Christmas is synonymous with turkey, right? Well, not quite. Every year every family tries to breathe life into the old bird. Some opt for a free range, organic, slow grown bird. Others spend endless time comparing cooking tips. Others will adorn the turkey with the most sophisticated, souped-up trimmings: armagnac-soaked prunes wrapped in bacon; grated sprouts stir-fried with ginger, chestnuts and sesame oil; home-made sausages incorporating the bird’s minced liver and fresh truffles. The trimmings sound and taste wonderful. But the bird itself is unworthy of their flattery. To put it simply the turkey often fails to deliver.
Christmas is a time when the food we choose to eat needs to spread love, warmth, goodwill, forgiveness and optimism around a large table of people who, though bonded together by varying levels of shared genes and shared history, might not otherwise choose to sit down and eat together.
The mild white flesh of the turkey, even at its best, simply isn’t up to the job. What’s required is something heartier, richer and more intense. What’s needed is a flesh whose savour runs deep because its fats are dispersed, in fine grains, throughout the meat. Something that reveals itself slowly, through chewing, then yields completely. A meat whose surface, seared by the heat of a fierce oven, creates a flavour that is the very essence of savouriness, yet whose interior is so matured, tender and relaxed, it could be served raw, like sushi.
So, on Christmas day, it’s time to bring on the beef. Not just any old beef, but a massive, well-aged, beautifully marbled joint of roast beef on the bone. Come Christmas Day, a piece of meat like this will do the talking.
Some may argue that ‘It won’t look right.’ Granted, a 30lb turkey looks spectacular when brought to the table. But it also looks sad when sitting on the sideboard, some hours after 20 hungry mouths have all done their worst, yet only managed to remove half a lily-white breast and a drumstick like a weightlifter’s forearm.
Of course, serving a whole roast forerib or sirloin of beef-on-the-bone, with caramelised meat sugars, primal, succulent, and oozing pink juices can also be spectacular too.
So why don’t you try out the juicy, full flavoured version of Christmas dinner. Have a look at the recipe below:
Roast Beef with the trimmings
1 joint aged rib of beef, on the bone, or aged sirloin, on the bone
A little olive oil or good fat
Salt, fresh ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Massage the whole joint with olive oil or soft dripping and season lightly, all over, with salt and pepper. Place on a roasting tray and put in the oven. Cook on this high heat for about 30 minutes, until the meat is well-browned and sizzling in the pan.
Then turn the oven down to 180C, (and leave the oven door open for half a minute to help it cool quickly). After the ‘half-hour-sizzle’, allow 10-12 minutes per pound at 180C for very pink meat, 12- 15 for medium rare.
Remove from the oven, place the joint on a warm serving plate or carving tray, cover loosely with a piece of foil, and leave to rest for no less than half an hour before carving and serving. This ‘relaxing’ of the joint makes a vital difference to the final tenderness of the meat.