Recipes: Dainty beef fillet and Portobello mushroom starters will wow crowds

Portobello mushrooms with tallegio and a tomato sauce (Serves 6)

Portobello mushrooms with tallegio and a tomato sauce (Serves 6) - Credit: Archant

When you’re pushing the boat out for a special occasion, whether for a loved one or a gaggle of friends for a birthday dinner, feeding should be a pleasurable experience.

I try and prep as much as possible several hours ahead of the guests arriving; less stress, more banter with your pals.

Below are a couple of starters that look spectacular on the plate.

My business partner Zina and I have organized a few pop ups in our time and they were a triumph for both carnivores and veggies.

I would choose a meaty Barolo or a Primitivo for both dishes.

Seared fillet of beef with a Thai vinaigrette (Serves 6)


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800gr fillet of beef in one piece

2 cos lettuces

1 red onion

1 small packet of cherry tomatoes

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

4 tbs olive oil

Good pinch of Maldon sea salt

1 tsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar


8 tbs Kikkoman’s soy sauce

juice of 2 limes

2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed

1 medium chili, finely sliced (optional)

good handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped

1 flat tsp grated ginger

1 tbs sweet chili sauce

1 tbs rice wine vinegar

½ tsp white sugar


Prepare the dressing. Simply place all the ingredients into a screw top jar and refrigerate the night or morning before.

Prepare ahead the roasted tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 100oC.

Halve the cherry toms, place, cut side up on a baking tray lined with foil, sprinkle with salt, pour over the vinegar and 2 tbs of the oil.

Bake in the oven for an hour on the shelf that is one lower than the centre of the oven.

Remove, let cool on some foil and carefully create a parcel. Keep in the fridge until needed. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Prepare ahead the beef on the morning of the dinner party.

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC

Roll the beef (which has been out of the fridge for at least fifteen minutes) in the crushed peppercorns. Heat a frying pan, add 2 tbs of olive oil and sear the beef on all sides.

This should take about two minutes.

Remove and wrap very loosely in some foil. Place in the oven for 7 minutes (or ten for medium rare). Remove and let it rest for fifteen minutes whilst the juices are collecting.

Add them to the dressing. Place the beef in a tight container, wrapped loosely in foil.

When it’s time to assemble at the last minute, make sure your beef has been out of the fridge for half an hour.

Arrange the cos lettuce leaves on a serving platter.

Halve the onion and cut into very thin slices.

A very sharp knife will ensure the beef is wafer thin.

Arrange beef slices on top of the leaves, scatter with the onion and tomatoes, drizzle with half the dressing and leave the rest in a small jug for people to help themselves.

Portobello mushrooms with tallegio and a tomato sauce (Serves 6)

This is a delicious and simple recipe, full of deep flavours and textures.

TIP: Don’t be a slave to the recipe, any melting cheese will do; gruyere or even a soft blue cheese like Gorgonzola would be an interesting alternative. Ingredients:

6 large portobello mushrooms

2 banana shallots, diced

300ml best quality passata

200gr tallegio

1 glass of white wine

2 fat cloves of garlic

½ tsp white sugar

2tbs fresh thyme leaves, very finely chopped

1 tbs of olive oil for frying

Good pinch of Maldon sea salt

Coarse black pepper


Heat a medium saucepan and fry your shallots on a low heat for five minutes.

Whack the heat up and pour in the wine.

Reduce by half, pour in the tomatoes, add the sugar and salt, turn down the heat and cook for half an hour, stirring continuously.

Sprinkle in the thyme, stir, let cool and refrigerate in a closed container until needed. You can cook the sauce up to three days ahead.

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC

Wash and pat dry the mushrooms.

Pour the sauce into a small ovenproof dish into which the mushrooms will fit snugly.

Place them, stalk side up into the dish. Slice the cheese thinly, lay over the top of the mushrooms and bake for 15 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

If you wish, you can serve them with ciabatta croutons; cubes of bread, soaked in olive oil and baked on a sheet for about eight minutes on 180oC.

Otherwise just get your hands on the the best baguette money can buy.