EATING FOR BRITAIN: ROAST BEEF & YORKSHIRE PUDDING WITH ANDY PORTER
Unless you were lucky enough to eat at The Blacksmith’s Arms in Westow when it was owned by my chums, Gary & Sarah Marshall, you won’t have heard of Andy Porter. A great shame because Andy is one of my favourite chefs in the country.
When it came to finding someone to show me how to make the perfect Roast Beef & Yorkshire Pudding, I thought back to a DH Sunday lunch at The Blacksmith’s Arms. It was just before we headed home to London after a superb weekend that included meals at J Bakers, Anthony’s, The Red Chilli and, of course, more than one meal prepared by Andy. It was the perfect example of the Sunday Lunch, particularly as I was undecided whether to choose a thick slice from a rib of beef or a piece from a juicy loin of pork with perfect crackling. Andy said “have a bit of both” and served them up with an enormous bowl full of the most sensational Yorkshire Puddings. My kind of guy.
Now, Andy is getting his chef whites dirty at The Pavilion Hotel, a charming hotel in York, where although he is having to stick to more the more standard offerings required by business travellers and tourists, there are still enough moments on the menu that make you realise that he is as enthusiastic as ever.
I met Andy at the hotel and, after a quick tour of the converted mansion in which it is housed we headed to visit Matthew at M&K butchers, Andy’s meat suppliers. Matthew already had some cuts of beef ready for us to select from, but after a little discussion we decided on a nicely marbled piece of rib-eye that had been hip hung and aged for twenty-one days. Matthew sliced a chunk big enough to give us a few good slices and, stopping to grab a packet of beef dripping, we set off back to the hotel.
Andy had done his prep, the batter using his own simple recipe (equal parts milk, water, eggs and flour, whisked and sieved) was resting on the work surface. Potatoes were par-boiled and had been shaken in the pan to give them some rough edges to crisp up in the fat and he had both the dripping and some duck fat so we could do a comparative tasting of the two.
While the fat for the Yorkshires heated up to smoking point in the oven, Andy seared the beef on all sides until it took on a glorious colour and then placed it on a roasting pan. By now all the trays were hot and ready and we tossed the potatoes in both types of fat and poured out the batter for the puddings until it began to bubble the moment it hit the hot dripping.
Then of course, the trick is not to open the oven. Not quite so important in a large commercial combi-oven like the one Andy had use of at The Pavilion, but still a rule of thumb if you don’t want your puddings to sag like an English Cricket fan’s spirits by day three of a test match.
When Andy decided they were good and ready by peering through the glass of the cooker, out they came. Both sets of potatoes and puddings looked great, but those cooked in the dripping had taken on an extra depth of colour and, from the ones I stole from both trays, an extra level of flavour. I would happily eat either, but dripping was the undoubted winner as the cooking medium of choice.
That decided, Andy took over and began plating up. The beef had been kept rare and allowed to rest so it remained a wonderful pink colour throughout. The Yorkshire Puddings had bubbled up, crisp on the outside and slightly doughy on the inside and the potatoes were a burnished colour with a crunchy outside and soft almost creamy insides.
Before I could take my shot, Andy splodged a spoonful of fresh horseradish sauce on the plate along with a sprig of peppery watercress and then we both tucked in fighting for the piece of meat with the sliver of fat through it. The beef, perhaps could have done with a little more age for me, but was cooked perfectly. The Yorkshire puddings were as good as you are ever likely to find and I broke big pieces off to dip into a jug of gravy that Andy had made with the juices released by the beef during resting.
I had to let Andy to get on with his real work at this point and as I left, the rest of the kitchen staff began to descend on the remaining puddings, beef and potatoes. Absolute proof, if it were needed that Britain’s love affair with its most famous dish shows no sign of ending.
Nor, indeed does my admiration for the cooking skills of one Andrew Porter.