Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Roast beef for les rosbifs, soup a l'oignon, and, best of all,Dripping Toast!!!

Anyone looking for a boat in this blog, look away now: it's all about what's been going on in the galley.....

Oh, and if you are a vegetarian, READ NO FURTHER!!!

You have been warned.

On Saturday, I got two small slow-roast beef joints from the reduced section in Tesco (£1.80 each: down from £6.00 each....)

I cooked them up on Sunday in a pint of OXO vegetable stock with added clove of garlic, a little olive oil, a teaspoonful of Chilli Sherry (weapons grade..) and a good glug of red wine.

Our oven is small but effective, though turning the pan regularly helps even out the cooking.

Three hours and a goodly few turns later, I lifted the lid to reveal two beautifully cooked pieces of beef thet melted under the blade of the carving knife.

Hurrah! (Or, 'Phew, that seemed to work...')

The meat was put in reserve for that evening's Parish supper -see previous post-.

(It was not needed: Andreas's lamb kleftiko would have fed another four if chairs could have been found......I couldn't finish all of mine..... it and the beef have made some delicious sandwiches that I have taken to The Hole Making Shop for lunch)

However, the incredibly rich gravy/stock that remained in the roasting dish could not, in all conscience, be ignored.....

French Onion Soup!

I have tried on several occasions to make as good a bowl of this as I have enjoyed in France.

My efforts seemed doomed to dismal failure:

The first attempt, following a recipe in 'The Week', resulted in a thin, anaemic, vaguely oniony tea that was consigned to The River Cam pronto. (There is a chance this admission will get me into more trouble with that Funny Silly Little Man who works for The Cam Conservancy....)

Other efforts have included Tesco's (reduced) beef stock, which bought the brew to the level of nearly palatable, but still a million miles from the sublime concoction I first tasted in a little place in Monmartre in 1989.

oh God.

Re-reading that sentence has sent a chill down my spine....

Pretentious? Moi?

No, actually. I was working over there, for very little more than accomodation and a reasonable per diem, singing Beethoven's 9th and the Missa Solemnis at the Palais Omnisport in Bercy. (This was in my opera chorus days.)

But there I go again.....

Good grief!

Talk about handing out bricks to those who would stone you!

Ah well......

Where was I?

Oh yes, onion soup.

I think few will disagree that a properly made soupe a l'oignon, with melted cheese over rounds of toasted French bread afloat in it, is possibly one of the nicest dishes to have in this frost-bitten weather. (A properly large glass of Robust Red is an essential accompaniment).

Yesterday, I managed to make it properly! For the first time ever!

I had the potfull of stock left over from le bif rosting.

(It was gorgeous: A thick layer of dripping had formed on the top.)

I just bunged it on the stove to warm up, while prepping 400g of onions to the recipe in Jackie's copy of 'Silver Spoon'. The onions are cooked in 100-odd grams of butter until soft, unctious, and yellowy. Then you bung the stock over them and heat for a bit. This gives time to toast french bread and grate cheese. The recipe says Gruyere, but we used Parmesan as it was all we had, though I'm convinced a strong cheddar would be fine.

On serving it, I realised I should really have skimmed the dripping off before heating the stock: the soup lay under a clear layer of melted fat.

Nothing daunted, we spooned it off each serving into another bowl, then, ravenous, set to with gusto.

It was lovely!

Not as good as the real deal Monmartre soup, but not far off.

I shall polish this recipe up a bit before risking it on unsuspecting guests, but the lesson here is that it clearly stands or falls on the quality of the stock.

Now, this evening, I returned from a day's Hole-Making feeling more than usually cream-crackered. Pippin was in darkness and Tom Kitten was raising a rare complaint about the low levels of food in his bowl and the absence of drinking water in the bathroom sink. A text revealed Jackie had been summoned to London to rescue another TV programme from disaster. (She edits......rather well.....)

Having been left in a hurry, Pippin was quite cold.

Worse, no supper was in the offing.

After I saw to Thomas's immediate needs and mended the fire, my thoughts turned to an evening of self-catering.

What to scoff???

It was then my eye was drawn to the bowl of last night's rejected fat, now happily congealed into as perfect a plate of beef-dripping as a man could wish to see.

The remains of the French bread was soon toasted, spread with dripping, sprinkled with salt, and consumed, without guilt, with last night's left-over red.

An awful job, but someone had to do it.......

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