How to make perfect roast beef with all the trimmings, by Simon Hopkinson

'It has to be roast beef with Yorkshire puddings and homemade horseradish – I don’t think I could eat roast beef without it. Any leftover meat is almost as nice as having the roast itself'

Simon Hopkinson’s roast beef

Roast beef

A nice rolled rib of beef with the bones left in; ask the butcher to run a knife around the edges of the bones (to help with carving). A good layering of fat is essential and put plenty of salt and pepper on it before cooking.

Put about 200g of cheap stewing meat around the joint, to help with the gravy, bung it in a high oven – 220˚C/425˚F/gas mark 7 – for about 20 minutes, then turn it down to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4 for about one hour (for a 2kg joint) for medium rare. If it’s medium rare, it’s better when it’s hot; if it’s rare, it’s much better cold. Resting is of the utmost importance; for beef to be perfectly carved and served, it has to be almost room temperature.

Cover loosely with foil (but not tightly or it will keep on cooking) and leave it at the back of the stove for as long as you like. When carving, I go along until I get to a bone, then take the bone out. I don’t like beef thickly sliced, but old-fashioned thin, like smoked salmon.


Take the joint out, leaving those little chunks in. Tip off the excess fat for the potatoes and Yorkshires, stir in a little flour and beef stock or vegetable water, then leave to simmer for 40 minutes and strain. You’re basically making a small, thickened stock. I don’t put wine in the gravy – I like it tasting of meat.


Use at least half a root of fresh horseradish and grate it by an open window, so it blows the fumes away. Very few people know that the addition of sugar makes horseradish really hot as it does something to the enzymes – use a couple of teaspoons. Add cream, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt – it really doesn’t need pepper.

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Roast potatoes

Desirees make the best roast potatoes. Simmer them in salted water, in not-too-big chunks (I’d get three pieces from a medium-sized potato). Cook them daringly, so they’re almost cooked through. If some pieces fall off, they’re always the best bits. Lift the potatoes into a colander with a slotted spoon, then shake them around.

There’s nothing better than beef dripping to cook them in and roasties do best in the bottom of the oven. Turn them over once the undersides are going nice and golden and put them back. Then, drain off all the fat – this way, they go really ‘rustly’.

Yorkshire puddings

Make up the batter first thing and get it out of the way, but cook them at the last minute, while the beef is resting. I use a 12-muffin, non-stick tray. Put a bit of fat in the bottom of each one; you must get the fat really hot. Use a jug and don’t overfill. When everything’s done, whack the oven up to 220˚C/425˚F/gas mark 7 and leave the potatoes in the bottom while the Yorkshires are cooking (at the top).


As a child, we used to have a lot of mashed carrot or swede. I love those two; just boil in salted water, drain well (swede throws out a lot of water) and mash with lots of butter and pepper.