Saturday, January 7, 2017

The perfect fillet - and trifle to follow

For Christmas this year we were house-sitting at Eastbourne. The day started splendidly with breakfast at Ali and David's next door  (it was thanks to her that we had found the house).  Gorgeous fruit salad, Ali's home-made Christmas bread wreath, and mimosas - half orange juice, half bubbly.

I kept my own cooking as simple as possible, because I wasn't in my own kitchen, and the last thing I wanted was too many complications.  It all went very well, especially the beef fillet. I think it was only the fourth or fifth one I've ever dealt with, and up until now I felt I'd always slightly over-cooked it. But this year I got it just right - tender, juicy, nicely "set" slices showing the perfect medium rare shade of raspberry pink.
           The recipe I use comes from my friend Lesley, who has been cooking fillets for years. I thought I'd already posted, but I haven't, so here it is. I tend to do the searing and coating well in advance of the actual roasting. The cooking time does depend on the fillet and the oven, so you'll have to be a bit cautious - I start checking it at 20 minutes and then every few minutes after that. I also let the meat rest for plenty of time, at least an hour. It doesn't need to be piping hot when it's eaten. A 1 kg fillet is enough for 6 to 8 of my moderate-eating  friends (and as there were only five of us this year, Jonathan and I managed to get two more delicious small dinners from it).

Fillet of beef
(Lesley Hill)

1 fillet of beef
enough soft butter or oil to coat fillet lightly
grainy mustard
a few cloves of garlic
red wine for roasting dish

Take the fillet out of the fridge an hour before starting to prepare it.
Heat a large heavy frypan thoroughly.
Smear soft butter, or oil, very lightly all over the fillet.
When the pan is really hot, sear the fillet very quickly all over.
Using the back of a tablespoon, coat it all over with grainy mustard and some crushed garlic.
Put it in on a rack in a roasting dish and cover it lightly with a teatowel.
About two hours before you want to eat, set the oven to 220C.
When it reaches the temperature, put in the fillet and turn the oven down to 200C (fan-forced).

After 20 minutes, use a meat thermometer to check the temperature in the middle.
For me, the perfect temperature for medium rare - still really bright pink, but not bloody - is about 60C. The juices that come out of the hole where the meat thermometer went in will be pink but not bright red.
The finger test is useful too: it should be a little resistant when you press it.
If you want it a little more done, but still a bit pink, 63-65C is about right.
Once it starts getting near the desired temperature, it goes up quite fast, so if it needs just a little more cooking, check every 3 minutes. This year my just-over-1 kg fillet took slightly under 30 minutes.
Rest the fillet for 15 minutes, collecting any juices and adding them to the wine in the pan (see below).
To make some jus (rather than gravy), after you take out the fillet, add a glass of red wine to the dish and put it back for a few minutes to bubble up, then scrape the dish. (If you forget, as I often do, you can do this bit at the end - put the dish on the cooktop to heat the wine instead.)
Once the fillet has rested for 15 minutes, put it on a warm platter and cover it lightly with foil until ready to carve.

Of course I forgot to take a photo. Too bad. You'll just have to take my word for how good those slices looked.
     Here's my friend Lynne's delicious trifle instead, with the trifle recipe from my memoir underneath.

Proper trifle
(From The Colour of Food: A memoir of life, love and dinner, Awa Press, 2014)
In my opinion jelly has no place in a proper trifle, but sherry is essential – I prefer medium to sweet. The trifle sponge needs to be dry and I buy it, as my mother did. Dark berries are the best fruit to use because their colour and sharpness contrast so well with the sponge, custard and cream. My mother used custard powder but real egg custard tastes better. The cornflour in the recipe prevents the custard curdling and makes it slightly thicker, though it’s still thinner and lighter than the ready-made custard alternative.

For the custard (makes about 700 ml):
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cornflour
750 ml standard milk
2–4 tablespoons sugar (depending how sweet you like it)
1 large vanilla pod, split or 2 teaspoons vanilla essence

·     Beat yolks with a fork. Mix cornflour with a little cold milk in a small bowl.
·     Pour milk into a saucepan which can fit well over another pan of water. Add vanilla and sugar. Heat slowly to boiling point, stirring with a wooden spoon.
·     Remove from heat and take out vanilla pod. Pour milk onto yolks, stirring well. Add cornflour mixed with milk and stir well.
·     Return mixture to pan and heat over simmering water, stirring gently, until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, and there is no taste of cornflour.
·     Pour into a jug and cool thoroughly before using, with a piece of cling-film pressed down onto the surface of the custard to prevent skin forming.

For the trifle:
700 g dark berries, one kind or mixed, fresh or frozen
caster sugar to taste
1 large trifle sponge
6 tablespoons medium sherry
700 ml custard, home-made or bought 
300 ml cream
deep glass serving bowl (preferably with a wide base, so that the sponge at the bottom is a similar width to the other layers - Lynne's was perfect)

·     If using frozen berries, take out ahead of time and defrost before using.
·     Place berries in a wide shallow dish. Sprinkle with enough sugar to achieve desired sweetness. (Slightly tart berries taste better.) Leave for 1 hour.
·     Drain off juice. If there is more than ½ cup juice, reduce carefully over a high heat. Pour it back over berries and cool thoroughly.
·     At least 2 hours ahead of serving, break sponge into rough squares and fit into as even a layer as possible in base of serving bowl. Sprinkle evenly with sherry and leave for 1 hour.
·     Cover with a thick layer of berries and juice, then a thick layer of custard.
·     Cover with cling-film and leave in refrigerator.
·     Take out 30 minutes before serving. Just before serving, whip cream and spread over or around the custard, or serve it on the side (as Lynne did).


Jan Gundersen said...

I just heard you talking on the radio and was so impressed I had to sit in the car port when I arrived home so that I wouldn't miss too much. Rushed inside to use Mr Google and am now hooked! Thank you 😊

AnneE said...

Jan, thank you - what a lovely comment! I forgot to put a notice for this morning's talk on Facebook, so now I'll put a link to the podcast there and on this blog. So pleased you liked it so much.