Peppered beef with Cognac and Parma-wrapped greens

Rich, sumptuous comfort food, with a sauce so good you’ll want to lick the plate clean
Ingredients (Serves 4)
  • Few glugs of olive oil
  • 3 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 800g (13⁄4lb) beef fillet
  • 40g (11⁄2oz) butter
  • Large handful of cracked black, green and pink peppercorns, or just black if the others are not available
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 80ml (3fl oz) Cognac
  • 200ml (7fl oz) beef stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 250ml (9fl oz) crème fraîche
Green beans with Parma ham
  • 230g (81⁄4oz) green beans, trimmed
  • 4 slices of Parma ham
  • 1 tbsp butter


Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F), Gas Mark 7. Put a little oil in a sauté pan, add the shallots and fry until they begin to go soft and translucent. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

Season the fillet with salt and pepper. Heat more oil and the butter in the sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the meat and leave it to sear for a couple of minutes until browned.

Do this on all sides then remove from the pan. Spread the cracked pepper out on a plate. Smear the beef with mustard and roll in the cracked pepper, then place on a wire rack set over a roasting tin.

Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, then switch off the oven, open the door and leave the beef to rest for 10–15 minutes.

To make the sauce, put the reserved shallots and Cognac in a medium saucepan over a high heat. Boil for a couple of minutes then add the stock and bay leaf. Leave to boil merrily away until reduced by half.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the beans and boil for about 4 minutes, then drain. Divide the beans into 4 piles. Take one pile and wrap Parma ham tightly around it. Repeat with the other 3 piles. Season with salt (not too much as the Parma ham is salty) and some pepper.

Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the beans and fry gently for a minute or two until the ham is crisp.

When the sauce has reduced, add the sautéed shallots and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the crème fraîche, stirring all the time, then cook until the sauce is heated through.

Place the beef fillet on a warmed serving plate. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with the green beans wrapped in Parma ham.