Monday, 15 February 2010

An extravagant Valentine's dinner

Oh dear - I never claimed to have an eye for a photo (or indeed any restraint and it occurs to me I should have taken a photo before we dug in) and it did look rather better in real life than compressed and dulled by a mobile phone shot, but above is my love for MCD in cake form. It is in fact a chocolate loaf cake, adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast (I seem to be using her a lot at the moment but she does have a wealth of cake recipes), where a simple chocolate cake is studded through with blitzed dark chocolate, poured into a loaf tin and baked for an hour. I then made a cocoa syrup and soaked the cake in it (that's the brown-y liquid there looking oh-so-appealing on the left there) and then shaved more dark chocolate over the top.

And because it was Valentine's Day and I like to embrace kitsch where I can, I decorated the top with silver heart dragees and scarlet raspberries and ate with Chantilly cream.

But that was the finale and I'm getting ahead of myself - what I actually wanted to tell you about was a home-y take on Tournedos Rossini, given we are embracing the spirit of the day and I had a couple of fillet steaks longing for love and attention.

First things first - the sauce. I sweated a sliced half an onion in some butter until golden and soft, then sprinkled with a little pinch of sugar to caramelise. I chucked in half a sliced carrot and a couple of quartered button mushrooms, sweated for a few minutes, then added a tbsp or so of brandy, which I allowed to evaporate. Add half a tbsp or so of plain flour and cook out for a couple of minutes, then add a good glass and a half of red wine and simmer for a couple of minutes. Then add 200ml beef stock, some parsley stalks and a good grind of black pepper and reduce until you have a slightly syrupy, intense-tasting liquid, then season. Strain and chuck the veg and set the sauce aside.

Make a mushrooms pate: Blitz a handful of button mushrooms, the other half of the onion and a clove or two of garlic until finely chopped. Heat a knob of butter in a pan and cook until golden - I added a splash of brandy again (the bottle was still on the surface within tempting distance) and reduced - check the seasoning and add a handful of finely chopped parsley. Set aside and keep warm.

Cut out 2 rounds of slightly stale bread and brush with melted butter and bake in the oven until lightly golden.

Cook your fillet steaks how you will and then make sure you rest them for at least 5 minutes, double wrapped in foil - very very important. Meanwhile, I simply cooked off some chopped cavolo nero, which I always do the same way - heat a little olive oil, add the greens and a pinch of salt and a splash of water (or in this case white wine), bang on a lid and leave to wilt for as long as the steaks are resting.

Pour the steak juices into the sauce and reheat the sauce. Spread the mushroom pate on the bread croutes and top with a steak. Serve your greens on the side and carefully pour the precious sauce around.

Feast. And use your finger to wipe the plate.

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