Sunday, April 22, 2012

Autumnal Inspiration

I just love this time of the year when you feel everything changing, as we  transition into winter. I am a cold weather person and I thrive in Autumn and Winter. The colder weather seems to spark my creativity a lot more and it is always a very productive time for me. This is particularly true of what I choose to cook and eat. With all of the summer produce disappearing and the cold weather ingredients beginning to be available, I am inspired with new possibilities when I visit the greengrocer.

This week I decided to roast some beef for our Saturday night dinner, but thought I would forget about the basic roasted vegetables and look at some seasonal flavours and accompaniments for it. To start with, I flavoured the beef with celery, paprika and juniper, giving the beef a lovely aroma and a delicious flavour and warmth. As always, I cooked the meat on the Weber, over the coals, but you can of course use a conventional oven if you want to.

We received a bunch of beetroot, organic carrots and some gorgeous kipfler potatoes in our fruit and vegetable box this week, so I used those as side dishes, along with some baked seasonal witlof. Witlof is also known as Belgian endive or chicory. Admittedly it is not going to be to everyone's taste, with it's bitter character, but I found that it worked really well with the sweetness of the beetroot that I baked with plenty of red onions, garlic, honey and balsamic.

The result was a delicious succulent roast with a real Autumn flavour. I made a jug of gravy with the resting juices from the beef and served this along with some horseradish on the side.

A note about the beef - as with all meat, you need to give it sufficient resting time to ensure maximum flavour and tenderness. I have found this to be particularly true of topside beef, which was what I used for this recipe. Don't be tempted to rush this step. There are two different schools of thought when it comes to whether or not you cover the meat with foil while it is resting. I have been reading a very funny Twitter exchange online recently between Anthony Bourdain and others about this subject - I strongly stand in Bourdain's camp and believe in not covering the meat. It continues to cook after you remove it from the heat anyway, so covering it with foil will just keep more heat in and therefore extend the cooking process even further. This means that meat that was cooked to perfection when you pulled it out of the oven can end up badly overcooked and as tough as old boots when you come to serve it. Those worried about the meat getting cold as it is resting need not be - as long as you put it somewhere relatively warm, it will be fine.

So everyone, check out your greengrocer or farmer's market, see what is coming in to season and give your cooking a transitional seasonal makeover. Also check out my continuously updated list of what is in season on the right hand side of this web page. Our Saturday night roast certainly took on an Autumnal twist as a result of some seasonal inspiration - what seasonal ingredients will you explore this week?

Juniper Roasted Beef
with Autumn vegetables
and caramelised balsamic beetroot

You will need: 1kg piece roasting beef (I used topside), 10 juniper berries, 2 teaspoons celery salt, 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 large carrots, 2 whole witlof, 6-8 kipfler potatoes, 4 whole beetroot, 1 large red onion, 3 cloves garlic, salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon grated mozzarella cheese, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, a little extra olive oil.

Method: Preheat the oven to 220C. Place the whole beetroot in boiling water and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain and run them under cold water. Now remove the skins - they should come right off easily with your hands. Cut the beetroot into quarters. Slice the red onion into thick pieces and place in a small ovenproof dish with the beetroot. Roughly chop the garlic and add to the dish, along with the honey, balsamic, 1 tablespoon olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Bake the beetroot, turning a few times for around 30 minutes.

While the beetroot is cooking, prepare the meat. Crush the juniper berries and combine with the celery salt, paprika, pepper and a tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well and rub into the meat. Allow to infuse for at least 15 minutes. Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking it. Taking it right out of the fridge and straight into the oven/BBQ will result in tough, dry meat.

Place the meat into the preheated oven (or use the Weber like I did) and bake with the potatoes for 20-25 minutes (rare) 30 mins (medium) 40 minutes (Well done) Allow the meat to rest uncovered for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

While the meat is cooking, cut the witlof into quarters and the carrots into long thick batons. Place in a shallow baking dish with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, sprinkle the cheese over the witlof and return to the oven until the cheese is just melted.

Slice the beef into thick slices, assemble the dish and top with a little fresh parsley to serve.

Serves 2-4


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