It cost an arm and a leg but it was indescribably delicious.
Actually Lotty Barbour of Cratfield Beef gave me a very fair price on my whole beef fillet and it was a fair-sized chunk of meat, too.
Enough to take nearly 3lb out of the centre section to cook for a special occasion, plus five fat fillet steaks from one end and plenty more to cut into strips for a beef stroganoff or Korean bulgogi from the other.
The steaks were amazing, so tender you could almost cut them with a fork and with a good full flavour.
But that centre section – oh, it was so good.
I dithered about making a Beef Wellington but I didn’t want to smother the flavour with pastry and I was nervous about spoiling the meat by overcooking it because I couldn’t see what was going on.
We ate it with dauphinoise potatoes, French-style peas, carrots and onion braised in butter, and horseradish sauce. There were six of us and there wasn’t a morsel left at the end of the night.
Royal Fillet of Beef
About 1.3 kg (3lb) middle fillet of beef (ours was 2lb 10 oz)
Leaves from 2 bunches of parsley
Leaves from a bunch of thyme
1 bunch of chives
1 tspn sea salt
1 tbsp coarsely cracked black pepper
1 egg white
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Trim the fillet of any fat and sinew.
Chop all the herbs together finely, adding the salt and pepper.
Mix well then form into a neat green rectangle on your chopping board, the length and width (on all sides) of your fillet.
Whisk the egg white until just stiff, then mix in the mustard. Smear this all over the fillet and roll the fillet in the herbs, coating it all over except for the ends.
Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a large, heavy-based roasting tin and seal the beef all over.
Transfer to the oven and roast for 8 minutes, then turn and roast for 8 minutes more. This gives you rare beef, which is my preference.
If you want it medium, give it 8 minutes more. The recipe says, and I agree, that cooking it any longer would spoil such a tender cut.
Remove from the oven, allow to rest for five minutes and serve with horseradish sauce.
Mrs P's Dauphinoise Potatoes
Peel 1 kilo of potatoes such as Desiree and slice very thinly. Drop into cold water to de-starch then blot dry on a clean tea towel.
Peel and thinly slice two medium onions into half moons.
Butter a large gratin dish and layer the potatoes and onions, seasoning each layer well with salt and pepper. You can add a crushed clove of garlic and/or some snipped chives.
Drizzle each layer with double cream as you go, using about 300ml altogether. You can use half and half cream and milk if you prefer. You want the potatoes to be bathed in the cream but not drowned.
Finish with a layer of potato slices, overlapping them slightly in a neat pattern.
Grate a light drift of parmesan over the top and bake at 320F/160C/Gas 4 for 1-1 1/2 hours until golden and the potatoes are soft when pierced with a knife.
Mrs P's Braised Buttered Peas and Carrots
Peel four or five medium carrots and cut into small dice, about the size of a pea.
Trim and slice a large bunch of spring onions (scallions) to roughly the same size, or use two or three shallots.
Put a large lump of butter into a heavy-based saucepan, add the onions and peas, season with salt and a little sugar and put the lid on.
Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and barely coloured and the carrots are nearly cooked but still have bite. You can prepare the dish in advance to this stage if you like and leave it on the back of the stove until just before you want to eat.
Add the peas, put the lid back on and cook until the peas are done. Check for seasoning and serve.
Mrs P's Horseradish Sauce
Freshly grated horseradish – grows like a weed in our garden or buy it in a jar. Make sure there’s no turnip added to bulk it out!
A good dollop of Greek yoghurt
A scant tablespoon of bottled mayonnaise
A heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Creme fraiche – to taste.
Just mix ’em all together: the more creme fraiche you add, the less hot the finished sauce will be.