Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Great British Menu

(or, Reason For Time Out Part 1)

English (Saturday 26th June, 2010)

Potted Prawns delicious. April 2010
12. Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings Sean Connolly

There is actually an excuse for me not having updated this blog for so long, or indeed having continued on my Food Safari Challenge since April last year (actually, it was June, but we'll come to that later).
My hopes of hosting a banquet about once a month were always going to be overly ambitious once the school year began, and my resolve for balance shrivelled and dried up as quickly as my red pen as soon as I began marking the piles of year 12 English essays. So, when the winter holidays came along I decided that my next challenge was long overdue, and invited some friends over to lie back and think of England with a Food Safari British feast.

As per usual, I needed a couple of additional dishes outside of The Book, and given that the whiting rollmops with Beetroot Compote didn't seem super-appealing, I sought out an alternative entree. The potted prawns in the Easter edition of delicious. were perfect; light and buttery with a little bit of a kick (recipe to follow in Part 2).

I chose not to muck around too much with the roast beef recipe, as I haven't cooked a scotch fillet whole before (couldn't stretch to the Wagyu rump alternative suggested in the recipe), but it did take longer to cook than I had expected. The recipe suggests 1 1/2 hours in a 180° oven, but we needed about an extra 15 minutes until the beef was perfectly cooked.

Whilst it was resting (half an hour) I cranked the oven to 220° prepared the yorkie mixture, using melted beef dripping (remarkably easy to find; it was in the supermarket dairy case, right next to the lard. Who knew?). We were supposed to heat this to smoking point in a muffin tray before pouring in the thin batter until each pan was three quarters full. With the assistance of my knowledgeable English friend, we managed to get the batter to just the right consistency. I check the dripping, which was heating in the oven, and noticed that it seemed to be taking quite a long time to heat until smoking point (I know, you can sense this coming to a head). I opened the oven, and realised that it was no longer hot, but was in fact cooling down. The fan seemed to be working, to thermostat hadn't been knocked or tampered with by any small children, but that oven just was not hot.

Oh, the drama. My roast beef was by now, well-rested. The roast potatoes were nice and crunchy, the carrots and parsnips were waiting patiently to be devoured. I had prepared the gravy to pour atop those puffy little boats of goodness, which I just knew would be the making of the meal. I knew that there was now no hope for my citrus delicious pudding for dessert, but I was not prepared to give up on the yorkies.

I turned to the ideas men. By this time, they had all consumed a reasonable quantity of red wine, and were imbued with a sense of confidence that an alternative could be found. "What about the Weber?" suggested one, hopefully.

"No," (I was glum). "It will take too long to heat up. Everything else will be cold."
"How about the barbecue?" asked another. He eyed the resting beef.
"What, with the lid down?"
"Yeah... I reckon we can get it hot enough."

BBQ puddings Take One.
And so we did. We got the dripping smoking hot, we poured in the batter and it instantly spat, bubbled and cooked on the outside. Clearly, this fat was too hot. The puddings would be burnt to a crisp on the outside before the batter was even cooked through in the middle.

Desperate with hope and a desire to not be beaten by my own appliances, I fetched the remaining dripping and we tried again. This time we got the dripping hot, but not too hot. We poured in the batter, and put the tray back in the barbecue with the lid down (I say we, because the Cooking of The Yorkies had by this time become a physical challenge for all those present).

Our only error really, was to think that we had time to go upstairs to gather all of the other elements of the meal.

The first I heard of the Great Barbecue Fire Number Two was my husband calling out from the deck, "The puddings are on fire!"

We all raced downstairs as he pulled the tray from the hotplate. The barbecue was indeed on fire, but more importantly, most of the Yorkshire puddings were not to be salvaged. The muffin tray had to be thrown in the bin, as the non-stick lining had melted. The following day it had dried into some kind of highly toxic, black powder, coating the bottom of each pan. The barbecue, luckily, was fine.

This is what dinner (eventually) looked like:

To be continued....