At the turn of the 20th Century, wealthy Britons were eating more than ever before, and eating OUT more than ever before. Restaurant dining; something that hadn’t really been a *thing* before then, really kicked off in the Edwardian era and one of the most popular early varieties of restaurant were chophouses. These were lushly fitted out venues where often exclusively gentlemen would meet to discuss politics and work over a large cut of meat served with a variety of sauces and plain vegetables. Meat was in – and when it came to beef, if it wasn’t fillet it wasn’t happening. This was also a time when French cuisine was widely considered to be the pinnacle of gastronomy so whether he was enjoying a meaty meal in his friend’s mansion or at a chophouse, if a top-hatted gent was served Filet de Bœuf a la Béarnaise he would’ve left feeling grander than the King’s carriage.
This recipe, along with those for the two sauces (Béarnaise and Espagnole) were taught at the National Training School for Cookery in Buckingham Palace Road between 1909 and 1911. The beef glaze brings another flavour dimension while having the added benefit of boosting the colour of the meat. The sauces were magnifique, even with the Espagnole sauce turning out thicker than is usual.
Thanks to the fantastic preservation of this old cookbook by its original owner, Miss. Watson, we are able to sample the most delicious Edwardian dishes from the comfort of an age where, among other improvements, women may dine in chophouses along with the men (oh, and vote). The world is now a very different one to that known by Miss. Watson when she cooked her way through this little book in the school kitchens, and most likely in her employment thereafter. Who knows how many times she made this dish, and who she made it for! But social history lesson aside, we encourage steak-lovers to try this tasty ‘antique’ recipe for themselves and go to the trouble of making the sauces with it. We were impressed 😉.
Original Recipe: 'Filet de Bœuf a la Béarnaise' (Book 2, 1909)
Speed: Not including the time taken to make the sauces or prepare the spinach/mashed potato (which will add about an hour), 7 mins
Two 1lb / 450g Fillet Steaks or a 900g Beef Fillet
Salt & Pepper to season
1oz / 28g Butter
1oz / 28g Beef Glaze (to make, boil about ½ cup of beef stock ‘til reduced and thick)
Béarnaise Sauce (hot)
Espagnole Sauce (hot)
About 1kg of cooked spinach or mashed potatoes (as you like them)
1. If making, prepare the Espagnole Sauce and Béarnaise Sauce and keep these hot. Cook as much spinach/mashed potato as liked.
2. Make a beef glaze by boiling about half a cupful of beef stock until it has reduced and thickened. This took us about 5 minutes.
3. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and fry the steaks until cooked to your liking. We had ours medium(ish) and fried ours for 2 mins 20 seconds on each side. Once cooked, transfer to a plate and brush each side over with the beef glaze.
4. Put a round bed of spinach or mash onto your serving plates and place the steak on top of this.
5. Put a dollop of Béarnaise Sauce on top of the steak and pour the Espagnole Sauce around the spinach. Serve at once.
Original Recipe for 'Filet de Bœuf a la Béarnaise '
'BOOK 2': High-Class Cookery Recipes for the National Training School of Cookery, 11th Edition (1909)
Author: Mrs Charles Clarke, Principal of the National Training School of Cookery
Publisher: William Clowes & Sons Limited (23 Cockspur Street, S.W. London, England, U.K.)