Tag Archive for: beef

Meringue canapés you’ll want to make.

What better way to start an elegant, girly dinner, than with a miniature dessert and a pomegranate Bellini. A dainty, pink, raspberry, pistachio and rosewater meringue kiss to nibble on in one hand and a ruby red, sparkling, pomegranate aperitif to sip in the other. A slightly exotic combination with rosewater and pomegranate, that’s also slightly different to serving savoury morsels to entice people to dinner.

The recipe (see below) for the kisses is from the fabulous Meringue Girls cookbook, a neon covered, hedonistic collection of THE prettiest, girlies desserts. You will want to make every single one. But then that’s me saying that and I’m slightly dotty about meringue. It’s gorgeously sweet, but not heavy or sickly, crisp and chewy and extremely pretty and playful, the perfect partner to fresh fruit, cream and a little glass of sticky. Plus there are endless combinations to try, like adding nuts, cocoa or lime zest to a basic meringue mixture, adorning with cream, yoghurt or sorbet, even drizzling with chocolate or caramel.

After nibbling through the kisses, and finishing the Bellinis, a very simple mix of prosecco, a splash of pomegranate juice and the glamorous addition of a few pomegranate arils, seated around the table everyone chatted freely and easily. Babes were in bed at home with their dads and there was a sense of relaxation, to be away from home, communally enjoying an evening meal with friends. Eager to make the night special, I had prepared a fennel, orange and Moreton Bay bug salad and a chicken and pistachio terrine with pickled figs to start. Ingredients with a touch of luxury in dishes that could still be enjoyed informally, passing platters around the table, picking out favourite bits and taking second and thirds. Bread was dotted here and there and in-between the enjoyment of wine, slices were spread with terrine or dotted with salad leaves and pieces of seafood, as the remains of the entree was finished.

So that I could stay and enjoy conversation around the table and not spend too much time in the kitchen, when it came to the main course, I had prepared a fillet of beef rolled in herbs and wrapped in prosciutto. A Jamie Oliver recipe from his second book. I cooked it before anyone arrived and had left it to rest wrapped in abundant layers of foil and tea towels on the kitchen bench. I love using this method when cooking meat. Not only does it take the stress out of catering, but it ensures that the meat is well rested and juicy. Contrary to what most people believe, it stays hot too. I simply had to slice it and arrange it on a platter, along with some greens and roast potatoes. I was back at the table in no time, choosing the crispiest spuds!

After having our fill of of meat, fish and vegetables, it was time for dessert, also a replica of a Meringue Girls creation. To the table I gingerly brought a metre long plank of chocolate meringue. It was smothered with mascarpone, dotted with quartered, cinnamon poached pears and toasted walnuts before being anointed with caramel and chocolate. A spectacular centrepiece, that between the 10 of us, was gone in five minutes. Everyone agreed that it was the standout dish of the night, some having seconds and thirds. I was truly honoured. And it wrapped up the evening nicely. Meringue to start and finish a gorgeous evening with friends.

Meringue canapes

Adapted from the Meringue Girls cookbook

Serves 8

300g caster suger
5 egg whites (150g)
50g finely ground pistachios
1 tsp rosewater
300ml Cup whipping cream
Fresh raspberries

Preferably in a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Now add the sugar a little at a time over a 10 minute period. Stop the mixer and add the pistachios and rosewater. Start the mixer again, and let the whisk turn no more than 10 times. You want the ingredients combined, but don’t want to knock any of the air from your meringue.

Working quickly, transfer the mixture into a piping bag, and pipe little mounds on to a baking tray lined with baking paper. The more you pipe, the better and more consistent your mounds will be. The trick is to squeeze the bag firmly and keep the tip of it in the mixture then lift up quickly.

Bake the mini meringues at 95 degrees C for 30-40 minutes until they lift easily from the paper. When they are done, turn the oven off, open the door and leave the meringues to cool on the tray. Stored in an airtight container, the meringues will keep for two weeks.

Dollop each meringue with a generous tablespoon of whipped cream and top with a fresh raspberry.

Stored in an airtight container, the meringues will keep for two weeks.

Enjoy this? You might also like my brown sugar meringue roulade

A versatile beef and red wine stew.

A stew for a dinner party. Could I make it work. Yes. I had been reading the book Secret Suppers on underground restaurants, and inspired by the tales within it, decided to hold a ‘secret’ dinner party. The concept was that I would invite three couples to dinner and then two of those couples would each invite a couple, making 12 guests. It meant that not only would the guests be unfamiliar with one another, but so would we and this added a heightened sense of pressure for me to come up with a dish that would be enjoyed by all. Instinctively I chose a beef and red wine stew recipe, one I have made many times before, that I know is easy, but enjoyed by everyone. I also had an idea up my sleeve on how to present it for dramatic effect, to elevate the dish from easy week night meal to dinner fit to entertain a crowd.

The night of the dinner, the table was laid, the fire lit (Thea was in bed!) and as soon as I heard footsteps outside our front door, I hastily pushed granny smiths through a juicer. The gloriously green juice was added to shots of vodka and apple schnapps, that had already been decanted into martini glasses and the cocktails were handed out to help break the ice. After several requests for a second martini had been satisfied and introductions were over, it was time to sit down and eat. The entree was an entirely simple selection of plump and juicy, freshly shucked Tathra oysters (seriously the BEST oysters I have ever tasted) and marinated Meredith chèvre. The hands on starter created a mellow and easy atmosphere, as people passed and shared the dishes.

Next came the main event. The beef and red wine stew. A very straightforward recipe to follow, made special simply by slowly cooking the meat over a low heat until it’s truly a melt in your mouth dish. And to make it extra special and fit for the occasion, I was able to recreate an idea that I had seen on the kitchen, and present it on a two metre long plank. Secured in place by a moat of buttery mashed potatoes and garnished with mushrooms and green beans, it was placed in the middle of the table for everyone to admire.  The plank caused exactly the effect I had hoped and everyone loved both the beef and red wine stew and the way it was served. Plates were repeatedly filled and conversation flowed as the two metre platter grew empty.

The evening was punctuated by a large creme caramel, inspired by one similar that I had eaten at Kitchen by Mike. The custard was silky smooth and generously spiked with millions of vanilla dots. It swam in bitter caramel, the making of which is always an adrenaline fuelled task, waiting until the last minute to remove the sugar from the heat, before it turns from a deep, rich colour with an astringent sweetness, to just plain burnt. A little less wobbly than I would have liked, as I only removed the dessert from the oven when I was sure it would turn out in a cohesive shape, no one seemed to mind. Fingers were dipped into the caramel and plates were scraped clean. The evening was a huge success and as I went to bed, I was already wondering to myself, what might be on the next secret dinner menu…

Beef and red wine stew

This is an amazingly versatile recipe that could be used as a stew with polenta or a pie filling topped with puff pastry, to go with thick pasta ribbons and lots of parmesan, to make nachos with the addition of kidney beans and chilli or to fill a baked potato with a dollop of sour cream and a snip or chives. Double or even triple the quantities outlined here and freeze into portions for an assortment of dinner options

  • 1kg shin beef cut into large 5cm cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 sticks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • good sprig of fresh thyme
  • couple of sticks of fresh rosemary
  • few fresh bay leaves
  • 2 x 400g tins tomatoes
  • 2 tbs tomato puree
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 500ml beef stock
  • couple of star anise
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste

Add the onion, celery and carrot to a large pot. Cover with the lid and sweat over a very low heat for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the mixture isn’t burning.

When the veggies are very soft and translucent, add the beef, increase the heat and cook until the beef has changed colour, from raw red to light brown. At this point, add the herbs, tomatoes and puree, wine and stock, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Bring the liquid up to a temperature where it bubbles slightly, then turn it right down and let the beef simmer until it is meltingly tender and the sauce reduced and thick, anywhere from two to six hours.

The meat should have a stringy, fall apart quality and the sauce should be rich and flavoursome.  This dish is even better made a few days in advance, as I did, and then reheated. It will sit happily in a pot over a very low heat on the stove until you are ready to serve it.

Enjoy this recipe? Then you might like to make pavlova for dessert with these top tips to help.