Entertaining | A simple spring supper for 4


A simple spring supper for 4

This is the kind of easy meal I like to make for friends. The soup can be made in advance (or buy one of the excellent ready made chilled soups there are nowadays and dress it up with some fresh herbs), the steak is finished in the oven and the dessert literally takes minutes.

Pea, broccoli and mint soup with goats’ cheese crostini

The first of the pea crop is coming through now but frankly, frozen peas will do just as well. The slight bitterness of the greens offsets their sweetness perfectly.

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 small to medium onion peeled and roughly chopped or 5/6 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
1 small head of broccoli (about 225-250g)
225g fresh peas (podded weight) or frozen peas
500ml light chicken or vegetable stock (or stock made with organic vegetable bouillon powder)
10-12 mint leaves
1 heaped tbsp finely chopped parsley and chives
For the goats cheese crostini
8 crostini bases*
100g very fresh young goats cheese

Warm the oil in a large saucepan then add the butter and the onion, stir and cook over a gentle heat for about 4 minutes until soft. Cut the broccoli florets off the stalk then cut them in small, even-sized pieces. Add the broccoli and peas to the onion, pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 4-5 minutes). Strain off and reserve the liquid. Tip the vegetables into a blender or food processor, add a little of the liquid back and whiz until smooth, gradually adding the remaining liquid (you may have to do this in two batches), Pour the soup back into the saucepan. Finely chop the mint, add to the soup and warm through but don’t leave on the heat or the colour will go. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the crostini bases with fresh goats cheese. Serve the soup in small bowls with a scattering of fresh herbs and a couple of crostini on the side.

To drink: You could either go for a minerally Loire Sauvignon like a Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé, a young Chablis or a top quality pinot grigio from the Alto Adige

Seared fillet steak with asparagus and mushrooms

One of my favourite recipes from my latest book Meat and Two Veg. If you’re making steak for more than two it’s easier to flash it in the oven than cook them individually.

Serves 4

1 tsp mixed peppercorns
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 dsp plain flour
600g piece of fillet steak
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
For the asparagus and mushrooms
1 bunch of fresh asparagus
350g chestnut mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas 8/450°F. Put the peppercorns, sea salt, rosemary in a mortar and crush to a fine consistency. Mix in the flour and tip into a shallow dish. Pat the steak dry and roll in the spice mixture. Heat a large frying pan for about 2 minutes, add the oil, heat for a minute then add the butter. As the foaming dies down place the steak in the pan and sear briefly on each side. Put the steak in a shallow dish or roasting tin and transfer to the oven for 10-15 minutes, depending how well done you like it. Remove and rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. Meanwhile trim the woody ends off the asparagus, cut them in two then cut the larger spears in half lengthways. Steam or microwave for 3 minutes until just tender. Wipe or rinse the mushrooms clean and slice roughly. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pan and toss the asparagus spears in it for a couple of minutes until they begin to brown and char. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining oil and butter and fry the mushrooms for 3-4 minutes. Return the asparagus to the pan and warm through. Season with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour any juices from the beef into the roasting pan then slice the beef thinly. Serve with a spoonful of juices poured over with the asparagus and mushrooms alongside. We quite often eat this without potatoes but if you want to serve some you could serve some boiled or roast new potatoes (put them in before the steak if you’re roasting them)

To drink: The steak and mushrooms are a more important factor than the asparagus in this match though you might want to pick up on its flavour by choosing a red that has some herbaceous notes of its own like a cabernet franc or a cool climate cabernet sauvignon or cabernet/merlot blend.

Smashed strawberry meringue

A very easy English pudding, commonly known as Eton Mess

Serves 4-6

450g ripe strawberries
1 tbsp caster sugar + 2 tsp for the cream
1 pack of meringue nests (Marks and Spencer do really good ones that taste just like homemade meringues)
284 ml carton double cream
150 ml carton whipping cream

Pull the stalks off the strawberries and slice them thickly. Save a few slices then sprinkle 1 tbsp of the sugar over the rest and set aside. Break up the meringues into chunky pieces. Mix the two creams together with the remaining sugar and beat with an electric or handheld whisk until the mixture just holds its shape and forms a floppy peak. Layer up the strawberries, meringue and cream in individual glass dishes or a larger bowl, finishing with a layer of cream. Chill in the fridge till you’re ready to eat it then decorate with the remaining strawberries

To drink: Meringues and cream always suggest bubbles to me so pick a semi-sweet sparkling wine like a Clairette de Die or demi-sec Champagne.

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