Last night I had a couple of friends over and at the last minute realised that the chicken I planned to make was two small for 4 people. So roast beef it was. I had all the ingredients so it was just a question of timing.
Ingredients (serves 4):
1.2kg roasting beef
2 large parsnips
4 medium carrots
1-1/2 medium sized potatoes, quartered
salt and pepper
2 red onions
200ml red wine
First oil and season the beef and brown it in a heavy bottomed pan to seal it. I spiked it with bits of garlic afterwards but not essential. Put it on a rack and pour about 200ml of red wine in the pan, as it adds a bit of flavour to the meat as it evaporates. Cook it for 20 mins on high setting around 240C, then 30-35 minutes on 180C (10 minutes per pound rare times 1.2 per weight). After the first 20 minutes I added an onion sliced into 6 wedges, as onion is the secret ingredient for good and easy gravy.
The beef ended up very pink in the middle, with juices running clear. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, it should be more but everything else was ready and we were starving.
To make roast potatoes I followed this recipe. Parboiled parsnips for a few minutes (5-10 depending on size. I added them to the potatoes for the last 5 mins of parboiling). Roast them in olive oil (or duck or goose fat) for 30-40 minutes on 180C, with the red onion cut into 12 wedges, sprinkled with dried rosemary (fresh better if you have it). Carrots are quick and easy – cut into long chunks, season, put in a pyrex bowl, add a knob of butter, cover with cling film. Put in a microwave for 4-5 minutes, depending on how many there are. They should still be crunchy, with the butter and carrot juices at the bottom of the bowl.
Serve the juices from the meat, the onions are crunchy by now, in a separate bowl as gravy. I usually have hot creamed horseradish with the beef.
This recipe works for a light, one-pot family supper. I made it last Friday for six people, because I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen in the run up to dinner. I tried to do it in two stages, adding potatoes later. Though the stew was tasty, I suspect it would have been better if I hadn’t done that – the fennel might have stayed crunchier. Will make again, as this is an interesting variety of lamb stew – no brown flavour and orange and fennel combination produce amazingly subtle flavours for a stew! I am not sure this is anywhere near Morrocan cuisine but people commented on the combination as being typical for it.
Serves 4, Ready in 45 minutes
600g cubed lamb (as the number of guests increased, I added about as much of pork shoulder diced. Wasn’t noticeable in all the lamb juicy goodness.)
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
300ml fresh chicken stock, hot
500g baby new potatoes (I didn’t have any new ones, so chopped bigger potatoes too big chunks at first, had to halve them as they have to cook in the stew)
1 large fennel bulb, roughly chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- In a bowl, coat the lamb in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the lamb, in batches, and brown for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Tip: Lamb is young and always tender, which is why this stew can be cooked so quickly. Use ready-cubed lamb or cut up your own choice of cut – for lean meat, choose leg; if you like it slightly fattier, try neck fillet.
- Add the onion, garlic and fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden.
- Stir in the orange zest and juice, the chicken stock, potatoes, fennel and browned lamb. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- Stir in the vinegar and parsley and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve in warmed bowls with steamed spinach or spring greens. I had to add quite a bit of salt at the end as I am scared of over-salting, but the meat and potatoes can take quite a bit of salt to get the flavours stand out as they should.
Note: Nutritional Information per serving:
422kcals, 19g fat (6.3g saturated), 37.2g protein, 28.9g carbs, 7.3g sugar
Prepared the French way, calf’s liver is one of my favourite quick and fairly posh dinners. I ask the butcher to cut not too large but rather thick slices, at least 1 inch, preferrably more, 1 1/2 even 2inch is best. I discovered this having the dish at Cafe Boheme (scroll down to the Mains), which has the perfect way of preparing it.
Heat heavy-bottomed pan as hot as you can (I always use Le Creuset gridle) with just enough oil to stop the liver sticking to it too much. Cook for 3-4 minutes depending on how rare you like the meat in the middle. Remember these times apply to thicker slices. After 3 minutes on each side check the meat by making a small incision to see the center and make a decision depending on your preference. Season and serve with horse-radish or mustard potato mash, fried onions in winter and wilted fresh spinach in summer.
Cold calf’s liver is wonderful with bread the next day.
Note: Never salt liver before cooking, it’ll go hard and chewy.
The recipe is remarkably similar to the cream of fennel soup, which is a favourite, and as I had some fresh celeriac left, I decided to try it. It was delicious and made it to ‘must do again’ list.
Celeriac may not look the most appealing of vegetables but it has its virtues. It has a celery and parsley flavour with a slight nuttiness which it brings to this lovely, creamy soup.
Makes around 950ml, to fill 8 coffee cups or 4 soup bowls
Ready in 45 minutes
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
350g celeriac, roughly diced
150g potato, roughly diced
600ml vegetable stock, hot
5 tbsp single cream, to serve
Fresh chives, to garnish if available
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the leek and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add the celeriac, cover with a sheet of damp greaseproof paper and a lid and cook gently for 10 minutes.
Tip: to freeze make the soup up until the end of step 2, then cool and freeze in a freezerproof container for up to 1 month. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours, then complete step 3.
- Remove the lid and paper. Add the potato and stock to the pan. Cover with the lid, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially covered, for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Cool, then blitz with a stick blender or whizz in a food processor in batches, until smooth.
- Stir the cream into the soup, season and reheat until piping hot. Divide between cups or bowls and garnish with chives.
I found the soup to be very thick and added quite a bit of stock to thin it.
Nutritional Information per serving:
4.7g fat (2.8g saturated)
This is one of the dishes that any self-respecting English national insists they know how to make. So this is for my reference rather than providing a definitive recipe for roast potatoes. I made these for Christmas dinner 2009, in the fat of the goose they accompanied. I parboiled them a day ahead, put them in the fridge, the next day let them warm up to room temperature, then dropped them into boiling hot goose fat. I believe they were extra fluffy as a result of cooling down and then warming up again. But that’s just my guess.
12 large roasting potatoes
goose fat or olive oil
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Peel the potatoes and chop each one into four or five pieces, varying the shapes. Place in a large pan of cold, salted water and bring to the boil. Cook for seven minutes, until they are soft on the outside, but still hard in the centre (test with a knife).
Meanwhile, heat a large roasting-tin in the oven with some goose fat or olive oil and a few pinches of salt (the potatoes will take a bit longer to cook in olive oil as it does not get as hot). You want a film of fat over the bottom of the tin about 1-2mm deep. The fat must be very hot when the potatoes go in.
When the potatoes are sufficiently parboiled, drain them in a colander then gently shake them around to fluff them up. Let them sit and drain for a minute to remove as much water as possible. Take thetin out of the oven and carefully pour in the potatoes, stirring to coat them in hot fat.
Return the tin to the oven (this should coincide with the uncovering of the roast goose, turkey or beef) and roast for 20-30 minutes, so a really good, thick layer can form on the bottom of each potato, basting the sides if they look a bit dry. Don’t open the oven door too often. If possible, check on them through the window with a torch. Turn the potatoes over, and move them around int he tin so that they each have a stint in the hottest part near the edge. Roast for a further 15 to 20 minutes more. by now they should be looking pretty scrumptious, but it is down to personal taste as to how crispy you like them, and also how the turkey is coming along.
When the rest of the meal is ready, place the potatoes on kitchen paper to remove excess fat, sprinkle on a bit more salt and serve.
As I cook a lot of casseroles and pot roasts, mash is often the best way to enjoy the dishes with all their juices. I have a generic way of making potato mash but I will be adding recipes for more sophisticated mashes, such as celeriac and potato mash or sweet potato with brandy and smoked bacon mash…
For the simplest mash, take 3 medium-sized potatoes per person. Quarter them and put in boiling water for at least 20 minutes or until soft. Over cooking is not a huge problem but you don’t want them falling apart otherwise you’ll get potato slush as you drain them – a far cry from a tasty mash.
Add a bit of butter 25-30g and mash it in with the potatoes. Add salt and pepper. Keep mashing as you are adding milk, gradually, until you get the texture and creaminess you want.
At the end, I always add mustard, both english mustard and moutarde de Meaux Pommery or creamed horseradish.
This, together with the white bean & smoked bacon soup, has to be my favourite. Another worthwhile recipe from The Sunday Times magazine. It’s sophisticated, smooth with complex flavours, the result of combination of fennel, Pernod and nutmeg.
75g butter (I use about 50g max)
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped
3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (you want about 750g trimmed weight), chopped, and fronds reserved (these really make a difference when serving)
1 medium, floury potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
4 tbsp Pernod
1 litre chicken stock
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a large saucepan (again I use my 26cm Le Creuset casserole dish). Add the leek and fennel and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Add the potato, stir, then pour in the Pernod and cook for a minute to bubble off the alcohol. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.
Cook until the potato is done — about 15 minutes. Add the cream and bring to the boil again, then turn off the heat and liquidise. To do this I use a handheld blender which works really well, turning the soup into lovely smooth texture. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, dusting the top of each one with nutmeg and scattering with some of the reserved fennel fronds.