They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Well, I’ve never been averse to a bit of role reversal, and it is fair to say this recipe played at least a small part in the wooing of my now wife.
Step one is to procure your fillet steak. Easy for me as the finest butcher in Sussex, Clive Miller, is just 30 paces from my front door. The steak in question came from a locally reared Sussex steer.
The ingredient list is fairly straight forward: aforementioned steak, clarified butter, two sliced shallots, six medium mushrooms, mixed peppercorns, brandy (half a ladle), red wine (100ml), stock (200ml) and double cream (three tablespoons).
Get the pan hot, season the steaks well on both sides and pop them in the pan. Two tips here – don’t move the steaks around the pan once they’re in, just let them sit and sizzle. And don’t overcook them. The recipe (courtesy of the BBC Good Food website) says two minutes each side for medium rare and three minutes for medium. Halve those times, but do seal the sides before lifting them out and placing to one side (in a hot dish, if you’re organised).
Next it’s frying the shallots, mushrooms and crushed peppercorns (pick out any pimentos if using a “five pepper” blend, as they overpower the rest of the dish if left in).
Then comes the fun bit. Return steaks to pan, warm brandy in metal ladle, ignite and pour over the steaks. (No need to mess around with matches or lighters to do this – just tilt the ladle when ready towards the gas flame and hey presto, fire.) Once the flames die down, return the steaks to their warm dish.
Next is the red wine stage. Pour 100ml into the pan, mix with the shallots, mushroom, peppercorns and turn up the heat and reduce by half. (No need to be too fussy about quantities. I usually start off with a full glass of red, drink half of it, and pour the rest into the pan.)
Once reduced, add the stock and reduce by two-thirds (about five minutes). Then mix in the double cream (off the heat is a good idea), cook for a short time to thicken, return the steaks to the pan and warm through, while spooning over the sauce.
Final stage is to serve up (hot plates a good idea). Steamed vegetables are optional. French fries are essential, as is red wine.
End result? One happy wife (until she sees the washing up, that is).