Entertaining | A steak and Malbec supper


A steak and Malbec supper

This menu was created as part of a series of pieces I wrote for Sainsbury's magazine. The idea was to invite your friends round for a wine tasting then all have a slap-up meal afterwards. This meal was based on a tasting of South American reds from Argentina and Chile but it would be just as fun to base it round Malbec (Malbec being the perfect wine for a steak).

If you want to serve some nibbles while you get the steaks ready I suggest making or buying some guacamole and some fresh tomato salsa and serving them with lightly salted plain tortilla chips (which you could accompany with a Margarita or a Sauvignon Blanc)

Chargrilled steaks with chimichurri salsa
Stove-top potatoes
Warm cinnamon pancakes with cajeta and raspberries

Chargrilled steaks with chimichurri salsa

The Argentinians are not only great steak eaters but tremendous barbecuers - a dish like this would always be cooked on the ‘asado’ (open grill) Do the same if you’re one of those people who barbecues year-round. Otherwise cook them on a ridged grill or in a large heavy frying pan
Serves 6

6 evenly cut rib-eye or sirloin steaks
A little olive oil

Trim any excess fat off the steaks and smear them lightly with oil. Heat one or two ridged grill pans or heavy frying pans until smoking hot and cook the steaks rare or medium rare to taste. Put them on a warm serving dish to rest for 5 minutes as you finish them. Put a steak on each plate with some salad and stove-top potatoes (below). Shake the chimichurri salsa vigorously and splash it over the steaks and salad
(You may want to have a simple vinaigrette dressing to hand for those who find the chimichurri salsa too fiery!)

For the chimichurri salsa
This very odd-sounding salsa tastes wonderful on steak but you must leave it overnight for the flavours to infuse.

110ml (4 fl oz) olive oil
55 ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar
1 level tsp dried oregano
A small handful (about 20g) fresh flat leaf parsley, stalks removed and leaves roughly chopped
1/2 level tsp crushed chillies
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
110 ml (4 fl oz) salmuera (salt water solution made from 1 level tbsp sea salt dissolved in 4 fl oz warm water and cooled)

Mix the ingredients for the sauce together in a large screw-top jar, shake
well and refrigerate overnight. Shake well before using

Wine suggestion:
The slightly salty, garlicky salsa will have the effect of softening the tannins of any red you put with it so this is an opportunity to drink a big tannic young red without worrying if it's going to overwhelm the dish. As well as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tannat would also work well.

Stove-top potatoes

Baked potatoes are a staple of South American cuisine but develop a wonderful earthy flavour from being cooked in an earthenware pot. If you don’t have one use a cast-iron dish

1 kg even sized small waxy salad potatoes

Scrub or wash the potatoes if necessary and place in a shallow earthenware pot or very lightly greased cast iron dish. Cover with a lid or a piece of foil and cook over a very low heat for about an hour and a quarter, turning them occasionally, Pierce with a sharp knife to check they’re cooked through.

Simple mixed salad

2 romaine hearts or a bag of iceberg lettuce leaves
2 large or 3 medium sized tomatoes
1/2 a cucumber
A packet of chives

Wash the romaine hearts and tear each leaf into two or three pieces. Slice the tomatoes and cucumber. Cut the chives in three. Arrange a salad on each plate starting with the lettuce, then a few slices of cucumber and tomato and sprinkle with the chopped chives

Warm cinnamon crepes with cajeta and raspberries

I was introduced to cajeta - a divinely caramelly sauce from Mexico - by American food writer Rick Bayless. This is an adaptation of a recipe in his first book Authentic Mexican and is one of the most irresistible desserts I’ve ever eaten. You can make both the cajeta and pancakes in advance - or buy both ready-made to save time (see below)
Serves 6

6 cinnamon pancakes (see below) or bought pancakes
250g curd cheese
100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) whole milk
1 rounded tsp caster sugar
375g fresh raspberries or a 300g carton frozen raspberries, just thawed
100g toasted almonds
About 175ml of cajeta (see below)

Mix the curd cheese with the milk until smooth and stir in the sugar. Reheat the pancakes if you haven’t just made them by heating them briefly on each side in a lightly greased pan (or, with some ready made pancakes, in the microwave) Spread a generous dollop of the curd cheese over the pancake, scatter with raspberries and drizzle over a dessertspoon of cajeta. Roll up each pancake and lay in a shallow dish. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Spoon over some more cajeta and sprinkle with toasted almonds
* You can fill the pancakes with vanilla ice cream if you prefer

For the cinnamon pancakes
Makes 6-8 24cm (9 1/4 inch) pancakes

110g (4 oz) organic plain unbleached flour or ordinary plain flour
1/2 level tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground cloves or mixed spice
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 large free-range eggs
275ml (9 fl oz) semi-skimmed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp brandy (optional)
25g cooled melted butter + another 25g melted butter for greasing the pan

You will need a 24 cm (9 1/2 inch) pancake pan or large frying pan
Mix the flour, spices, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Make a hollow in the centre. Beat the eggs lightly with the milk, vanilla extract and brandy then add the butter. Gradually pour into the flour stirring all the time. Or place the flour, seasonings, eggs and half the milk in a food processor, whiz, then slowly add the remaining milk to make a thin batter. Leave it to rest for half an hour then beat again.
Heat the pan for about 3-4 minutes over a moderate heat. Dip a crumpled piece of kitchen towel in the remaining melted butter and wipe it round the pan. It should sizzle. Pour in a ladle or coffee cup of batter and swirl it round quickly so that it covers the whole pan.
Cook for about 30 seconds till the edges begin to brown then flip over and
cook the other side. Stack the pancakes on a plate with a piece of greaseproof paper between them to prevent them sticking.

For the cajeta
This makes more than you’ll need for the recipe but you’ll also find it a fabulous topping for ice cream (or quite wicked spooned straight from the jar)

1 litre of goats milk + 200ml full fat (i.e. not semi-skimmed or skimmed) cows milk
225g (8 oz) golden caster sugar
1 tbsp glucose syrup
1/2 a stick of cinnamon
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pour the two milks into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the caster sugar, glucose syrup and cinnamon and heat over a moderate heat stirring occasionally until almost at boiling point. Remove from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda mixed with 1 tbsp of cold water. (The mixture will fizz up but shouldn’t come over the sides if your pan is big enough) Return the pan to the heat and keep the mixture at a brisk simmer, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes to an hour. It will gradually turn pale golden then towards the end of the cooking time a richer brown caramelly colour. At this point the bubbles will become larger and the mixture begin to rise in the pan again like milk boiling. Keep stirring to make sure it doesn’t catch. Once the mixture has become quite syrupy take it off the heat and strain into a measuring jug. You should have about 400-450ml of cajeta. Cool, stirring occasionally to stop a skin forming then pour into a clean jam jar or jars and refrigerate for up to a month.

Cheat’s cajeta
You can also make a good cajeta sauce by mixing equal quantities of Dulce de Leche with natural goats milk yoghurt. Make the recipe as above using ready made pancakes.

Wine suggestion:
A late harvest Muscat or southern French Muscat should go pretty well with this dish, if you fancy a pudding wine (though bear in mind the dessert is already quite sweet).

The image which is © nickola-che @fotolia.com is not a photograph of the recipe above but a similar one.

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