Buttery beef tenderloin, a sliver of sweet beetroot, a smidgen of sour cream & mayonnaise mixture that’s my idea of a rather nice Roast Beef Tea Sandwich. The idea for this sandwich came from an afternoon spent in The English Tea Room at London’s Brown’s Hotel. Looking at it that afternoon, it didn’t look very special. It was pretty enough but it was just another beef sandwich. That sandwich needed a touch of moisture, something to lighten it up and the beef needed more flavour. I politely declined a second helping. I was saving space for more Cornish Clotted Cream with Sweet Milk Scones anyway, my all time favourite English Afternoon Tea item.

My ideal roast beef tea sandwich. Beefy tasting, tender and moist.

Top plate: Classic Victoria Sponge CakeCheckerboard CookiesSweet Milk Scones.
Bottom plate first layer: Egg and Cress, Roast Beef with BeetrootCrisp Cucumbers.
Bottom plate second layer: Roast Beef with BeetrootSalmon with Dill ButterHam with Honey Butter.                               

Back home, images of that sandwich would not leave my head. I had to make the sandwich work I thought. It was just too interesting a food combination to let it pass. So after roasting four rolls of beef tenderloin, yes four, I have my perfect roast to make those sandwiches. We need to balance the flavours of the roast beef and the beetroot. Beetroot is hearty and earthy.  To bring out its underlying sweet flavour, you need to roast the whole beetroot in its skin and use only one slice per sandwich. Anymore and it will overpower the beef. The beef had to be melt in the mouth tender so you can bite through the sandwich delicately with each bite. This is English Afternoon Tea after all, one needs to or at least try to be elegant. You do not want to be caught trying to chew off sinewy beef in mid-sentence. Then again, one should not be talking while eating. 

Slices of buttery madness!

I used a tenderloin cut which when cooked properly and that means only cooking it to medium rare, promises slice after slice of buttery tender madness. The beef must be seasoned well not once but twice to ensure flavour. Salting and peppering alone is not enough for this cut of beef. Now,  beef and beetroot have robust flavours. I wanted an ingredient that would help blend the 2 flavours and not necessarily tame them. If I use only mayonnaise, it would be too heavy. Using the right proportion of light sour cream and mayonnaise was the answer. The sandwich does not need anything else. The beef is the star. I kept it simple. If you are not into sandwiches, just roast the beef tenderloin and eat it as it is. No sauce required as it is so moist and tasty it really needs nothing more. I hope you try this recipe. It is rather good. 

Roast Beef Tea Sandwich With A Sliver Of Beetroot

Prep: 15 minutes for beef and beetroot + 30 minutes to assemble sandwiches
Cook: 1 hour to roast beetroot.
4 minutes to sear beef plus 25 minutes (+/- 5 minutes) to roast.  ~5 minutes per 3.5 oz (100 g) of beef @ 250F (125C).
Inactive: 20 – 30 minutes to rest beef before slicing
Level: Get a thermometer and it’s easy!
Makes: 12 finger sandwiches
Oven Temperature: For the beetroot: 400F (200C)
For the beef: 250F (125C)
Can recipe be doubled? Yes. Roast 2 similar size rolls of tenderloin and not one big roll. Cooking time would be somewhat the same give or take 5 – 10 minutes.
Make ahead? Beetroot can be prepare and refrigerated up to 3 days ahead.
Beef can be roasted and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead. 
I actually prefer to roast the beef ahead. The beef will have rested well and upon slicing, look like something bought from a top end delicatessen but only much better.
Refrigerated sandwiches do keep well through the next day and stays soggy free.


1 medium size beetroot*
1.2 lbs (550 g) beef tenderloin**
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp oil
1 and 1/2 tsp of Soy Sauce/Tamari/Bragg***
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
~ 2 Tablespoons oil
12 slices of white sandwich bread
Butter to butter bread
~6 Tablespoons light sour cream
~2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
Please scroll down to ‘Tips’ for suggestions to use any excess beetroot. Consider roasting more than 1 beetroot as it is rather a waste of energy to roast a single beetroot in the oven. Suggested recipes under ‘Tips’.
Try to get a cut of beef that is more or less evenly sized throughout its length (ask for the centre cut), do not get the end cuts as those tend to taper off. If you can, have your butcher tie the roll of beef tenderloin.
***Tenderloin beef while very tender is milder in flavour compared to other cuts of beef. Rubbing Soy Sauce/Tamari/Bragg gives it the extra depth of flavour that it needs. Do not skip. 


Roast the beetroot
1. 4 hours before your are ready to make the sandwiches (or up to 3 days before), heat up the oven to 400F (200C) oven rack adjusted to middle position. Wrap the beetroot in aluminium foil. It should look like a UFO.  Hot air circulates within the package and helps speed up cooking. That is what I am told anyway.

2.Bake 1 hour. Beetroot is cooked when you can easily insert a skewer through it.
3. Using oven gloves (as it will be steaming hot), remove foil and cool.
4. Peel off the skin while it is still warm as it will be easier and slice the beetroot as thinly as you can manage. A mandolin is best. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preparing beef for roasting
1. Bring your beef to room temperature and turn on the oven to 250F (125C), oven rack adjusted to middle position.
2. If you have an oven safe frying pan this is the time to use it. If you do not have one, you need a frying pan that is preferably nonstick plus a roasting/baking tray (preferably nonstick) that will fit the beef tenderloin.
3. If you are using a roasting/baking tray, place in the cold oven to heat up as your oven heats up.

4. If you were unable to have the butcher tie up the beef, it is easy to do it yourself if you have butcher’s twine. The simplest way is to tie a dead knot at 1″(2.5cm) intervals. The reason for tying the beef is to get your beef into a somewhat uniform size for even cooking, especially if you were unable to get a centre cut. If you have no butcher’s twine, you should be fine without tying the meat. With such a small roll of beef, the beef should be fairly even in size throughout anyway.

Searing the beef
1. Mix the soy sauce, mustard and oil. Set aside.
2. Just before your are ready to cook, salt and pepper the beef.
3. When the oven is hot enough, heat up your frying pan until it is very hot. If your are not using a nonstick pan, grease the pan with ~1 Tablespoon of oil.
4. In that very hot pan, sear each side of beef for no longer than 60 seconds. There are 4 sides so that means no longer than a total of 4 minutes. I would usually take only 45 seconds to sear the last side as the beef would have sat a little longer (hence have more cook time) in the hot pan. Do not leave beef any longer than necessary in the hot pan. Otherwise, you might not achieve the nice pink centre on the tenderloin.

10. Remove pan from stove and transfer beef to plate.
11. Slather the soy sauce, mustard and oil mixture onto beef.
12. Transfer beef back either to the oven safe frying pan (that you used earlier) or to the preheated roasting/baking tray. If  the tray is not nonstick, grease it with ~1 Tablespoon oil before sitting beef on it.Place beef in oven.

1. For a meat this size, you want to roast it for about 25 minutes (+/- 5 minutes) to medium rare. It works out to be about 5 minutes per 3.5 oz (100 g) @  250F (125C). It will continue to cook when you take it out from the oven and as it tents under aluminium foil.
2. After 20 minutes, use a meat thermometer to check that the meat registers an internal temperature of 135F (55C – 60C) at its thickest part. If you do not have a thermometer, carefully prod the meat at its thickest part with your index finger.  It should feel the same way as when you prod the fleshiest part of your open palm -the flesh that sits 3″ – 4″ (7.6 -10cm) down from the tip of your pinkie finger. That’s is my personal test for beef cooked to medium rare. Read the ‘Tip’ section below to find out how you can accurately get meat cooked to the level of ‘doneness’ that you like each and every time.
3. Once the beef reaches a temperature of 135F (57C), transfer it to a plate and tent loosely with aluminium foil. Leave it alone for at least 20 – 30 minutes before slicing. Do not leave it on the roasting/baking tray or oven safe pan or the beef will continue to cook in the residual heat. Tenderloin is a very lean cut of meat and when over cooked (even slightly) will be very dry and quite tasteless. Better to under than over cook as you can cook the beef briefly if you find it too rare. When the roast has rested its 20 – 30 minutes, slice into thin slices or refrigerate whole and slice later.
4. This roll of tenderloin was left overnight in the refrigerator. It is so buttery smooth.

It looks and taste much better than any roast beef bought from a delicatessen.

Assembling the sandwiches
1. Mix the light sour cream with the mayonnaise. Set aside this cream mixture and have a teaspoon ready.
2. Lightly butter all the bread. The butter acts like a protective barrier, preventing it from becoming soggy after you add the sandwich ingredients.
3. Start with one layer of beef and top with one round slice of beetroot. Using the teaspoon, lightly spread 1 to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of the cream mixture. Do not add too much cream. The sandwich does not need it and you will have soggy sandwiches.
4. With a serrated bread knife and with a sawing motion, trim off the crusts and slice sandwich into two rectangles. Do the same with the rest of the bread.
5. Invite people over and serve as part of an English Afternoon Tea spread or just brew yourself some tea and enjoy.


The best advice I can give you to get meat done the way you like is to purchase a meat thermometer  
Think of it this way. Beef is expensive. Beef tenderloin is one of the more expensive cuts of beef. It would be a pure waste of effort and money to have beef not done to your liking and worse, overcooked and inedible because you lacked a thermometer which is cheap compared to the price you paid for the meat. Get a thermometer.

Invest in an oven-proof thermometer (probe thermometer)
You need only insert the thermometer once into the thickest part of the meat at the beginning of cooking. ‘Oven-proof’ means you can leave it in the meat throughout the cooking process and check on how the meat is fairing whenever necessary. You can not leave an instant-read thermometer in the oven. As its name suggest, it reads the meat temperature for an instant and then you have to remove it. I do not recommend instant-read thermometers as that repeated skewering into the meat draws out a lot of meat juices and dries up the meat. Go for an oven-proof thermometer.

Leftover beef
If you have any leftover beef, which I doubt you will have, they are great for salads or to top on ramen but I really just eat them straight out from the fridge. Cold roast beef is delicious.

Roast more beetroot
Consider roasting more than 1 beetroot to maximise use of the heated oven. Wrap each beetroot individually in aluminium foil. Here’s what you could make with the beetroot:

(1) This is my favourite way to use up the beetroot, Beetroot Salad With ’20-minutes Sweet Pickled Onions’. Goes great with crusty bread as it soaks up all the lovely dressing.

(2) Try my Purple Salad. I doubt you would have had one similar… figs, watermelon, dragon fruit, goat cheese and again, my ’20-minute Sweet Pickled Onions’.

(3) If you have a blender, this Dairy & Gluten Free Beetroot Soup is so easy to prepare.



It has to be the recipe for Smoked Salmon with Dill Butter Tea Sandwiches! Take a peek at my feature image above. It’s one of the sandwiches sitting on one of the 2 blue and white plates.