by Soha Darwish
Food Writer & Critic – Menu Consultant
Diploma in Food Journalism – London, UK

Before I crack on with this month’s theme, Valentine’s Day, could we just try to genuinely enjoy the sentiments on this day and brush-off all the tackiness that tarnished this sweet loving occasion?

It’s simple when you come to think of it; just a day to acknowledge our partners’ efforts to stick up with us in our highs and lows. An act of gratitude either by a simple gest, card, gift or through food which is ultimately the translation of deep love and devotion in men’s world.

So, when I thought of a menu that should delight any man, red meat was dominating my thoughts. Who could resist a succulent piece of beef with the prefect sides in the comfort of his home? And to end this perfect meal on a high, how about a heart-shaped light dessert? If this will push you over the edge then any regular geometrical shape will do. Relax!

1) The Hasselback Tenderloin (Serves 2)

 It feels perfectly fitting to share with you my special beef recipe with a twist, which stars regularly in almost all my dinner parties and never failed me, even if I did few mishaps. With the added twist, this dish becomes so forgiving and manages to razzle and dazzle my guests -just like it will do to your other half!

  • Shopping Basket:  1 kg beef tenderloin with a bit of fat (1 piece tied up with strings) – 1 large onion, chopped – 1 large carrot, chopped  – 2 celery stalks, chopped –  5 garlic cloves, whole – 3 tbsp vegetable oil –  200g smoked turkey slices – 200g swiss cheese slices  –  knob of butter –  salt & black pepper.
  • In a large pot, sear the beef from all sides in oil until dark brown, then remove from pot and set aside.
  • In the same pot, add the onions and stir-fry until dark brown (be careful not to burn).
  • Before finishing off with the onions, add the garlic cloves and sauté for 2-3 mins.
  • Add in the celery and carrots; sauté for 1 min.
  • Transfer the beef and vegetables to an oven dish, add 1 cup of water, cover with foil and roast for 1 hr max at 200  ̊.
  • Rest the beef on a chopping board and leave to cool down. You can prepare it a day before, wrap it cling film then keep in fridge; cut the strings and slice the next day.
  • In a blender, pour in the meat sauce with all the vegetables and blend until smooth. Put in a saucepan, boil and stir in the butter (add water if needed) – delicious gravy is ready.
  • Cut the beef into medium slice with a sharp knife and have the cheese and smoked turkey ready by your side.
  • In a rectangular oven dish smeared with gravy; lay diagonally 1 beef slice, 1 cheese slice and 1 smoked turkey slice; repeat until you use all the meat. Cover with half of the gravy and bake in the oven at 180  ̊until cheese melts and slightly browned, it should take less than 30 mins. Serve hot with the remaining gravy on the side.

2) Truffled Mac & Cheese (Serves 2)

Yes, Mac & cheese! This kids’ favourite is now a staple side dish in fine dining venues, just been taken up a notch with a bit of truffle oil. Honestly, what’s not to like here?!

  • Shopping Basket:  1 tbsp butter – 2 cups macaroni (elbow pasta) – 2 tbsp flour – 1 cup milk –  1 cup cream – ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated – 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated –  1 tbsp chives, finely chopped – pinch of nutmeg  –  2 tbsp truffle oil –  salt & pepper.
  • Boil the pasta in water, strain well and drizzle with truffle oil; keep aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, sauté the flour in butter without changing its colour.
  • Gradually, pour in the milk and cream while stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until clump free.
  • Bring to the boil, simmer on low heat for about 5 mins and stir in the cheese.
  • Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Remove from heat and mix gently with the pasta.
  • Divide on small greased ramekins and bake in the oven until golden crispy top, sprinkle with chives and serve hot.

3) White Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake (Serves 4)

Well, I love mousse and I love cheesecake; why not have them together in one dessert. It’s creaminess heaven with the perfect topping of fresh raspberry coulis that contrast and complements this silky subtle mousse.

  • Shopping Basket:  200g cream cheese – 150g white chocolate, melted – ¾ cup icing sugar – 2 cups whipping cream – ½ tsp vanilla extract – 1 tbsp gelatine powder, soaked in 2 tbsp cold water – 1 pack of Digestive biscuits – 200g butter, melted – 250g frozen or fresh raspberries – ¾ cup granulated sugar – 1 tbsp lemon juice.

1. Blitz the biscuit in the food processor until sandy smooth texture, mix with melted butter and spread until about 0.5 cm thickness at the bottom of individual ramekins. keep in freezer.

2. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until stiff and set aside.

3. In another mixing bowl, whisk the cream cheese with the icing sugar and vanilla extract, until well blended.

4. Heat the soaked gelatine to turn it into liquid, then stir it immediately in the melted white chocolate.

5. Combine the 3 mixtures together in 1 bowl and fold with a spatula until well mixed.

6. Pour the mixture over the cooled biscuit base, then keep in fridge until it firms up.

7. Meanwhile, prepare the coulis by boiling the raspberries with the sugar and ½ cup of water – until sugar dissolves and coulis thickens.

8. When coulis cools down, blend with a hand blender and serve on the side of the mousse cheesecake. Enjoy!