However much you enjoy it, a traditional British Sunday lunch of roast meat, vegetables and accompaniments can become a bit predictable. It is good sometimes to ring the changes with a slight twist, especially if that twist is a relatively simple one: essential in our very busy Sunday household. It was the slightly unusual sauce recipe that attracted my attention, which proved easy to adapt. Designed to accompany expensive beef fillet, I cooked it with a different cut of beef, which slowly roasted while we were out at church. As I had thought, it was delicious!
The original recipe, Pepper-crusted Fillet of Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onions & Thyme, comes from Delia Smith’s How to Cook, Book 3. The original recipe was for fillet of beef cooked quickly on the bed of onions which were then made into a sauce. Using a different cut of beef, which needed a slower cooking time, I prepared and cooked it in my usual way. (I usually give a silverside or topside joint a slow cooking for Sunday lunch while we are out for the morning.) Instructions are given below for my version using the cheaper cut of silverside beef (topside beef could be cooked in the same way). If entertaining and using a finer cut of meat it can, of course, be cooked for the shorter time (refer to the recipe via the link above). Delia Smith recommends the onions are added right at the start of the cooking time, however if I had done this with the lengthy cooking they would have been cooked to a crisp and useless, hence my adapted version. I also use my own cornflour based method for making the sauce. Delia suggests the recipe could be accompanied by Potatoes Boulangère with Rosemary. It is difficult though to get away without serving Roast Beef with Yorkshire Puddings plus any usual favourite side dishes and sauces.
Roast Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onion & Thyme Sauce
1lb 8oz-2lb/680-900g silverside/topside beef (original: middle-cut beef fillet)
a knob of butter (orig: drizzle of oil)
1-3tsp ground black peppercorns (be generous for a hotter flavour)
2fl oz/55ml balsamic vinegar
1 level tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1lb/450g medium sized red onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
For the sauce:
1 heaped tsp cornflour
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
½pt/275 ml red wine (can be the end of a bottle which has been frozen)
1. To allow the flavours to develop start the recipe at least 2 hours before cooking, if possible. Rub the meat with a little butter and grind the peppercorns over the surface of the beef, pressing in well – the more you add the hotter it will be.
2. To make the onion sauce mix the sugar and balsamic vinegar together thoroughly in a large bowl and leave it to rest while preparing the onions so the sugar dissolves. Peel the onions and leaving the root intact cut each one into eight wedges. Add the onion wedges and a tablespoon of oil to the bowl with the sugar and vinegar and gently toss to coat. Cover and leave to one side while the meat is cooking. (Doing this early in the day is a useful time saver for when time is short later in the morning but alternatively it can be done while the meat is cooking.)
3. Preheat the oven 150oC/300oF/Gas 2.
4. Put about 1cm/½inch water in a roasting dish to keep the meat moist. Place the meat on a rack in the dish, cover and cook for about 2 hours or even a little longer. Check that the dish is not going dry when you can (if you are out then look as soon as you return).
5. Remove the roasting tin from the oven, removing the meat and the rack. Raise the oven temperature to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.
6. Pour off any excess meat juices and fat which can be used either to make gravy (there is usually someone who wants gravy as well as sauce) or to use in other dishes. It is not necessary to wash the roasting tin, unless it has gone dry and burned.
7. Spread the onion mixture out in the base of the roasting tin. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season well with salt. Place the beef on top of the onion mixture. Cover, return to the oven and continue cooking for 20 minutes.
8. Remove the beef from the tin and transfer to a warm place to rest. Return the tin with the onions to the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Depending on size of onion, carefully remove two to three whole wedges per diner from the dish and keep warm alongside the meat. Finely chop the remaining onion along with any juices from the pan that the meat has been cooked in. (If needed add some of the meat juice from earlier, but not the fat.) In a small saucepan mix the cornflour with the Worcester Sauce and the balsamic vinegar to make a paste and then gradually add the wine and finally the chopped onion. Bring to the boil until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent it from becoming lumpy. Turn down the heat and simmer gently until the sauce has reduced by about a quarter. Check and adjust seasoning as required.
9. To serve, carve the beef and stir any extra meat juices into the sauce. Serve garnished with the onions and the sauce poured over, plus whatever accompaniments for roast beef you prefer.