The Scene: My pregnant friend is in town and comes round for a catch-up dinner with a desperate plea for steak. She pretends to be a vegetarian in her current hometown, you see. Then I indulge her meaty whims with no judgement and second helpings, where desired. But she’s pregnant this time, so that means no soft cheeses, no wine (for her, or in the food) and no raw eggs. Challenge accepted.
The Starter: Bruschetta with Roasted Aubergine & Walnut Pesto. A few slices of baguette, brushed with olive oil & garlic and grilled until light brown on each side, are the perfect base. I did them as soon as I got home from work, and then let them cool and stored them in an airtight container until I was ready to serve them. Spread thickly with Aubergine & Walnut Pesto (that I had made days before and kept in the fridge) and topped with parmesan shavings and fresh basil, they were divine. And they went perfectly with my wine. If this wasn’t a pregnant-friendly dinner, I might do ricotta on top instead of parmesan.
The Main: Fillet with Mushroom Sauce & Baked Parmesan Zucchini Fries. The Fillet with Mushroom Sauce couldn’t be easier. Pat the beef or ostrich fillets dry with paper towel, then rub all over with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cook in a smoking hot pan on each side for 2-3min, depending on the thickness of the steaks. Tempting as it may be, don’t mess with them during that 2-3min, otherwise they won’t seal nicely and get that lovely brown colour. Once they’re cooked on both sides, remove them to a board (ideally not a freezing cold plate) and cover loosely with foil. Add a glug of olive oil and 100g sliced mushrooms to the same pan (but on a medium heat) and fry for 5min until softened. Add 100ml of cream, season with salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Let the sauce simmer gently for a minute or two while you plate the steaks, and serve in a ramekin on the side or drizzled over the fillet. Ta Da! I prepped the parmesan zucchini fries before my guest arrived (which was a good idea) and I popped them into the preheated oven when I started the steaks. They only take 15min, so the timing works well.
The Dessert: A decadent saucy chocolate pudding, brought by my guest, that went wonderfully with the remaining cream. There’s no shame in allowing your guests to contribute – it can really help, particularly on a weeknight when prep time is limited. The perfect ending.
The Verdict: Dinner worked well. Everyone loves a crunchy bruschetta. And I’m a big fan of the pesto. Prepping the parmesan zucchini fries beforehand was a definite must do – it takes a bit longer than you think. But then it’s so easy to pop them into the oven while you’re doing the steaks. A great week night dinner menu – particularly if your kind guest brings dessert. 🙂