Chances of Humiliation Too Great

I’ve always struggled with canapés. Not just because sometimes, at the very last second, I stumble and say ‘canopy’, though that is somewhat grating. More because they feel unnecessary or hyped up, a bit like a bow tie when a normal one would do. Also, they seem to come around at parties just at the point when you should be having a main, because you’re already three champagnes in. Let’s be clear, that’s the exact moment when your hunger outweighs your sense of etiquette. Basically, the chances of you dashing to different parts of the room in order to be served three times in the same round increase by 83% – true story. Not to mention managing an unwieldy stack of mixed food medium that is too large for one bite and too perilous for two.

We recently attended a swanky 40th, featuring these stunning little Japanese creations; brightly coloured, architecturally designed with impossible angles and contrasts, all in a delicate rice paper cup. I watched as my utterly gorgeous and elegant friend wandered over to pick one up. She’s a bright girl, I could see she had some internal debate, but against all odds she grabbed the bull by the horns, going as far as the all-or-nothing-one-bite-approach. After about 30 seconds, I could tell something was amiss. The mouthful just didn’t seem to be getting any smaller, and a strange transformation was taking place. This beautiful woman was beginning to closely resemble a pug chewing on a wasp. I took pity, and handed her a paper napkin, which she used to extract the masticated morsel. Taking a closer look, the problem was immediately apparent. The delicate rice paper was in fact, inedible bamboo. For some reason, I found this a lot funnier than she did, but schadenfreude aside, it illustrates my point beautifully. There’s a reason cutlery and plates were invented, let’s use them. Even better on a hearty roast that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, is low fat, and perfectly matches our Potato Dauphinoise recipe. Great gravy too.


1 tbsp black peppercorn

1 tbsp English mustard powder

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp celery seeds

1 tbsp olive oil

2 kg topside joint of beef

4 tbsp plain flour

2 beef stock cube

3 tbsp caramelised onion chutney or marmalade

2-3 tsp Marmite

Crush the peppercorns, mustard powder, thyme and celery seeds together with some salt. Stir in the oil, then rub it all over the room temperature beef. Marinate overnight if possible. Heat oven to fan bake 190C and sit the beef in a roasting tin. Roast for approximately 55 mins for medium rare or about 70 mins for medium-well.

Remove from the oven, lift onto a platter, cover with foil and rest for 30 mins. For the gravy, pour any juices from the roasting tin into a jug. Let the juices separate, then spoon 2 tbsp of the fat back into the tin – if there is no fat, use 2 tbsp butter instead. Discard any other fat. Sit the roasting tin on the stove top and stir in the flour, stock cubes, onion chutney or marmalade and Marmite. Cook for 1 min, stirring well to scrape up any beefy bits stuck to the tin, then gradually stir in 750ml hot water. Bubble to thicken to a nice consistency, then gently keep warm until ready to serve with the beef, carved into slices.

Screenshot 2016-07-19 07.15.27


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