour and mustard in a small bowl, and use your fingers to rub the mixture all over the fatty surface of the joint.

Put the beef in a roasting dish and slide it into the oven for an initial 20 minutes, then bring the temperature down to 180ºC (360ºF) and cook the joint for 15 minutes per 500g. (See timings above for a medium or well-done roast.)

While the rib is cooking, start on the gravy. Slice the onion finely, and fry it in a little beef dripping (goose fat is good if you don’t have any) until it starts to brown. Tip the balsamic vinegar into the pan and cook, stirring, until the onions start caramelising and the mixture becomes sticky.

Pour the red wine over the onions and bring to a simmer. Add the stock, bring back up to a simmer and allow the whole thing to bubble away gently with the lid on for half an hour. Remove from the heat, and strain the contents of the pan through a sieve into a jug. Discard the onions, which will have given up all their flavour, and leave the jug to one side until the beef is finished.

When the beef is ready to come out of the oven, remove it from the roasting pan to a warmed dish in a warm place to rest for 20 minutes, covered loosely with a piece of tin foil. This will give you time to finish up the vegetables and finish the gravy while the muscle fibres in the meat relax and the juices start to flow. Finish the gravy by putting the roasting pan you cooked the meat in on the hob over a medium flame. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and use a whisk to blend it well with any flavour-carrying fat from the joint. Pour a ladle of the stock from the jug into the pan and whisk away until everything is well blended, scraping at the sticky bits on the bottom. Repeat, a ladle at a time, until everything is combined, then return to a saucepan and simmer away without a lid for five minutes, stirring as you go, before tasting to adjust for salt and pepper, and transferring to a gravy boat just in time to serve up the whole roast.

9 Replies to “Roast rib of beef with red wine gravy”

  1. I never get people saying “I don’t use good wine when cooking” – you wouldn’t drink nasty wine, so why cook with it?

    I’ve never tried rib of beef before, and that looks delicious. I have a cracking farm shop near me (Wellington Farm Shop in Hampshire) so I may have to pop down and see. They do “real” meat there, none of this bright pink stuff!!

    1. You have hit on two of my pet peeves in the one comment: cooking with stuff you wouldn’t drink, and pink supermarket meat. More power to your farm shop’s elbow! Hope you find a joint you like the look of. I do love a rib for all the extra flavour it gets from the meat’s proximity to the bone; hope you give it a shot!

  2. I did pretty much this meal for my parents as a treat when they visited last month (although this time, we missed visiting Ilkley & Lishman’s – always a treat – may try to get there this weekend if we can get through the snow).

    Anyway – just wanted to say that for basic photo editing, iPhoto (as supplied with the Mac) isn’t bad – good enough for basic colour correction & cropping. Otherwise, Acorn and Pixelmator seem to have a good reputation as alternatives to the more expensive Photoshop (I have Pixelmator – my only criticism would be that updates seem to be a bit slow in coming). I’d also recommend MarsEdit as a tool for a regular blogger.

  3. Thanks! That gravy recipe is a doozy. I’ll be using that on Boxing Day, although I’ll be using lamb stock as we’re having leg of lamb, which I’ll be cooking for about 7 hours hopefully.

    Btw, Mrs. Pills has just purchased a MacBook Pro too, and she is totally in love with it, having been a pc user forever. It’s faintly nauseating, although can see that it is a pretty gadget. I’ll stick with my old pc jalopy for now. I tend to resist trends for as long as possible, so Apple and Sky, bad luck.

    1. It *is* fab gravy. I lack humility where gravy is concerned.

      So far, MacBook progress continues splendidly. Tell your wife I clasp her hand in my slightly gravy-y fist in solidarity.

  4. That beef looks fantastic, and I’m so glad you said ‘grass-fed’ – it is a bit of a hobby-horse of mine (or maybe I should say hobby-cow!) but grass is the natural food for cattle. Grain is a way of fattening them up quickly, often too quickly for flavour to really develop. We’re having a suckling pig (7kgs from Pughs Piglets) for the big Xmas roast, I think your gravy would go really well with that too – what do you think?

    1. The gravy will be great with pork, but your suckling pig will be a lot fattier than a beef rib, so make sure that you skim off most of the fat before you add the flour to the roasting tin. (Leave a couple of tablespoons of the fat in there – the flour will soak it up nicely.)

      Very envious of your pig, and of your presumably enormous oven!

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