Chances of Humiliation Too Great
I’ve always struggled with canapés. For one, I often stumble on the word at the last minute and say ‘canopy’, which is grating. Secondly, those little bites often feel unnecessary or hyped up, a bit like a bow tie when a normal one would do. Thirdly, they seem to come around at parties just when you should be having your main course, because you’re already three champagnes in. Let’s be clear, that’s the exact moment your hunger outweighs your sense of etiquette. Statistically, 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. Finally, it lacks common sense to attempt to manage an unwieldy stack of mixed food medium that is clearly 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 conceived with impossible angles and contrasts, all in a delicate rice paper cup. I watched as my gorgeous, elegant friend wandered over to pick one up. She’s a bright girl, I observed her internal debate, but she grabbed the bull by the horns, boldly taking the all-or-nothing ‘one bite approach’. After 30 seconds or so, 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. Taking pity, I handed her a paper napkin, which she used to extract the mangled morsel. On closer inspection, the problem was immediately apparent – the casing wasn’t rice paper, but a fine bamboo cup. For some reason, I found this a lot funnier than she did.
Schadenfreude aside, this debacle illustrates my point perfectly. There’s a reason cutlery and plates were invented, let’s use them. Even better, put those wonderful tools to work on a hearty roast like your mother used to make – affordable, no faff, low-fat and perfectly matched for our Potato Dauphinoise recipe. Fantastic gravy, too.
TOPSIDE ROAST WITH PEPPERCORN GRAVY
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.