t’s so very quiet on our magical mountain right now. Holidays have come and gone. My family and I escaped to the sun only to return to the icy wind. This time of year the Umbrian countryside is beautiful but often unforgiving.
But we enjoy the winter peace. We can take the time to be ourselves, a privilege of the seasonal innkeeper.
We do have a strange life, so different from our previous one, which was tied to office jobs. Now, for seven months a year we work with our guests nonstop. We get no weekends, no bank holidays. Though both the work and the human contact are very rewarding, at the end of the season I feel like I’ve been moving a mountain.
That’s why we spend the next four-and-a-half months rebuilding ourselves, the house, the website, and anything else that we previously had no time to even think about. We go on walks in the woods and invite friends for dinner. We prune the garden and the olive trees.
There’s still a lot to be done.
When a day’s over, I find that I may have had five minutes to sit on the couch, to phone a friend, to bake cookies for my daughter.
Still, I love Umbria in the winter. Please, I whisper at it: Don’t go too fast.
Slow Roast (Serves 4-6)
- 1 kg/2 pounds topside or silver side lean beef.
- 6 garlic cloves.
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs.
- Juice of 1/2 lemon.
- White wine.
- Extra-virgin olive oil.
— Bring the beef at room temperature. Preheat oven at 220C/430F.
— To prepare the dressing, remove leaves of 4 thyme sprigs and place them in a bowl with the lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of crushed garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.
— Heat a cast iron casserole pan over medium-high heat and when hot add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
— Add the meat and brown it evenly, turning every few minutes. This step will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the roast. If you keep the pan covered you’ll avoid messing up the stove!
— When the roast is well browned on all sides add 5 unpeeled garlic cloves, 2 thyme sprigs and 1/2 cup white wine. Cover with a heavy lid and transfer into the preheated oven.
— Roast for 30 min turning every 10 minutes, adding more white wine if necessary. Remove from the oven and cover the meat quite tightly with foil and again with the lid. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes in a warm place and then slice thinly and place the slices back into the pan.
— Squeeze the cooked garlic cloves out of their papery husks into the dressing. Drizzle the dressing over the meat and leave to infuse for 5-10 min. Transfer slices and juices on a pre-heated dish and serve. The meat will be only slightly warm.
This recipe can be made with either fresh rosemary or sage or dried oregano instead of thyme.