The Cottage Smallholder

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Sunday Roast: Perfect rare roast beef recipe

perfect rare  roast beefWe reward ourselves once in a while with a really good joint of beef. It does a Sunday lunch plus at least a couple of meals during the week. Beef is easy as long as you have the three elements spot on: the choice of joint, temperature and timing. With beef, I found this all a bit overwhelming until I met Tommy Cody.

I worked at Tommy and Peggy’s house for about a month. They always insisted that I joined them for lunch. It was an elegant affair. Peggy and I were given pre lunch drinks to sip and could hear the happy clatter of saucepans and running water, getting more frenetic as the designated time approached. Tommy moved steadily towards the crescendo as we chatted in a wave of anticipation and wafts of delicious aromas.

Lunch was civilised – a starter of great soup, an excellent main course and a tempting pud. Always accompanied with a decent glass of wine. Eating lunch with Tommy and Peggy made me feel special. I loved the conversation, the food, the wine and the virgin napkins. These were replaced every day.

There was one major problem. I needed a snooze after such a spectacular lunch. T and P repaired to thier boltholes but I had to carry on working. It was a battle but so much better than a snatched sandwich in a chilly Jalopy.

Tommy took up cooking when he retired and had made the clever move of doing the shopping as well. As every great chef knows, shopping can be inspirational. And Tommy’s meals were impressive. Four weeks in their house was a great test. He never faltered.

Danny got pretty fed up with hearing about Tommy’s spectacular meals. For example, his roast beef was cooked on an electric spit in the kitchen. I only sampled it cold in a salad but it was heavenly. Eventually D insisted that I asked the name of the joint and its provenance.

Tommy tipped that the best joint for a succulent rare roast beef is a corner cut of beef. When Jalopy and I chugged over to our butcher (Fred Fitzpatrick, in the Exning Road). All I could remember was the word “corner”.

“Ah,” Fred laid down his cleaver.
“He must mean corner cut of beef.” I have never found this labeled as such in any normal supermarket but  having researched this, I think that it is similar to the best topside. Fred produced a lovely long joint and proceeded to cut the length we desired.

Perfect rare roast beef recipe

For medium rare or well done, simply cook the joint for longer (testing every 10 minutes)

Most cookbooks will give you timings and temperatures. We find Prue Leith (Leith’s Cookery Bible) gives the best results.

Needless to say we have tweaked. Here’s our favourite roast beef recipe that serves four with seconds. For bigger numbers, do check with Prue’s book or with your butcher.


  • 1.2 to 1.5 kg of corner of beef (less fat than rib roast but juicy, tender and tasty). For best reults use a jont of about 2 kg or over.
  • half tsp of ground sea salt (we love Maldon sea salt from a grinder)
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 240 (220 fan assisted, gas mark 9). That blackens the outside for tasty outer slices.
  2. Make a mini-baking tray from foil, just bigger than the joint and place in a roasting tray. This will contain the juices in a smaller area than if just plonking the joint onto the tray. It helps keep the juices from drying out.
  3. If the surface of your joint is dry, just rub a little olive oil over it. Usually, we simply take ours from he fridge in its bag, so it’s still moist on the outside.
  4. Mix the salt and pepper and coat the joint all over.
  5. Pour the olive oil into your foil baking tray, place the seasoned joint on it and put it in the oven. Make sure that the oven has pre-heated fully.
  6. After 15 minutes, turn the temperature down to 180 (160 fan assisted, gas mark 4) and let it cook for a further 25 minutes per kilo (11 minutes per 450g/1 lb). For good rare beef, do not exceed these timings.
  7. Take it out of the oven and place it under a duvet of towels for 15 to 20 minutes. Make your gravy by pouring off the juices and simply adding carrot water (we always cook carrots with a Sunday roast. The juice helps to make great gravy when added to any meat juices).

Tips and tricks:

  • I used to think the resting a joint was crazy. Danny insisted on doing this and it really makes a diiference. The meat does relax and become more tender. I did a test. It makes a big diffrence.

  Leave a reply


  1. Rachael Dible

    Hello, I’m cooking a whole corner joint – 3 1/2+ kg for 19 people.I need to be sure it comes out medium rare. Can you advise me please?
    Often I use roasting bags but it looks like you don’t!

    • Paul Anderson

      Rachael, get hold of a instant read probe thermometer and cook til it’s 55°C in the middle.

  2. sorry to be dim, i’m cooking on sunday for 9. I have a “corner cut” that is 2.135 kg. After the initial 220 degree 15 minute blast, am I to cook it for a further 50 mins or so? Seems like a long time but it’s a long time since I have cooked such a big joint!

    Thank you.

    • Danny Carey

      Hello, Rose. What fun to have a party of 9 for Sunday lunch. The secret to a great Sunday lunch party is to allow the wine to flow freely as your guests arrive!!

      Yes, 50 minutes at the lower temp. That works because it is much lower than normal roast beef or chicken roasting temps.

      Have faith! Ovens vary of course and we cooked in a Zanussi electric fan oven. At worst, you will get nice medium rare rather than rare. Any less time and it might be raw in the middle or “blue” at best.

      Good luck and I hope everything works out for a wonderful afternoon.

  3. Thank you Danny, this looks like a great recipe. Great tip on the foil tray, I used to do this and I’m not sure why I stopped as it also makes Clean up so much easier.
    Can I ask what the benefits of pouring olive oil in the tray pan are?
    I was going to cook my beef joint to another recipe and last night mixed garlic, white/black pepper, rosemary & Thyme along with some olive oil & balsamic vinegar, I rubbed that mix into the roast and left it to marinate overnight, turning it a few times.
    It’s looking good.
    Today I’m going to cook it as per your instructions but I’m not quite sure what the purpose of the olive oil in the roasting pan is?
    Would it be for the gravy?

    • Danny Carey

      Yes, Nichola, it is only to act as a base for the juices. I am sure you could dispense with it.

      • Great, thank you Danny for getting back to me, I like a butter base and wanted to check incase we had done olive oil magic happening.
        Sorry for being a bit thick on it lol.
        Have a fabulous Christmas ?

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