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  • Fall Dinner Party Menu

    We love hosting dinner parties during the fall when it’s far too miserable and cold to leave the house. Our friends at Stirred have put together a dinner party menu that looks, sounds and tastes delicious: to start, there’s Carpaccio Di Manzo; the main course is Truffle Lasagne with Porcini Mushrooms (we fully expect your guests to be requesting seconds of this); and to finish, wonderfully aromatic Vanilla Pears in Recioto with Pistachio and Pinenut Biscotti. Let us know if you make one or all of these dishes – we’d love to see photos of your culinary masterpieces.



    Carpaccio di Manzo

    Serves 4

    “Chilling or lightly freezing the beef, makes it firm enough to slice really thinly. As soon as the slices hit room temperature plates, they become meltingly soft. I have seen tuna, smoked salmon and smoked swordfish served this way in Italy. It makes a lovely fresh starter.”

    Maxine Clark, Stirred Chef



    250g piece of the very best beef fillet (thin end)


    For the dressing:

    Juice of 3 juicy lemons

    150 ml extra virgin olive oil

    1 garlic clove, finely chopped

    1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed and chopped

    Pinch of chilli flakes

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    125 g wild or cultivated rocket

    Shaved Parmesan, to serve



    • Trim the beef fillet of any membrane or gristle. Wrap tightly in cling film and place in the freezer for about 1 hour until just frozen but not rock solid.
    • Meanwhile, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper together until emulsified.
    • Unwrap the beef, slice thinly with a thin bladed sharp knife. Arrange the slices to completely cover the bases of four large dinner plates.
    • Spoon the dressing over the beef. Top with a tangle of rocket leaves and scatter with shaved Parmesan.


    Copyright Maxine Clark




    Truffle lasagne with porcini

    Serves 4-6


    “Truffles and porcini are the delights of fall. This dish might seem daunting, but once you have prepared all the ingredients, the assembling is easy.”

    Sophie Braimbridge, Stirred Chef



    For the béchamel: 

    850ml milk

    1 small onion

    6 cloves

    1 bay leaf

    40g plain flour

    50g unsalted butter

    ½ nutmeg, freshly grated

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


    For the filling:

    Knob of butter for lining the gratin dish

    30g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water

    1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

    1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

    1 tablespoon of sage, or thyme, finely chopped

    6 heaped teaspoons of good quality truffle paste or substitute 50ml good quality truffle oil

    75g Parmesan, grated

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Approx. 12 sheets of egg pasta lasagne and a dash of oil for cooking



    To make the béchamel: 

    • Place the milk in a saucepan with the bay leaf and an onion cut in half and studded with cloves. Bring the milk just to the boil, and then scald the milk for about 15 minutes to soften the onion. Don’t leave to simmer or it will evaporate too much.
    • Melt the butter in another pan (it must be big enough to hold the milk comfortably), and then add the flour. Stir the butter and flour together to make a roux by cooking over a low heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes. 
    • Take the roux off the heat and pour the strained milk into the pan all at once.  Stir well to avoid lumps (a small whisk is useful). When all the milk has been added, simmer gently for 10 minutes until thicker and creamy. Season to taste with salt, pepper and the nutmeg and use immediately. If not using immediately pour into a bowl and press a sheet of cling film on to the surface of the sauce before it forms a skin. Allow to cool and refrigerate.


    To cook the mushrooms:

    • When the mushrooms have softened in the water, remove and squeeze any liquid from them, reserving the soaking liquor. Finely chop. Pour the oil into a small frying pan and add the garlic and herb. Cook briefly until the garlic just starts to change colour.
    • Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for a minute to infuse the flavours, then add the liquor, bring to boil and simmer gently until all the liquor has reduced back into the mushrooms. 


    To cook the pasta:

    • Bring a wide saucepan, or sauté pan, with salted water to the boil. Add a dash of olive oil and cook no more than half the pasta, or in smaller batches for about 3 minutes, until ‘al dente’- just cooked. Don’t cram the saucepan full of pasta. Turn the pasta over frequently to prevent it from sticking together.
    • When cooked, remove the pasta with a slotted spoon or tongs and place on kitchen towel to drain briefly. Be careful not to overlap when on the towel as it will stick easily together. Start to assemble the lasagne while the next lot of pasta is cooking for quickest results. 


    To assemble the lasagne:

    • Preheat the oven Gas 4, 180C/350F. Butter a gratin dish (23/30x 4cm or 9/12x2”) and place a layer of pasta on the bottom. Smear a small amount of truffle paste over the pasta, about 1.5 teaspoons. Don’t forget this is strong stuff. Sprinkle with some Parmesan, some cooked mushrooms, 2 ladles of béchamel, salt and pepper.
    • Repeat this process 4 times ending with the truffle paste, béchamel, Parmesan and mushrooms.
    • Bake for 20-30 minutes until warmed through. To check the lasagne is cooked through, place a knife in the middle of the dish and if it feels hot on the blade then it is ready.


    Copyright Sophie Braimbridge




    Vanilla pears in recioto with pistachio and pinenut biscotti

    Serves 6



    “This may seem extravagant, but the wine is perfect with the pears. Try using little ‘perine’ (baby pears) and halve the cooking time.”

    Maxine Clark, Stirred Chef



    600 ml Recioto dessert wine

    1 vanilla pod, split

    6 firm but ripe dessert pears

    10 ml (2 teaspoons) arrowroot

    5 ml (1 teaspoon) vanilla essence (not flavouring)

    Chopped toasted hazelnuts, to decorate



    1. Heat the Recioto and vanilla pod together in a pan. Peel the pears carefully, but leave their stalks on.
    2. Stand the pears in the saucepan - they should just fit. Spoon over a little wine to prevent discoloration. Cover tightly and poach gently for about 25 minutes, turning in the liquid, until tender. Allow to cool in the liquid.
    3. Remove the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds and reserve. Lift the pears from the wine and place on a serving dish.
    4. Add the reserved vanilla seeds to the liquid. Boil until reduced to 300 ml. Stir in the vanilla essence. Cool then pour over the pears. Sprinkle with nuts and decorate with mint leaves, to serve.



    “Light, crunchy biscuits studded with toasted almonds and with a hint of orange to round off an Italian meal. They are very more-ish! The name ‘biscotti’ really means ‘twice cooked’ – ‘bis’, twice and ‘cotti’, cooked. A very basic version was originally made for sailors to take on long voyages, as they kept well and didn't go mouldy.”

    Maxine Clark, Stirred Chef


    INGREDIENTS (Makes about 50)

    175 g (6 oz) shelled pistachio nuts

    30 ml (2 tablespoons) pine nuts

    125 g (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

    200 g (7 oz) granulated sugar

    2 eggs, beaten

    Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

    15 ml (1 tablespoon) Amaretto

    7.5 ml (1½ teaspoons) baking powder

    2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) salt

    About 350 g (12 oz) plain white flour

    75 g (3 oz) coarse polenta


    1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Spread the pistachios and pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes until golden. Cool.
    2. Cream the butter with the sugar until just mixed. Beat in the egg, lemon rind, and liqueur. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and stir into the butter mixture with the polenta. Stir in the pistachios and pine nuts.
    3. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth. The dough is should be soft not sticky.
    4. Divide the dough into four and roll into 5 cm (2 inch) wide, 1.5 cm (¾ inch) deep sausages and flatten slightly. Place these on two greased baking sheets and bake for about 35 minutes until just golden around the edges.
    5. Allow to cool slightly then cut diagonally into 1 cm (½ inch) thick slices. Place these cut side down on the baking sheets and bake for another 10 -15 minutes until golden brown and crisp. (Watch that these do not burn - they will taste bitter). Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight tin for up to 1 week.


    Copyright Maxine Clark