Popularity isn't a cause that much worries me, mainly because 'popular' wasn't a label that came near being coupled with my name during the teenage years. At the time you're acutely aware that you're so low down on the totem pole you'd first have to dig your way up to the surface to get some face-time on that wooden mast, but unpopularity can be liberating once you wrap your mind around it. You don't have to worry about keeping up appearances, or about tweaking your personality or preferences in order to maintain some standard. At least from my observations as a teenager, the un-popular saved a small fortune in designer clothes and handbags, and trips to the salon and manicurist (and fake tanning, these days).
The same money-saving ethos holds for your unpopular cuts of meat. You're not going to be dipping in to your savings if you get a hankering for liver or want to tuck into a side of goat. Forerib of beef is a cut of meat that has fallen off the popularity wagon, but can still be a sumptuous bit of meat. I first fell in love with forerib at the Marquess Tavern which serves it up as part of a family-style Sunday lunch, succulent and slow cooked and dripping with rich flavors and juices. At our local butchers this weekend, with forerib hanging in the window and golden memories of long Sunday lunches playing in our minds, there was no alternative but to wrap that rib up and bring it back to its new home.
The forerib is a cheaper cut of meat because there's a bit more fiddling about to get beauty from it - athough beauty is very possible. You can either brown the meat off and then roast in the oven until nicely cooked (though still rare, please), or give it the slow-roasting treatment to really concentrate the flavors, as Johanna at The Passionate Cook did recently. We opted for the brown-and-roast method, adapting a recipe from Anthony Worrall Thompson that used paprika, mustard, and dried herbs to give the meat flavor and to create a glorious gravy which nearly became the star of the meal itself.
A topside or silverside of beef is a much more popular roast dinner: easy to whack into a pan and cook to preference, but also easy to over-do because of its lack of fat. Even though the forerib is less simple to carve and to pick the meat from, the efforts are rewarded by the flavor of the meat itself. Since it's not as popular as it once was you will probably need to go to a butcher to get some (and the better the butcher, the better the meat will be), but the double pleasure is that it costs less than other cuts of beef and will give a nice stock from boiling up the bone. If you ever needed an argument to show that being unpopular is a rewarding experience, this is it.
Roast forerib of beef, adapted from Anthony Worrall Thompson
Serves around 6
- 1.3kg/3lb piece forerib of beef, on the bone
- handful of roasting vegetables, such as carrot, onion and leek; use 1 of each if mainly using to add flavor to the gravy, more than that if you are roasting the vegetables to eat
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 2.5ml/½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 2.5ml/½ tsp dry English mustard powder or wasabi powder
- 4 Tbsp olive oil (for frying the meat)
- 600ml/1 pint fresh beef stock
- 150ml/¼ pint red wine
- 3 Tbsp olive oil (for cooking the vegetables)
- Heat the oven to 200C / 400F
- Combine the dried herbs (Anthony warns that the recipe will only work with dried rather than fresh) cayenne, paprika, garlic salt and English mustard powder/wasabi.
- Spread a thin layer of the Dijon mustard all over the fat side of the beef and stick the herb mixture into it. If you have time, wrap in cling-film and put to one side to allow the beef to marinate.
- Chop up the vegetables and place in the roasting tray the meat will go into, along with the 3 Tbsp olive oil. Cook for 20 minutes until caramelised or lightly browned.
- Once the vegetables are browned, increase the temperature to 220C/425F. In a frying pan, heat the 4 Tbsp olive oil and seal the meat on all sides (about 30 seconds per exposed side).
- Place the beef into the roasting pan on top of the caramelised vegetables, but don't return to the oven just yet.
- Into the frying pan containing the left over juices of the meet, add the red wine and heat to burn off the alcohol. Pour into the base of the roasting pan along with the ½ pint of beef stock.
- Return the meat et al to the oven and roast 15 minutes.
- After those 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 200C/400 F and roast for 12 minutes per 450g/1lb for medium-rare; or 10 minutes for very rare, almost 'blue' meat and 20 -25 mins for a well done beef. (please note: we followed these instructions and the meat needed another 20 minutes to come up to rare, so either we got our timings wrong or these suggestions are wrong)
- Baste the roast regularly, about every 10-15 minutes.
- Remove meat from the roasting dish and place on a large dish, letting it rest a good 15 minutes before carving.
- Use the juices from the pan to make a succulent gravy.