Friday 29 June 2007

Roasting Success.....

Like many people, I suspect, I grew up with an idea of 'Roasting' as a mystical ritual that was associated with ceremonial meals - Turkey, at Christmas, and Beef or Chicken on Sundays. It was clearly a long and complicated process, in the course of which wonderful aromas would gradually and hieratically permeate the house. As a result, I developed a disproportionately cautious approach to the practice, and gave it a wide berth literally for decades. Until the advent of Mrs Kafka, that is. In 1995, she published her bible on Roasting - justifiably greeted with rapturous enthusiasm by the New York Times, when it first appeared - and in one go the mystical bubble was pricked. Her approach is so simple it hardly seems worth explaining: turn your oven up to 25o degrees C, and whatever you want to roast, zap it in there and it will be done practically before you've had time to think about it (generally around half an hour, in practice....). Crisp, caramelised skin, combined with a succulent interior. Best done using an oven with a self-clean function, as this method ends up with quite a lot of fat on the inside of the oven...... For me, this has meant that roasting has lost all of its mystique, and in fact - rather than being a highdays and holidays thing - is the most likely choice for post-cinema, or any occasion when I want to cook something quick and uncomplicated. How times have changed!

In his book on Meat, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall adopts a variant on the same approach, where he tempers Mrs Kafka's method with a second stage at a lower temperature to ensure that the inside of the roast is properly cooked. Both methods then benefit from a period of resting (under foil) to allow the juices to go back into the meat; generally, I finish roasting in time for the start of dinner, and then let it rest during the first course. The Fearnley Whittingstall method is appropriate for pieces of meat of a size appropriate for more then three people, and after your 30-40 minutes at 250 degrees C, you should then lower the temperature to 190 for a further twenty minutes or so, before resting.

Of course there are other ways of doing it. Carrier, in his New Great Dishes of the World , has a recipe for roasting beef which involves roasting it for five minutes per pound in a 250 degree C oven, then turning the oven off, and letting the meat sit for two hours in the cooling oven before you open the door. It works. The result is splendid - we did it for Christmas dinner two years ago. But I did feel as though it should have been accompanied by incantations and a few sacrificial offerings to the Lares and Penates at the same time!

Dinner Tonight:

Beef Salad, in Sesame Dressing.

Haddock, in Coriander and Lemon, with Creamed Curried Puy Lentils.

Pear Souffle

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