This is my fantasy romantic meal. It's the meal I'll be cooking this Friday for Valentine's Day. It's not always easy for a couple to have Valentine's Day to spend together alone. Yet, if you do have the time (and a babysitter), either this Friday, or any other occasion, I can think of few more romantic or passionate meals to make for your lover.
Oysters' aphrodisiac effects may still be unproven, but the Champagne sauce, opposite, is guaranteed to work; decadence is always seductive. You can, of course, use sparkling wine and it will taste practically the same. This sauce is also excellent with baked fish, such as black sole or brill.
Fillet steak, also known as filet mignon or beef tenderloin, is the most tender cut of beef you can buy and, as a result, one of the most expensive. That makes it ideal as the main dish in a meal for two. You can, of course, decide just how rare or well done you prefer it to be, but fillet steak is considered at its very best when served rare. The rich, creamy brandy and mushroom sauce, opposite, is the perfect addition to the lean fillet steak. Served, of course, with plenty of chips, which can be deep-fried or oven-baked.
The amaretto tiramisu recipe is fast and easy, but it can be prepared hours ahead. I adore amaretto's sweet almond flavour, and here it makes for a smart short cut to a delicious dessert, which I think is essential if you're putting your heart into a meal such as this one – a meal to be cherished.
HOT OYSTERS WITH CHAMPAGNE SAUCE
You will need:
Quarter bottle of Champagne or sparkling white wine
25g (1oz) shallot, chopped
2 large egg yolks
125g (4½oz) of butter
75ml (2½oz) whipped double cream
8 fresh oysters
Lemon wedges to serve
First, make the Champagne sauce. In a saucepan, boil the Champagne, or the sparkling white wine, whichever you're using, with the chopped shallot, reducing it down to 1 tablespoon. Remove the saucepan from the heat and beat in the egg yolks. Return the saucepan to a very low heat and add in the butter, bit by bit, the same as you'd do if you were making Hollandaise sauce. When all the butter has melted, fold in the whipped double cream.
Scrub the oysters well. Just before serving, put them into a hot oven, 250°C, 475°F, Gas 9, until they just start to open and release their juices. Using an oyster knife, remove and discard the top shell, place a little Champagne sauce on top of each oyster and put them under a hot grill until thay are golden. Serve them immediately with a wedge of lemon.
FILLET STEAK WITH MUSHROOM AND BRANDY SAUCE
For the mushroom and brandy sauce, you will need:
25g (1oz) butter
200g (7oz) mushrooms, wiped and sliced
45ml (1½fl oz) brandy
115ml (4fl oz) chicken or light beef stock
75ml (2½fl oz) single cream
½ tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chips, you will need:
Enough oil to fill your deep-fat fryer (this varies from fryer to fryer) or 50ml (2oz) olive oil, if you are oven-roasting your chips
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into skinny chips
2 x 175g (6oz) fillet steaks
A little olive oil for frying
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, make the mushroom and brandy sauce. Heat the butter on a high heat in a medium-sized frying pan. Add the sliced mushrooms and saute them for 7-9 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown. Measure the brandy into a small bowl and add it quickly to the mushrooms. Allow the liquid to boil, but stand back as it might flame. Add the chicken or light beef stock, whichever you're using, and allow it to boil, then add the single cream. Boil the mixture for 4-5 minutes until it has thickened and, finally, add the chopped thyme leaves and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Next, prepare your chips. If you're using a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil to about 170°C, 340°F. Make sure the raw chips are completely dry before they go into the hot oil and don't cook too many at once. Cook the chips for about six minutes in the fryer, until they are just soft. Remove and drain. Keep to one side and increase the heat of the fryer to 190°C, 375°F for later.
If you're making oven-roast chips, preheat the oven to 220°C, 425°F, Gas 7.
Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the chips and cook them for two minutes, then drain the chips and spread out on kitchen paper to dry completely.
Put the dried chips in a bowl and toss them with 50ml (2oz) olive oil. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking tray and cook them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden and cooked.
When you are ready to eat, heat up a grill pan or a large, heavy frying pan for cooking the steaks. Drizzle the steaks with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the steaks on the hot pan. Cook on either side for a few minutes if you want them rare, approximately six minutes for medium-rare or 8-10 minutes for well done.
When the steaks are cooked to your preference, take them out of the pan and allow them to rest for five minutes, see my Tip, opposite. If you're deep frying your chips, use this time to refry them at 190°C, 375°F for about five minutes, until they are golden and crispy, then drain them and sprinkle generously with salt.
Serve the steaks with the reheated mushroom and brandy sauce and a generous portion of chips.
You will need:
50ml (2fl oz) strong coffee, cooled
2 tablespoon amaretto or brandy
20 amaretti biscuits – about 40g (1½oz) in total
1 egg, separated
25g (1oz) caster sugar
75g (2½oz) mascarpone
½ tablespoon cocoa powder
Pour the cold coffee and amaretto or brandy, whichever you're using, into a bowl. Add half the amaretti biscuits and allow them to soak for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, place the egg yolk, the caster sugar and the mascarpone in a separate bowl and whisk them together for 3-4 minutes, or until they are light and fluffy. In another spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks, then carefully fold it into the mascarpone mixture.
Divide the soaked amaretti biscuits between the glasses or bowls. Next, divide approximately half of the egg-white-and-mascarpone mixture between the glasses or bowls, then sift a little of the cocoa powder into each one.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make a second layer of amaretti biscuits, and egg-white-and-mascarpone mixture. Serve immediately or keep covered in the fridge for several hours or overnight until you're ready to serve it.