Apart from beating the Frenchies on their home ground on Sunday, which was pretty sweet, there were a couple of other sweet moments at the Sunday lunch table. A less sweet moment was realising that the beef, which rarely graces our table, was overcooked thus making it play second fiddle to very good Yorkshire pudding, goose fat roast potatoes, fine vegetables and stonking jus which made my wife, a non meat eater, very happy. This 750gm piece of plat- côte was not the saignant delight that I had foreseen even after the briefest 15minutes in a hot oven. There is only one person to blame in such a situation and that is the cook. I had read in Ripailles by Stéphane Reynaud that the piece of beef needed browning, on all sides in a pan, with shallots and unpeeled garlic followed by 5 minutes in a hot oven. Everything looked fine in the pan during the browning sequence. The shallots were golden as were the unpeeled cloves of garlic and the meat looked as though it had spent a holiday on Copacabana. O me of little faith (yes, I’m talking to myself) – if only I had paid heed all would have been well, but I doubted the master and instead of the seemingly insane 5 minute roasting, I took the executive decision to go for 15 minutes, maybe because rugby was on my mind, resulting in 10 minutes of overcooking. The trouble with not cooking meat regularly is that it’s easy to forget the rules. If serving rare beef, the beef must be of the very best quality. The finished dish should be meltingly soft and full of flavour. Neither of these essential qualities were present in Sunday’s beef because I had not followed the first principle of quality when shopping. If I’d been buying leeks or radishes I would naturally have looked for the ideal examples of their genre for the dish I was preparing. But as I’m a stranger at the butcher’s shop, this estrangement entails accusing looks from the blood spattered carnivores behind the counter who know me for what I am. Having first been silently mocked for asking if one bleeding lump, which apparently would poach superbly, would be good for roasting I was happy to settle for the boucher’s selection as long as it got me out of there, and the small joint certainly looked the part. The part of a dead cow that I was going to cook.I had more success with an apple and almond tart, which was to be one of two desserts.The other, an intense chocolate mousse from Patricia Wells “Bistro Cooking” also hit the spot. The two desserts worked out as I expected because I was in familiar territory choosing good apples, the best chocolate and making delicious pastry. The timings were good and there was no disappointment.