Having a dinner party with friends means one thing; an opportunity to push your creative boundaries. I love throwing dinner parties when we can, because it allows me to try new things like new recipes, sourcing different produce, trying new wines and ultimately spending quality time with friends sharing delicious food.
This weekend called for a spectacle, adding theatre to the dinner part. So we took inspiration from the legendary Francis Mallmann who cooks on ‘the fire’. Yes, it did mean trying to start a fire in the rain but it was worth it. Not only did the fire bring a primal and warming effect to the evening but it also allowed me to try something new. And if it’s good enough for David Beckham and Guy Ritchie, it’s good enough for me.
The menu started with truffle tagliatelle. It had been ages since I’d used my pasta maker and as I was able to get hold of a fresh summer truffle plus some awesome guests were coming for the weekend, I knew it would be a delicious start to the evening.
Onto the main: bavette steak with chimichurri, beef shin mac ‘n’ cheese, creamed corn and a spinach and artichoke dip. The two winners were definitely the steak and the Hawksmoor beef shin mac ‘n’ cheese so I’ve shared the recipes below.
I’m a big believer of supporting local suppliers and in particular buying organic, local meat when you can. It always tastes better and it’s reassuring to know where it’s come from. The meat used in this recipe is from Town Farm in Marlow. They sell an array of very reasonable produce including wagyu beef, lamb, pork and chicken, most of which are reared on site. If you’re ever nearby, pop in and see the pigs and cows for yourself.
Beef bavette steak with chimichurri (you can also use skirt or flank)
For the chimichurri:
- 100ml red wine vinegar
- 1tsp salt
- 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or minced
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 red chilli or red jalapeño, finely chopped
- 65g chopped corriander
- 85g chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano
- 180ml extra-virgin olive oil
- Combine the vinegar, salt, garlic, shallot, and chilli in a bowl and leave it to stand for 10 minutes
- Stir in the coriander, parsley, and oregano. Using a fork, whisk in the oil
- Use within 3 days
For the bavette steak
Surprisingly, bavette steak isn’t used much nowadays. It’s a great alternative to the more traditional, well known cuts like fillet and it’s much cheaper too. It works best cooked at a very high heat, quickly and served rare.
- Salt your bavette. Allow it to come up to temperature. Feel free to cut up your bavette if you need to. It will make it easier to turn on the fire. Tip: don’t use pepper – the pepper will burn during cooking
- Set up your barbecue or fire pit with a large pile of organic lumpwood charcoal (because it has no chemicals as chemicals can flavour the meat). Use natural firelighters to start your fire. Tip: once the coals are burning, add a piece of tin foil over it as it reflects the heat back in and gets all your coals glowing
- Once your coals are glowing (hold you hand above it for no longer than 4 seconds – if you can hold your hand for longer, it’s not hot enough)
- Put the bavette on your grill and immediately baste it with the chimichurri sauce
- Turn the meat every minute, basting each time for 6-10 minutes depending on how you like your steak. Turning and basting allows you to build a crust without overcooking the inside.
- Take it off the fire and let it rest for at least 30 minutes under foil
- Slice thinly, against the grain and serve
- Spoon the left-over chimichurri over the steak
Hawksmoor beef shin mac ‘n’ cheese
This is legendary from the London steak house, Hawksmoor. Don’t be fooled – it does take a fair amount of prep (and you’ll need to start it the day before), but it is simply exquisite. The best bit is seeing your guests watch the beef falling off the bone and drooling! Not many people request beef shin on the bone, so it can be a bit tricky to get hold of. Ring your butcher ahead of time and ask them to source it for you.
The recipe is from Olive Magazine.
- Shin of beef 1kg, bone in
- Onions 5 small, peeled
- Carrots 5 small, washed
- Herbs and spice mix or thyme or rosemary or bay leaf or peppercorns or fennel seeds or star or anise tied in a muslin bag
- Red wine 750ml
- Beef stock 1 litre
- Chicken stock 1 litre
- Beef dripping or oil for frying
- Smoked bacon 150g, diced into 2cm pieces
- Elbow macaroni or tubular pasta 250g
- Bone marrow 150g, diced
- Doddington cheese (between a Leicester and a cheddar cheese) or parmesan 150g
Put the shin of beef, vegetables and muslin bag of herbs and spices in a large ovenproof pan with a lid. Cover with the red wine, put the lid on the pot and chill overnight.
The next day, remove the shin, vegetables and muslin bag of aromatics. Simmer to reduce the red wine by half its volume, add the meat stocks and bring up to simmering point.
Heat the oven to 150C/fan. Melt a generous tablespoonful of beef dripping in a large frying pan, and brown the shin on all sides. Add this to the pan of reduced red wine and stock. Fry the vegetables and bacon in the same pan until lightly browned then add to the beef. Add back the herbs and spices bag and transfer the pan to the oven. Cook gently for 3 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling away from the bone. Take out the pan and turn the oven up to 180C/fan. Remove the bag of herbs and spices and discard. Remove the meat, vegetables and bacon from the liquid then reduce the braising liquor on the hob by half. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the macaroni. Leave it a little more al dente than usual. Drain. Return the meat and bacon to the reduced liquid (discard the whole veg). Add the bone marrow and half the cheese. Stir in the drained macaroni and season. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the surface.
Put back in the oven uncovered for 15-20 minutes. To finish, put under a heated grill for a few minutes until the surface is well browned. Allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.
P.S. This supper goes deliciously with a bottle (or two) of Chocolate Block red