Week Twenty Six

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas….yes, we have less than 10 days to go! I put up my tree at the weekend; the house definitely seems more joyous – what is it with fairy lights, they always manage to cheer up the dullest corner?! I have also started lighting the White Co’s ‘Winter’ candles, so the house smells particularly Christmassy! Things seem almost under control, the goose is ordered the only thing I am slightly worried about is the last minute rush for groceries – Ocado have let me down this year, as I haven’t managed to get a Christmas delivery slot, but in the scheme of things, with Covid and all the other world problems, this seems one of the lesser evils!!

Last week, we enjoyed a lovely relaxing week away in the Yorkshire Dales – yes, at last the lifted lockdown rules allowed our get away! We stayed at Yorebridge House, a boutique hotel which we chose for the reputation of its restaurant, it did not disappoint! We enjoyed some fantastic meals there, plus discovered some other great restaurants nearby. I would definitely recommend a visit to Wensleydale, I loved the countryside – it’s dry stone walls, green dales and flocks of sheep. Although it was very cold, we wrapped up and enjoyed a few lovely walks – in particular the one around the Asygarth Falls to Castle Bolton was stunning. At the end of the week we met up with Felix in York, where we enjoyed a beautiful meal at my favourite restaurant, Meltons, before returning home to London together.  I will be sharing our restaurant experiences on my Eating Out Page over the coming weeks, so remember to take a look!

This week I am continuing to post recipes which I think will be good for you to have on your cooking list over the festive season. Menu one is a great recipe for Peppered Fillet of Beef with Port Sauce, it is one which I have served to guests for years. I love this recipe as it is easy to prepare the sauce beforehand, so you just need to put the beef fillet in the oven for about 20 minutes when your guests arrive – and if, this year, you don’t have any guests arriving(!), it is still a great family treat which won’t have you slaving over the stove for too long! I like to serve it with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Green Beans & Shallots. Menu Two, Potato and Mackerel Dauphinoise, admittedly isn’t particularly festive, but I feel that over the Christmas period we often need something that can be literally thrown together and put in the oven to almost forget about – this dish is the answer!…Served with a simple rocket salad, it is perfect for supper between Christmas and New Year, when you are almost running out of steam!…Menu Three is a lovely dessert, Chocolate Slab with Drunken Cherries, which can be prepared and kept in the fridge to serve at any time, no last minute cooking! Finally, Sausage Rolls, yes, I know, do you really need a recipe for these?…well the answer is YES, you do, as in this recipe the secret is the sausage meat  – seriously these are the best sausage rolls you will taste! Make them!!…(you are privileged that I am sharing my secret recipe!!)…

Anyway, enjoy your week…and remember you can listen to my Christmas Music playlist here!

Menu One

Peppered Fillet of Beef & Port Sauce with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Green Beans with Shallots & Sherry Vinegar (Serves 4)

This fillet of beef recipe, is one that I have been doing for years. I particularly like that the sauce can be made in advance, so there is no last minute rush. I like to serve it with Dauphinoise Potatoes, I rather like the cheese version for this dish (recipe below), but you could also serve it with my simpler recipe without cheese (recipe here). In addition, a great accompaniment is Green Beans with Shallots & Sherry Vinegar (below) or simply Sautéed Spinach (recipe here).

2 x fillets of beef, 450g each – nice even pieces

2 teaspoons black peppercorns, lightly crushed

Olive oil

400ml port

2 sprigs of thyme

2 cloves of garlic, halved

300ml beef stock

2 teaspoons cornflour made into a paste with 2 tablespoons of the port

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Season the beef with salt and evenly coat it with the crushed peppercorns.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and brown the beef all over, then transfer to a roasting tray.
  3. Place the beef in a preheated oven, 180’c, for 15-20 minutes for medium rare (a meat thermometer will read 55’c). Move to a plate to rest.
  4. Meanwhile put the port, thyme and garlic in a small saucepan and boil to reduce by half, then whisk in the beef stock and the cornflour paste. Cook, whisking for about 1 minute until the sauce has thickened.
  5. Check the sauce for seasoning, adding any juices from the resting beef.
  6. Slice the beef into thick slices and serve with the sauce, Dauphinoise Potatoes and Green Beans with Shallots & Sherry Vinegar (recipes below).

Dauphinoise Potatoes with Gruyére Cheese (Serves 4-6)

This is the second recipe that I have posted for Dauphinoise Potatoes on Menu Mistress. This recipe is the richer of the two and is more unctuous. I particularly like it with Peppered Fillet of Beef (above), but if you prefer a simpler Dauphinoise recipe, without cheese, you can find it here.

I found this recipe for Dauphinoise Potatoes with Gruyére in the cookbook, ‘At Home in the Provence’ by Patricia Wells, who in turn took it from renowned French chef Joël Roubuchon – so it comes well endorsed!

500ml whole milk

250ml double cream

125g grated Gruyere cheese

1 kg potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and sliced very thinly

1 plump clove garlic, peeled and halved

45g unsalted butter, diced

Freshly grated nutmeg

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. In a large saucepan bring the milk to boiling point. Add the cream and three-quarters of the cheese. Stir to blend and melt the cheese. Season which salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Add the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
  2. Rub a baking dish with the garlic. Transfer the potatoes and their liquid to the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the butter.
  3. Place in a preheated oven, 190’c, for about 1¼ hours.
  4. Serve immediately.

Green Beans with Shallots & Sherry Vinegar (Serves 4)

Green Beans with Shallots & Sherry Vinegar

This turns the humble bean into something really special, and it only takes a few minutes! The recipe is from Rachel Allen’s cookbook, ‘Recipes From My Mother’.

300g French green beans

25g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

50g shallots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

1½ teaspoons sherry vinegar

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place the beans in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and cook for 3-4 minutes until just tender (al dente). Drain and keep to one side.
  2. Add the butter and oil to the empty saucepan, when the butter starts to foam add the shallots with the vinegar and cook for a minute or so over a medium heat.
  3. Return the beans to the pan and toss in the shallot butter. Season to taste and serve.

Menu Two

Potato and Smoked Mackerel Dauphinoise with Rocket Salad (Serves 3-4)

I used to make this recipe years ago, but as Felix grew older, I made it less as he isn’t a fan of mackerel. However, now that he is away at university I am a free to cook what I want, so this dish has recently reappeared on my cooking list! It’s a great midweek supper dish, as you literally throw everything in a dish and leave it in the oven for an hour! I serve it simply with rocket, drizzled with a quality olive oil. The recipe is from one of Nigel Slater’s original cookbooks, ‘Real Food’. If you’re feeling particularly hungry, from personal experience, I think that for four people you should double the recipe and make two dishes – you can always reheat the leftovers for lunch the next day!

450g waxy potatoes, such as Charlotte

225g smoked mackerel fillets

2 bay leaves

300ml double cream

200ml full fat cream

1 tablespoon grain mustard

(Rocket to serve)

  1. Wash the potatoes, there is no need to peel them, slice them lengthways (about 3mm thick).
  2. Put them in a shallow baking dish about 30cm in diameter. Break up the mackerel fillets into large bite-sized pieces (remove the skin), and toss them gently with the potatoes. Tuck in the bay leaves.
  3. Mix together the cream, milk, mustard and a little salt and pepper. Pour over the potatoes.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven, 190’c, for about an hour until the cream is bubbling and the potatoes are tender.
  5. Serve with some rocket drizzled with a quality olive oil.

Menu Three

The Very Best Sausage Rolls (with a gluten free option!!)

Seriously, this is the best sausage roll recipe you will come across!…The secret is the sausage meat, the combination of bacon and fennel with the pork mince really adds a burst of flavour. Apart from making the sausage meat, this recipe is very quick, as the recipe calls for ready rolled puff pastry. Any uncooked sausage rolls can be easily frozen and cooked at a later date.

Gluten Free Note: As you may know, I’m gluten free, and so I make these both with and without gluten, if I’m totally honest the gluten recipe is slightly better, however the gluten free option is still very good. I have recently discovered ‘Jus Roll Gluten Free Ready Rolled Puff Pastry’, and I was pleasantly surprised with it, it doesn’t puff up in quite the same way as the gluten puff pastry, hence those pictured are made with ‘proper puff pastry’, however they still taste rather delicious!

The sausage meat recipe requires ‘Panko’ Breadcrumbs, so as a gluten free option I use ‘Esgir, Gluten Free Crunchy Crumbs’, which are a great substitute.

For the Sausaage Meat

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 onion, finely chopped

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

150g unsmoked streaky bacon, finely chopped

Olive oil

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan

500g pork mince

40g panko breadcrumbs (or gluten free crumbs – see note above)

1 egg, lightly whisked

½ teaspoon salt

Black pepper

For the Rolls

2 packets of Jus Rol Ready Rolled Puff Pastry (Gluten Free if required – see note above)

1 egg, lightly whisked

A little plain flour (gluten free if required) for rolling

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion, garlic and celery for 2 minutes, then add the bacon. Cook for a further 2 minutes without browning. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
  2. Add the fennel seeds, pork mince, breadcrumbs, salt and a little pepper and the egg, mix well using your hands.
  3. To make the rolls: lay out the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface. Cut each rectangle of pastry in half lengthways, so that you have four pieces. Put the sausage meat in a compact log shape along the middle length of each piece of the pastry. For each piece: brush the egg along one long edge, fold the pastry over to meet this egg washed edge, seal tightly, then fold this sealed edge under the long roll.
  4. If you have the patience it is a good idea to refrigerate the long rolls for an hour before cooking, as it makes them easier to cut.
  5. When you are ready to cook them, cut each long roll into smaller lengths to create ‘sausage rolls’. Gently score each roll a couple of times with a knife and brush with the egg wash.
  6. Place on a baking tray and cook in a preheated oven, 180’c,  for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and serve warm.

Freezing Note: You can freeze unbaked sausage rolls, place in an airtight container in single layers with baking paper between each layer. You can cook them from frozen, brush with egg wash and place in a preheated oven, 180’c, for about 40 minutes.

Menu Four

Chocolate Slab with Drunken Cherries

I found this dessert in a magazine many years ago, it’s simplicity caught my eye – it is a simple case of melt and mix. It keeps in the fridge, so it can be made well in advance. It is quite rich so you only need a small slices. The ‘drunken cherries’ are in a light winey compote – it’s an ideal recipe for cherries which are out of season. You could, and I have done this myself in the past to save time, buy cherries in Kirsch in a jar, the taste will be different as the ‘drunken cherries’ in this recipe are made with red wine, however they do work well – giving the dessert a more ‘black forest gateau’ flavour. Serve with lightly whipped cream.

75g walnut pieces, finely chopped

75g butter

100g caster sugar

1 tablespoon golden syrup

150g dark chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Lindt 70% cocoa chocolate)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

35g plain flour (gluten free if required)

Generous pinch of sea salt

For the Cherries

400g cherries, stalks removed, pitted or left whole

300ml red wine

25g caster sugar

Whipped Cream to serve

  1. Line a small loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in a preheated oven, 150’c, for about 6 minutes until golden.
  3. Meanwhile put the butter, sugar and syrup into saucepan and melt over a low heat, stirring.
  4.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, stirring until it has melted. Add the eggs stirring vigorously until combined. Fold in the flour, salt and nuts, then pour into the prepared loaf tin.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, 150’c. Leave to cool in the tin before transferring to the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  6. Meanwhile make the cherries. Tip the cherries, red wine and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and allow to bubble for about 20 minutes until the cherries have begun to collapse and the liquid is syrupy. Leave to cool.
  7. Turn out the chocolate slab and cut into slices. Serve with a spoonful of cherries and a dollop of whipped cream!

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