Zoom calls definitely became the new ‘norm’ during lockdown and for many of us, a means of keeping sane, allowing us to see friends and family outside of our ‘bubble’. Over the recent weeks I have continued to use my Zoom account for chats, quizzes, exercise classes, Italian and French classes, and this week for a wine tasting!…
A wine tasting certainly adds another dimension to any Zoom call! We ordered the same four bottles of wine as our friends and then met up, virtually, to share them; it was the perfect excuse to meet up with our friends who live further afield. Four bottles of wine were a little too much for Nick and I to drink alone in one evening(!), but fortunately we own a coravin system, which allows us to siphon off a glass of wine from a bottle without opening it. It is a genius system; a fine needle enters the bottle through the cork, allowing you to access the wine replacing it with argon gas which stops the remaining bottled wine from deteriorating – I would definitely recommend it.
Anyway, with our friends online and the wine bottles at the ready, we just needed a dinner to soak up the alcohol, but one that wouldn’t interfere with the flavours of the vintage (or keep me tied to the stove)! So a simple steak was on the menu, with just a salad on the side. This led me to thinking about this week’s menus for Menu Mistress, don’t worry I’m not just giving you a recipe for plain steak – I’m sure you are quite capable of working that one out for yourselves! Instead, I thought I would share a really special recipe for steak with a whisky sauce, which I came across years ago, it is a recipe that continues to attract lots of compliments whenever I make it. I suggest you serve it with homemade oven chips and a big salad of your choice, dressed with a mustard and honey dressing – this dressing compliments the sauce of the steak perfectly.
After the treat of a steak dinner, I thought I’d give you a more frugal menu, a very tasty pasta recipe which has fresh flavours, perfect for this season (and I’m suggesting a vegetarian option!). Finally, as a special treat, a simple dessert which is easy to make on any weekday – the classic Eton Mess!…
Spiced Steaks with a Whisky Sauce, Homemade Oven Chips and a Salad with a Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette (Serves 4)
Spiced Steaks with a Whisky Sauce
Steak, whisky and spices may sound a strange combination, but believe me, they really do work together and add an extra special dimension to a simple steak. I urge you to try this recipe!…The quality of the whisky does make a difference, so use the best you have, the smokier the better. Start by making the chips and the salad/vinaigrette; cook the steaks about 5 – 10 minutes before the chips have finished cooking .
2 teaspoons Schwartz Jamaican Jerk seasoning (or mix one teaspoon each of allspice and chilli powder, plus a generous pinch of sugar)
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons mixed peppercorns
4 beef fillet or sirloin steaks
4 tablespoons olive oil
10 tablespoons whisky
15g unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
150 ml beef stock
2 level tablespoons redcurrant jelly
6 tablespoons double cream
- Crush together the salt and peppercorns with a pestle and mortar (or the end of a rolling pin), mix with the jerk seasoning (or spice and sugar mixture).
- Use 1 tablespoon of the oil to lightly coat the steaks and press each side into the spice mix. Leave for 20-30 minutes.
- Heat a frying pan with the remaining olive oil and add the steaks (normally I don’t add oil to the pan when I’m frying steaks, I just oil them, but this recipe needs extra oil in the pan otherwise the spices will burn). I like my steak on the rare side, so I cook them for 1½ minutes on each side depending on the thickness. Cook for longer, depending on your taste.
- Remove the steaks to rest on a plate whilst you make the sauce. Add the knob of butter to the pan, along with the chopped garlic and the whisky.
- When the whisky has warmed through, very carefully light the sauce using a long kitchen match. When the flames have died down add the stock, redcurrant jelly and double cream.
- Lightly whisk, so that the redcurrant jelly melts into the sauce. Continue to heat through gently, until it is reduced and slightly thickened.
- Serve the sauce straightaway with the steaks and their juices, the oven chips and a salad with honey-mustard dressing.
Homemade Oven Chips (Serves 4)
I always serve these when we have steak; they are easy to prepare, proving that there is no need for a stinking chip pan in order to have good chips! It is important to use baking potatoes for this recipe as they crisp up better.
3-4 baking potatoes, depending on the size and how hungry you are
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
- Preheat the oven 200’c fan.
- Cut the potatoes into thick chips, there is no need to peel them.
- Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the chips, boil for 4 minutes then drain well.
- Coat the chips with the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and lay them out in single layer on a baking tray.
- Place in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, turning a few times during cooking.
- Serve immediately.
Staple Side Dish – Salad with a Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette
Make up a salad as desired and dress with this honey-mustard vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
Finely grated zest and juice of half an unwaxed lemon
1 teaspoon of honey
Sea salt and black pepper
- Whisk all the ingredients together.
Penne with Pea and Mascarpone Sauce (Serves 4)
Another recipe from my beloved cookbook ‘A Passion for Pasta’ by the late Antonio Carluccio. You could cook this dish with your eyes closed, it really is that easy, and will be ready to eat in 15 minutes! For those of you who are vegetarian you can leave out the smoked bacon – instead add a pinch of paprika to give a little smokiness.
50g unsalted butter
150g smoked back bacon, cut into strips
450g tomato passata
200g frozen peas
8 basil leaves
150g mascarpone cheese
375g penne pasta
75g freshly grated parmesan cheese
Sea salt and black pepper
- Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the bacon strips, cook until beginning to crisp.
- Add the tomato passata and the peas, cook for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile cook the penne according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
- Add the mascarpone cheese and the basil leaves to the sauce, stir until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Drain the penne, add to the sauce, finally mix in the parmesan cheese.
Strawberry Eton Mess (Serves 4)
There are numerous recipes for Eton Mess, and I must admit to trying my fair share of them over the years!… I think this one has the perfect balance of ingredients. In my opinion, life is too short to be making meringue to be broken up for an Eton Mess, so for this recipe I recommend you use shop bought meringue; I particularly like the meringue nests by Waitrose, which are slightly chewy in the middle. It is important to assemble this dessert at the last minute as otherwise the meringue will go soggy in the cream. (I do have a fantastic recipe for meringue which I use for Pavlova, I will be sharing that recipe in the future on Menu Mistress!…)
450g strawberries, hulled
1 rounded tablespoon icing sugar
300ml double cream
4 meringue nests (see note above)
- Place half the strawberries in a blender with the icing sugar and whizz until puréed.
- Pass the purée through a sieve to remove the seeds.
- Whip up the cream until it is just floppy – not too stiff.
- Chop up the remaining strawberries and break up the meringues into roughly 1inch pieces.
- To assemble (see note above): in a bowl, gently mix the meringues and strawberries (reserve a few for decoration) into the cream and gently fold in about 2 tablespoons of the purée.
- Spoon the mixture into individual bowls, top with the reserved strawberries and pour over more of the purée.
- Serve straightaway!