Last week, I was invited to London to join a few fellow foodies at an event hosted by lovely actor/food writer Fay Ripley and Simply Beef & Lamb. You might have seen adverts on the TV recently about midweek mini roasts, and Fay brought us all together to challenge us to create a fast mini roast that we would serve to our families.
So what is a mini roast? Well, they come in a variety of cuts, but basically they’re smaller pieces of meat, around 500g or less and they cook in less than an hour, which makes them perfect for weekday meals. We got to choose from either lamb or beef (look out for cuts labelled ‘lamb topside’ or ‘lamb thick flank’, and with beef: ‘beef topside’ or ‘beef silverside’). They’re small, lean cuts that require minimal fuss to create really fab, easy meals.
It was a bit like being on Masterchef, where the contestants are given a variety of ingredients to choose from to create a meal (although we were much nicer and shared the ingredients between us rather than the ‘grab and run’ technique).
I chose the ‘lamb thick flank’ and decided to do a Moroccan inspired dish. Mini roasts are the perfect match for herb butters, glazes and rubs. If you’ve got time, a couple of hours marinading in something delicious will enhance the flavour even more. I used a bit of Harissa paste and a drizzle of olive oil rubbed in to the lamb to give it some gentle spicy warmth. I also surrounded the meat with chunks of butternut squash (that’s one benefit of this sort of cooking – things like your veg and potatoes can all go in at the same time as the meat). My lamb took just 40 minutes (plus resting time) at gas 5, 190°C, and I was surprised how deliciously tender it was.
To go with the lamb, I created a simple couscous dish by adding chicken stock to the couscous, then the roasted butternut squash, sliced dried apricots, a handful of sultanas, some chopped pistachios and loads of mint, parsley and coriander, plus a generous drizzle of olive oil. I also created an easy sauce with tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice and a few more herbs:
We then lined up all our dishes for judging:
I didn’t win, but it was such a lovely event, with us all sitting round the table, chatting, eating our mini roasts and drinking wine, that it didn’t matter at all. And Ray Ripley is as lovely as you would expect her to be from her on-screen persona: funny, warm and chatty. What a lovely day. Do try cooking a mini roast. There’s loads more inspiration on the website, and here’s a quick video from Fay to tell you how she cooks a midweek mini roast for her family:
Massive thanks to Red Tractor and Simply Beef & Lamb for inviting me.