To my eternal shame, I can’t remember who passed this on to me, but it’s one of those gems which is easy to prepare but looks and tastes as though you’ve spent hours on it. The flambéing, incidentally, is of the more spectacular variety (the instruction to stand well back is not lightly given!) so makes an impressive flourish if you want to show off.
###Fillet of beef with mixed peppercorn sauce
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 20 mins
1 tbsp vegetable oil
25g clarified butter (see below)
2 fillet steak, at room temperature
knob of butter
2 large shallots, finely chopped
6 medium mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp green and pink peppercorn, crushed
3 tbsp brandy
100ml red wine
200ml good-quality beef stock
3 tbsp double cream
Heat a frying pan over a medium-to-high heat, then pour in the oil and half of the clarified butter. Season the steak with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and cook to your liking (2 mins each side for medium-rare, 3 mins each side for medium, depending on the thickness of your steaks). Be sure to seal the rounded edges, too. Transfer to a plate.
Add the knob of butter to the pan, then fry the shallots, mushrooms and peppercorns over a medium heat for 5 mins, until the shallots have softened and the mushrooms browned. Return the steaks to the pan. Heat the brandy in a metal ladle, light with a match then carefully pour into the hot pan, standing as far back as you can. Once the pan has stopped flaming, remove the steaks again.
Pour the wine into the pan, turn up the heat and boil rapidly until reduced by half. This will take about 5 mins. Add the stock and reduce again, this time by two-thirds. Stir the cream in to the sauce and allow it to thicken slightly. Check the sauce for seasoning, then return the fillets to the pan to warm through, spooning the sauce over. Serve straight away.
The process of clarifying butter removes the milk solids, which burn easily when frying at high temperatures. To make your own clarified butter, melt a little more butter than you need in a small pan, then drain off the yellow part, discarding the white solids left at the bottom.