A Rather Impressive Roast Beef Lunch

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I had a joint of beef sitting in the freezer that was crying out to be turned into a lovely Sunday lunch. It’d been a long time since I’d last entertained, so I thought I’d make it slightly more elaborate than normal. I started off with bacon and watercress soup, then served the beef with mushrooms in red wine, roast pumpkin (DC’s helper made it so I don’t have the recipe), green salad and horseradish garlic cream sauce. To top it all off, I served a very successful tropical plate trifle. It was boozy, it had pineapple and passionfruit in it, it had cream, it was amazing.

So let’s start from the beginning. DC and I headed out to Choa Chu Kang the day before in search of fresh ingredients. Too bad about the poor selection at the farmer’s market, as we ended getting most of the stuff from Cold Storage at Jelita in the end. I made the soup, mushrooms and cake base the night before so that there wasn’t much work to do in the morning, just the beef and assembly work.

Here’s the beef just out of the oven, adorned by an afterthought of DC’s Irish breakfast sausages. (The sausages were from Cold Storage, we’re not yet so hardcore that we make our own sausages!)

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We reluctantly let it rest till our guests arrived and got on to reheating the soup and checking the flavourings of the sauces. Eeyore, Wei and WW arrived first and we got on with the soup. To our surprise, watercress and bacon soup went incredibly well with some homemade prawn-flavoured keropok lying around. We couldn’t help but mop up jade liquid with coral crisps, proclaiming all the way that there wouldn’t be space for the beef at the rate we were going through the bucket of keropok. By the time Shinta and KK arrived, the bucket had dwindled to half its original.

As KK and Shinta tucked into their soup, the rest of us went ahead with the main course. It was so good we almost didn’t leave enough for the latecomers. Luckily, those two eat fast and soon caught up with us as they bagged their share of the good stuff.

And then came dessert. Oh my was it good. There was the tang of lime and passionfruit, the fragrance of Silver Valley pineapple, soft voluptuous cream and a generous shot of booziness. No one uttered the customary complaint of how fattening dessert was. In fact, Eeyore protested when I suggested waiting a while to digest first before serving dessert.

A testimony to how good it was? There was hardly any talking at the table, only chomping and semi-civilised requests to pass dishes around, followed by satisfied grunts and sighs. We finished lunch in a record half hour, including a Bordeaux and a Spanish dessert wine to round it all off. Then we proceeded upstairs to fall asleep while Shinta and Eeyore battled it out on Wii Super Smash Bros.

Hungry yet? Now for the recipes.

Roast Beef

Ingredients:

1.5 kg joint of ribeye
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
4 good quality sausages (optional)

Method:

  1. Slather the thawed beef generously with black pepper and leave to marinate overnight.
  2. Remove joint from fridge at least 2 hours before cooking. Preheat the oven to 210 ºC.
  3. Rub the outside generously with olive oil and salt, place in a foiled roasting tin. Surround with sausages.
  4. Roast for 30 minutes at 210 ºC then turn down to 160 ºC for another 30 minutes. Like this, you’ll get it medium. (See picture.)
  5. Remove from oven and allow joint to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Serve with the other yummy stuff.

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Mushrooms in Red Wine

Ingredients:

80 g butter
6 onions or shallots, sliced
2 punnets brown mushrooms, sliced
200 ml dry red wine

Method:

  1. Melt the butter and cook the onions gently till soft.
  2. Add the mushrooms and on slightly higher heat, cook till most of the butter is absorbed.
  3. Turn up the heat and pour in the red wine.
  4. Allow to bubble for about 10 minutes or till mushrooms are nicely tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Horseradish Garlic Cream Sauce

Ingredients:

2 heads of garlic
1 pot cream
1 tbsp horseradish powder

Method:

  1. Roast the garlic in a pre-heated oven at 120 ºC for an hour or till soft.
  2. Cut the base of the garlic head and squeeze out the pulp into a mortar and pestle. Mash till smooth.
  3. In a pot, combine the garlic and cream and warm gently. Do not let boil.
  4. Mix in the horseradish powder and season to taste.

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Tropical Plate Trifle

[syrup-soaked cake]

Bake the cake here using lime zest instead of tangerine. Use the juice from 5 limes and 100 g of icing sugar for the syrup. Add a touch more icing sugar if you like it less sour.

[cream]

Whip the i small tub whipping cream with 2 tbsp icing sugar and 50 ml dark rum till you get soft peaks. Chill in the fridge immediately.

[fruit topping]

Add 2 tbsp of dark brown sugar to 3 pulped passionfruit, stir and chill in the fridge. Chop Silver Valley pineapple into smaller chunks than the photo (I was too lazy to cut them smaller) and chill.

[assembly]

Arrange thick slices of the cake on a suitable plate, scatter with a couple tbsp of dark rum, then dollop the rum cream lavishly over. Pour over sugared passionfruit pulp then sprinkle with pineapple pieces. Serve to oohs and aahs.

All recipes serve 7, with leftovers.

Iced cupcakes in two flavours

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Cupcakes will always be in fashion because they come in such pretty individual portions. No need to fuss with cutting a cake or deal with people who want just a thin slice please. Cupcakes are kinda like ice cream flavours: just experiment with the basic recipe and you can get lots of good variations. I use Nigella Lawson’s basic Victoria Sponge/cupcake recipe. Incidentally, Jamie Oliver’s cupcake recipe is pretty much exactly the same so I think we’re in good hands. I tried two flavours this season: lavender and orange flower.  Both worked very well. My friends certainly enjoyed them.

They’re not as pretty as I’d like them to be because the tops like to erupt too much, creating a slightly odd nub at the top of the cake. I’ve played around with oven temperatures and lowering it slightly seems to help. But the best thing to do is make sure the cake mixture is only just moist enough to be off dropping consistency. Go easy when adding the liquid at the end. I didn’t and ended up with what you see below.

I had some dried lavender used for herbal infusions and was inspired by Anne Mendelson‘s exhortation to use milk infusions to concentrate flavour. Nigella also very helpfully gives a lavender variation in her recipe. If you have leftover lavender milk you can try drinking it with tea. Makes for a nice twist to the usual morning cuppa.

Lavender cupcakes, iced and ready to go

Lavender cupcakes, iced and ready to go

Lavender cupcakes

dried lavender
6 tbsp milk
125 g butter
125 g sugar
2 eggs
¼ tsp vanilla essence
125 g plain flour
½ tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp baking soda
10 paper cupcake cases
100 g icing sugar

  1. In a little saucepan, gently heat the milk and lavender until it starts bubbling. Cool, then strain and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150 °C.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar till fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, stirring in a spoonful of flour in between, followed by the vanilla essence. Fold in the flour, cream of tartar and baking soda.
  4. Stir in 2 tbsp of the lavender milk till you get a soft dropping consistency. Add a tiny bit more of the milk if necessary.
  5. Divide evenly between the cupcake cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and a skewer comes out clean. Wait for the cakes to cool.
  6. For the icing, combine the icing sugar and about two tablespoons of lavender milk till you get a fairly stiff and gooey icing. Spread generously over the cooled cupcakes and top each with a pinch of dried lavender.

Makes 10 cupcakes.

Citrus cupcakes

Freshly baked citrus cupcakes waiting to be iced

Freshly baked citrus cupcakes waiting to be iced

Use the same recipe as for the lavender cupcakes, using any citrus fruit to replace the lavender, vanilla and milk. I replaced the vanilla with the zest of a lemon and a lime, and the milk with the citrus juice. You can spike the mixture with one teaspoon of orange flower water if you have it.

For the icing, I used some finely ground almonds to replace some of the icing sugar. It makes for a slightly grainy but much less sugary icing. Here’s how:

70 g icing sugar
30 g finely ground almonds
1 tsp orange flower water
zest and juice of one lime
silver balls

Combine the icing sugar, almonds, orange flower water and lime zest. Add lime juice (about two tablespoons) and stir till you get a stiff, spreadable icing. Apply to cooled cupcakes and stud each with a little silver ball.

Not so pretty but really tasty
Not so pretty but really tasty