Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Valentines Day Dinner for Two

If you haven't booked anywhere for valentines day yet or don't fancy going out for dinner or simply don't buy into the whole hoopla then I may have the answer for you. I have come up with a delicious two course meal which is easy to prepare yet makes a real impact to wow whoever you wish.

Main Course
First up for mains is my take on a classic, I've called it a 'Wellington' for the sake of brevity but in actuality it is a lovely braised blade of beef wrapped in puff pastry served with a sauce made from the cooking liquor and accompanied by the bang in season purple sprouting broccoli. This dish is as delightful to eat as it is to look at. I've used a cut of beef here called blade of beef or feather blade of beef. It's a more unusual cut but can be found in all good butchers. It needs to be cooked long and slow but is delicious. The recipe can be preprepared well in advance. Don't worry about the length of the recipe it's totally worth it!

My Beef 'Wellington' with Purple Spouting Broccoli - Makes two individual 'Wellingtons'
  • 1 blade of beef trimmed of all fat and sinew and cut into 2 portions width ways
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Plain flour to coat the beef 
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to season
  • Olive oil to cook with 
  • 600ml fresh beef stock (you can use a stock cube if you wish)
  • 300ml red wine - I used a decent Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 pack of 320g ready to use puff pastry sheet
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g of purple spouting broccoli 
  • 1 knob of butter
  1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade/gas mark 2 (I know this sounds low but trust me on this). Firstly start by seasoning the plain flour with salt and pepper, you need just enough flour to cover a large dish. Then add the beef to the dish and coat with the seasoned flour, dust off any excess. The aim of this is to give a nice colour and crust to the beef when it is being sealed/browned but also has the added benefit of helping to thicken the resultant sauce.
  2. Heat a good glug of olive oil in an oven proof casserole dish or pan on the hob until almost smoking hot (you can do this in a frying pan if you wish then transfer to an oven proof dish) then add the beef and colour until golden brown on all sides to seal the meat. At this point I remove the beef from the pan and turn down the heat slightly then add the prepared vegetables and cook until softened and starting to pick up some colour. I next add the herbs and the sealed beef back to the pan, turn up the heat and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol then add the beef stock, you need enough liquid to cover the beef add a little water if you have to. Pop a lid on the pan and transfer to the oven and cook long and slow for 3 hours. After this remove the beef from the pan and set aside and allow to cool fully, the beef should be very tender. Strain the cooking liquor  with a sieve over a new pan to separate the vegetables and herbs from the liquid, this will form the sauce to serve with the beef.
  3. Roll out the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal squares, place each portion of beef into a square of pastry (be sure that the beef has cooled down completely) then with the beaten egg wash the edges to help seal the pastry. Place another square of pastry on top of the beef and seal the edges by pressing together to form a parcel. Trim away the excess pastry from around the beef and here I used fork to press down and further seal the edges (at this point it looks like a giant ravioli!). Egg wash the whole thing, place on a lightly floured baking tray and place back into a slightly hotter oven (200 degrees/gas mark 6) for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove and set aside on a cooling rack to rest. 
  4. In the mean time the sauce can be made by reducing the cooking liquor on a medium heat, you want to reduce the volume of liquid until its coats the back of a spoon and has thickened. Taste and season accordingly, I like to finish the sauce with a knob of butter for a glossy appearance.
  5. For the purple sprouting broccoli simply just bring to the boil in a pan of salted water for couple of minutes or until tender, drain and its ready to serve (you can return it to a frying pan to sauté with some butter but that is up to you).

To serve add a generous ladle full of the sauce to a warmed plate as a base, place the 'Wellington' on top, accompany with the purple sprouting broccoli in a separate serving dish and some extra sauce in a jug. 
This dish is lovely, beautiful puff pastry that gives way to meltingly soft beef and a rich sauce. The broccoli provides a shot of colour and a nice contrast in flavour to the richness of the dish.
For me this dish is enough on its own as a main course but if you wish some lovely mash would go well with it.

Next up the dessert and for me there is nothing quite like chocolate to finish a meal, I mean who doesn't like chocolate? This gooey chocolate dessert is very unctuous and decadent. It's my take on a classic Nigella dessert but I've adapted the recipe to make it as straight forward as possible with easy measurements and to make the perfect amount for two.

My Hot Chocolate Pot - Makes 2 portions
  • 50g dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa solids)
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 25g plain flour
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract 
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat an oven to 200c/gas mark 6.
  2. In a bowl over a simmering pan of water melt the chocolate and butter together making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Once melted together set aside to cool.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the other ingredients until well combined.
  4. Then mix in the cooled chocolate butter mixture into the egg, sugar and flour mixture until well combined.
  5. Spoon into ramekins and bake on a tray on the middle self of the oven for 15 minutes or until you notice the tops start to crack as you can see in the photos.
For this dessert try and use the best chocolate you can get as it really does make a difference. I like to serve this with some crème fraiche as it cuts through the richness of the chocolate really well, alternatively some vanilla ice cream would also be brilliant. This can easily be made in advance and popped in the fridge until ready to bake.

There you have it, my two course valentines day menu. I love both these dishes individually but together they make a fantastic special occasion meal. Please do have a go at making it and let me know how you get on.

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