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Pot-Roast Beef with French Onion Gravy

The quintessential Sunday roast, this succulent rendition is entirely the vehicle by which you get to eat the gravy! Due to the fact that a very lean cut of beef is used, the gravy is not fatty — all the rich flavor comes from the beef juices and the addition of caramelized onions. Tender carrots cook alongside and everything is delicately scented with bay leaf. We like to serve this with horseradish cream (combine equal parts prepared horseradish and sour or heavy cream) and Cheesy Mustard Mash (see below) and roasted Brussels sprouts. Matchless!

Pot-Roast Beef with French Onion Gravy

2¼ lbs. rump roast or bottom round, trimmed and tied if necessary
2 tbs. olive oil
8 thick carrots, tops trimmed
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
¾ cup white wine or vermouth
2½ cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 lb. onions (2 large)
a few thyme sprigs
1 tbs. butter
1 tbs. light brown or light muscovado sugar
2 tbs. all-purpose flour

Heat the oven to 325°F. Rub the meat with 1 tsp. of the oil and plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large flameproof casserole dish and brown the meat all over for about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. Add 2 tsp. of oil to the pan and fry the carrots and celery until golden, 4-5 minutes. Remove the carrots to the plate with the beef. Splash in the wine and boil for 2 minutes. Pour in the stock, return the beef and carrots to the pot, then tuck in the bay leaves. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours, turning the beef halfway through cooking.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the onions. Heat 1 tbs. oil in a pan and stir in the onions, thyme, and some seasoning. Cover and cook gently for 20 minutes or until softened but not colored. Remove the lid, turn up the heat and add the butter and sugar. Let the onions caramelize to a dark golden brown, stirring often. Remove the thyme sprigs and set aside.

When the beef if ready, it will be tender and easy to pull apart at the edges. Remove from the casserole, along with the carrots, and snip off the strings from the beef. Leave to rest, tented with foil on a cutting board. Reheat the onions, stir in the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk the onions into the beef juices in the casserole to make a thick gravy. Taste for seasoning. Slice the beef and serve with the gravy spooned over.

Cheesy Mustard Mash

2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 tbs. crème fraîche
2 oz. very strong cheddar, grated
2 tbs. wholegrain mustard
1 tbs.thyme leaves

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes, or until tender, then drain. Mash the potatoes with the crème fraîche and half of the cheese. Season to taste, then spoon into a medium baking dish and smooth the top.

Mix together the rest of the cheese, the mustard and the thyme. Spread over the mash with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Pop under the broiler until the cheese is melted and golden.

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