Salt dry-aged British sirloin of beef

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake.

We have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.

Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer! Even though they are older now, we still maintain the tradition.

As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.

One of the three roasts I cooked, one was the M&S Salt dry-aged  British sirloin of beef roast.

This was quite an expensive joint of beef, so I had quite high expectations for it.

Roast beef packaging

After removing from the fridge for thirty minutes, the joint was seasoned and then seared in a hot pan before roasting in the over for seventy five minutes.

I let it rest and then carved the beef. It was a very tender roast and full of flavour. I did have some gristle running through the joint which I was not too impressed with.

Though it was delicious, we didn’t eat much of it, I think people enjoyed the turkey roast we had. 

I am not sure I would get it again as a secondary festive roast. I think I would save for, say a Boxing Day meal.

So did I make a mistake?

We have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.

Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer! Even though they are older now, we still maintain the tradition.

As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake.

I wrote the other day about some hesitation about a Christmas roast I had ordered from M&S.

Think we may have made a mistake with the turkey roast we ordered from M&S. It looks like we ordered the M&S Collection Slow-cooked British Easy-Carve Three Bird Roast. This is a cooked joint, which you heat up in the oven. I thought it was going to be a fresh three bird roast, which we’ve had before from M&S. It’s not that I have a strong aversion to this kind of product, but I much prefer cooking from scratch (or raw) than heating a dish in the oven that is already been cooked.

When I picked up the roast I did think about replacing it with something else, but there wasn’t anything similar. So I kept it in the basket and headed to pay for it. I then joined the queue for the tills which stretched to the back of the shop. I thought this was going to be a long wait, but in the end the till moved very quickly.

Slow cooked three bird roast box

It was quite a large box which I put into the fridge for cooking the next day.

When it came to cooking it, I got it out of the box, it came in a sealed plastic bag covered in netting.

The roast was then placed in the included foil tray and cooked for eighty minutes.

After cooking I let it rest for about fifteen minutes and then proceeded to carve the roast.

It was very easy to carve and didn’t fall apart, unlike some previous multi-bird roasts I have cooked in the past.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so what was it like?

Well it was loved by everyone around the table. The whole thing was well seasoned and it was lovely, moist, tender roast. It was delicious and full of flavour. I would certainly order it again for next year.

Have I made a mistake?

Think we may have made a mistake with the turkey roast we ordered from M&S. It looks like we ordered the M&S Collection Slow-cooked British Easy-Carve Three Bird Roast. This is a cooked joint, which you heat up in the oven. I thought it was going to be a fresh three bird roast, which we’ve had before from M&S. It’s not that I have a strong aversion to this kind of product, but I much prefer cooking from scratch (or raw) than heating a dish in the oven that is already been cooked.

It’s difficult to see what else we could have ordered as their Christmas food ordering has closed and they no longer have their choices online. However doing a Google search I was able to bring up an online version of their brochure.

I can see that the page that the three bird roast was on was on the same page as two other choices, partridge, and pheasant, which are not slow-cooked. On the next page was a three game roast (which wasn’t slow cooked), but we’ve had that before, and wasn’t too impressed.

Yes, I can see now that the description does say slow-cooked. I actually don’t think I would have ordered it, if I had realised it was a slow cooked roast.

Well the proof of the dish will be in the eating.

M&S Aberdeen Angus Beef Côte De Boeuf

Went out and did some food shopping, first to Aldi, then M&S. 

I was looking around when I noticed that there was a reduced M&S Select Farms Aberdeen Angus Beef Côte De Boeuf.

M&S Aberdeen Angus Beef Côte De Boeuf

However I also noticed that there was a member of staff doing the secondary reductions on the other side of the aisle. I had to wait around the aisle for a while, as the M&S person reducing stuff got round to it. The full price was nearly £27 and I got it for just over £9.

Bargain!

I did think about potentially getting something like this for Christmas dinner, so was pleased I could give it a try before the festive period.

Back home went to cook it. I followed the instructions for the Côte De Boeuf. This required seasoning the joint and then searing and browning in a hot frying pan before placing in a hot oven.

I did initially think I may have undercooked the joint, but when I carved it, I realised I had slightly overcooked it compared to how I wanted it.

It was lovely and tender, but it didn’t have the flavour I thought it would.

I certainly would get it again, but only if I either got it reduced again, or had loads of spare money to pay full price.

Mushroom Bao Buns

I was at my local M&S Food Hall getting a few things, when I decided I wanted to get something for lunch. I was planning to get some bread and cheese when I saw a box of M&S Plant Kitchen 6 Hoisin Bao Buns, from their Plant Kitchen range, which had been reduced. 

Juicy and savoury shredded shiitake mushrooms in a hoisin sauce with fluffy bao buns.

So I thought to myself I like bao buns, and decided to give it a try.

Back home I opened the box and I was a little disappointed. The box contained a pack of bao buns and a sachet containing the shredded shiitake mushrooms in the hoisin sauce. Not quite what I was expecting, and certainly, containing none of the garnishes that were on the box. There was no crispy onions, coriander, peanuts or fresh chilli.

It was easy to prepare, just requiring use of the microwave. I garnished my bao buns with some peashoots.

The sauce was rather too rich and savoury for me and there wasn’t enough mushroom. I think I would have bought some shiitake mushrooms, cooked them in a frying pan and used them with the sauce.

Would I get the box again? Well I got them for £3.18 reduced from the normal price which was £5. Even though they were reduced, I still thought they were overpriced. At £5 for the box I think they are well overpriced. So, no I won’t be buying it again. I have bought (plain) bao buns from M&S before and I like those.

I think I will get some plain bao buns, and then cook my own shiitake mushrooms in a sauce. I would then garnish with fresh coriander, peanuts and some chilli. For £5 I could probably buy all the fresh ingredients alongside the bao buns from M&S.

Roasted Pork Belly

M&S sell a pork belly joint seasoned with salt and pepper. We have this quite often, and I use the same technique each time. In a roasting pan I add a bed of cut vegetables. The actual composition does depend on what’s in the fridge. This time I used apple, onion, carrots, a garlic bulb cut in half, and some mushrooms. I drizzled some garlic olive oil as well over the joint.

I start off with a hot (fan) oven, about 200℃ and roast the pork belly for about ten minutes before turning the heat down to 160℃. I usually cook the join for about ninety minutes. The plan is to slow roast the joint to make it tender. A hot fast roast will result in a shorter cooking time, but the meat will be tough and chewy (and probably a little fatty).

I leave the joint to rest for about twenty to thirty minutes, which gives me time to increase the heat in the oven to finish off the roast potatoes and roasted vegetables. I will usually use the roasting pan juices to make some gravy.

I slice the joint into thin slices and serve with roast potatoes and vegetables.

What we had for Christmas Lunch

I like to record what we had for Christmas lunch, so next time I can improve on what we had.

This time we ordered from M&S and had three roasts.

For the third year running we had a Three-Bird Roast.This year was turkey, stuffed with chicken, duck and (gluten free) pork, orange and panettone stuffing).

This was rather good, not enough duck, but still very good. I felt I cooked it well and leaving it to rest meant it was easy to carve and the slices stayed together.

I also cooked a Dry-Aged Rib of Beef. This I sealed in a hot frying pan before moving to the oven. After cooking I let it rest and carved. The beef was beautifully tender, though not as much flavour as I thought it was going to have.

The final of our trio of roasts was the Stuffed Pair of Partridges. These were smaller than I thought they would be, almost quail sized. I think I overcooked these, so they were a little dry.

We had a range of stuffing and trimmings. Though I forgot to cook the Yorkshire Puddings.

Overall I was pleased with the meal (I was catering for ten) though I was disappointed with my roast potatoes. I think I didn’t par-boil them for long enough, and the oven was a little too crowded as well. Something to think about for next year.

We now have a tradition of having our Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. We’ve done this for ten years now. We do this for a few reasons. On Christmas Day itself, the children are often too excited to sit down for a long meal, so don’t eat or enjoy the meal or the occasion. It also usually means I spend a fair few hours in the kitchen, which means I miss them opening and playing with their presents. I also find it quite demanding to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible, whilst creating a wonderful dining experience.

Having the meal on Christmas Eve means that we can both spend a bit more time preparing the meal (less stressful in itself) and enjoy eating the meal (as do the children). As a result for them it helps pass the time on one of the more exciting days of the year as they anticipate the arrival of a sleigh full of presents being pulled by eight tiny reindeer!

As to what we eat on Christmas day itself, well we have lots of lovely leftovers, cheeses, pickles, hot bread, etc…. quick and easy to prepare and delicious.

Gluten Free Cauliflower Cheese

I have in the past really enjoyed the truffled cauliflower cheese from M&S, however as before, it seems to have disappeared from the shelves at M&S.

For a recent Sunday lunch I decided that I would make my own cauliflower cheese, which would be gluten free.

I didn’t really follow a recipe, as partly I didn’t want to make too much, also not sure how appropriate recipes are when using gluten free ingredients.

I first made a cheese sauce, this was done by melting butter in a pan and then adding a similar amount of gluten free plain flour to make a roux. To this I added some milk to make a sauce. What I have found is that gluten free flour can thicken quite a lot, so don’t add too much. This is then cooked over a low heat to blend and thicken.

Once the sauce starts to thicken enough, I added greater cheddar cheese. I use a mature cheddar as I like a strong cheese flavour. I find you don’t want the sauce too thick, as cooking in the oven will thicken the sauce even more.

In an ovenproof dish I place the cauliflower florets, trying to ensure that they are all of a similar size. This is then covered in the cheese sauce and then place extra grated cheese on top.

Echoing the M&S dish, I added some small cubes of gluten free bread to add crunch.

This was then cooked in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Slow Roasted Pork Salad

Back in the summer for an evening meal, we had slow roasted pork belly with potatoes and salad.

The pork belly was from M&S and comes already seasoned. It has no rind, so you don’t get crackling, but slow roasting usually (for me results) in rubbery crackling anyhow. It is a tasty joint and a favourite in our house.

I did small roast potatoes, using Maris Piper potatoes which are par boiled and then roasted in hot oil in the oven. I generally add a little butter towards the end of cooking to add colour and a final crispness.

The salad included a personal favourite of thinly sliced raw cauliflower in a spicy mayonnaise. We first had this eating out at a  cafe in Wapping Wharf in Bristol. We stole the idea and now have it on a regular basis.

Overall a delicious meal and very tasty.

Made myself a grilled cheese sandwich

grilled cheese sandwich

As a child I would often eat cheese on toast, these days not so much. Back then we even had a Breville sandwich toaster, which was a bit of a fad in the 1980s, but you can still buy them today.

I remember when a panini was something you would only find in Italy, then they were available everywhere.

These days I will avoid having sandwiches for lunch, and I can’t remember the last time I had a panini. One thing I have had a few times are toasted sandwiches, usually cheese and mushroom.

The other day we were up at the Mall and I needed a break to rest, so we decided to get some coffee and a quick snack. We eventually decided on the Soho Coffee Company, not one of my first choices for coffee, but it wasn’t too crowded. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, I didn’t really want a cake, nor did I want a sandwich, so in the end I chose the mushroom & swiss cheese sourdough toastie. This was described as roasted mushrooms with garlic & black pepper. Swiss cheese & SOHO toastie sauce. Topped with even more Swiss cheese for extra ooziness! Though when it arrived I think the topping of Swiss cheese had been missed off. Still it was rather nice, crunchy bread, melted cheese and nice mushrooms.

So at home and wanting some lunch, I did think about what I wanted and I thought to myself I might create my own grilled cheese toastie. 

I had some M&S San Francisco sourdough bread, which I added some butter to the inside, a slice of Gouda (I had no Swiss cheese), some grated cheddar cheese and a slice of Serrano ham. 

In a frying pan I added some olive oil and some butter and once the butter was melted I added the (what was then) sourdough sandwich. I put a lid on the frying pan, so that the heat would be retained and melt the cheese. I then removed the lid so that the final part of cooking would crisp up the bread.

This was then put on a plate and served. The bread was lovely and crunchy on the outside, but still soft on the inside. The cheese had melted and was oozing out of the sandwich and the ham added an element of saltiness.

It was really nice, so much so I did think about making myself another one, but I resisted temptation.