Secrets of the Perfect Roast Dinner

One of the most quintessentially British meals is the Sunday roast dinner, which is enjoyed by many families in the UK as a weekend tradition. Many couldn’t imagine having a Sunday go by when a traditional roast dinner wasn't on the menu and it is seen as a time for the family to come together over a hearty and satisfying meal. In essence, a roast dinner comprises oven-roasted meat, Yorkshire puddings, crispy roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and, of course, gravy. With all these different components, preparing a traditional roast dinner is anything but simple! So, here is our guide to preparing a perfect British roast dinner at home.

The classic roast dinner is with beef and so this is the recipe we have given here; however, you can also use chicken, pork, lamb or nut roast. Timing is key so try to give yourself as much time as possible as it can become quite stressful!

Serves: 8

For the meat:
Fore rib beef (about 4 kg/9 lbs), French trimmed, on the bone, chined
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the veggies:
16 medium-sized Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes
5 tbsp duck fat
8 garlic cloves
8 sprigs thyme
Also choose some seasonal vegetables, such as carrots, peas, broccoli or cabbage.

For the Yorkshire puddings:
3 eggs
115 g (4 oz) plain flour
275 mL milk
Beef dripping

For the gravy:
Meat juices and fat from the roasted meat
30 g plain flour
570 mL stock

Preparation method
First of all, work out how long the beef will take to roast based on its weight and whether you like it rare, medium–rare, medium or well done. As a general rule, roast for 30 minutes per kilo for rare, adding another 10 minutes per kilo for medium–rare, 20 minutes per kilo for medium and 30 minutes per kilo for well done. Add 50 minutes to this time and this will give you the complete preparation time, which you will need to time the cooking of the other components.

Now let’s get started!

Preheat the oven to about 460°F (240°C/gas mark 8) and, while it’s getting to temperature, prepare the batter for the Yorkshire puddings, which will need time to rest. Mix together the eggs and flour with a pinch of salt, and then add the milk, stirring constantly, until you have a runny batter (a hand blender can be helpful here). Leave this to rest, covered, in the refrigerator until required (you can prepare this batter 12 hours in advance).

Now on to the meat: rub the beef all over with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pop the beef in a large frying pan and sear quickly on all sides before transferring to a heavy-based roasting pan and popping it in the oven. After 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 375°F (190°C/gas mark 5) and roast for the pre-determined time.

Now let’s move on to the roast potatoes – you need to leave about an hour for these.

Parboil the peeled potatoes in salted water for 7–8 minutes until almost cooked and then drain thoroughly using a colander. To get crispy potatoes, shake the potatoes around a little in the colander so that the outsides are roughened.

Heat the duck fat in a small roasting tin in the oven for 5 minutes and then add the potatoes and sprinkle with garlic cloves, thyme and salt. Mix until the potatoes are well coated in the fat and pop in the oven for 45–60 minutes.

When your beef is roasted, remove it from the oven, transfer it to a carving board and cover with foil so that it can rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. Collect the juices and fat from the meat in a jug as you will need these later for the gravy.

After you have removed the meat from the oven and it is resting, you can move on to the Yorkshire puddings. Turn the oven temperature up to 460°F (240°C/gas mark 8) and grab your batter from the refrigerator. Place about 1 cm of beef dripping in the bottom of each pudding mold and heat the dripping in the oven for about 10 minutes, until piping hot. Remove the pudding tray from the oven, pour in the batter and immediately return to the oven. Bake for 25 minutes and be sure not to open the oven door for the first 20 minutes – this is the secret to well-risen puddings!

While the Yorkshire puddings are roasting, you can prepare the other vegetables and gravy. For the gravy, the meat juices that you collected should have separated and the fat should have risen to the surface. Skim off the fat and place it in the roasting pan that you used for the meat. Place the pan on the hob over a medium heat and stir in the flour for a minute, then stir in the meat juices and gradually add the stock to create a smooth gravy. Bring it to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes before seasoning to taste. Pour the gravy into a gravy boat, ready for serving. For the vegetables, follow the instructions dependent on which vegetables you are using – steaming or boiling is generally best but baby roast carrots are also delicious!

And so that’s it! Everything should now be ready and the components just need to be brought together on each plate or arranged separately on the table if you would prefer people to serve themselves. All that’s left is for the food to be enjoyed!

Roast dinners are a wonderful part of British culture and we hope you enjoy preparing your traditional British roast dinner at home for your family or friends!

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