21 NOVEMBER 1992, Page 67

Friendly food

IT WAS a great idea to dedicate a pudding to Eric Anderson, the splendid headmaster of Eton College; I received an invitation to dinner by return of post, you might say. A very swell affair it was, 24 people sitting round an enormous table, the men chang- ing places in mid-course, so we all had a chance to chatter to lots of people. It was enormous fun and not at all frightening. They did me the honour of using my duck and grapefruit receipt for the main course, cooked very finely, as was the whole dinner, by the marvellous chef, Mr Holloway, known as 'Holly', who swept me off through many cloisters to show me the original kitchen. I now see the point of Eton: it is beautiful, grand, and everyone I met seemed totally happy.

Caroline Spencer, my downstairs neigh- bour, has come up with an excellent Boeuf A la mode of her own design, a great dish for this time of year, fairly expensive but consider it a treat.

Boeuf a la mode Caroline

3-4 lbs beef

"2 lb unsmoked streaky bacon

Oil or good beef dripping 4 medium carrots 12 button onions 1 celery stalk and 1 leek, chopped A pig's trotter or a calf's foot 1 tablespoon flour 2 tomatoes, skinned and diced Bay leaf and peppercorns

"2 pint white wine 3/4 pint good beef stock

Get the best beef you can afford. It should be well marbled with fat; really good rump or sirloin is ideal, but silverside would be fine. Make a few light incisions all over the meat, then wrap it round with the streaky bacon, leaving about half the meat exposed. Secure with string. In a good heavy casserole, brown the meat rapidly in hot oil or dripping, turning over and over until all sides are sealed. Add the carrots, sliced, the peeled button onions, the celery and the leek and the pig's trotter or calfs foot. Lower the heat, then sprinkle the flour over the contents of the pot. Cook gently, stirring the while, until the flour is absorbed. Add the diced tomatoes, the bay leaf and about 12 whole peppercorns. Cook for a few minutes, stirring again, then add the wine and the stock. Bring to simmering point, then taste for seasoning with a little salt (bearing in mind the saltiness of the bacon). Cover and cook gently on the top of the stove or at Gas 2, 310F, 154C in the oven for 2"2 to 3 hours, until the meat is tender right through when pierced with a skewer. Remove the meat onto a warm platter, untie the string and discard the bacon. If you think there is too much liquid in the pot, boil briskly until it is reduced to your liking, adjust the seasoning; then pour over the meat, slice the meat thickly and serve with egg noodles, or potatoes if you prefer, and a crisp salad of endive and leaves.

Here is one of those really easy and airy puddings that take but a trice to concoct. This comes from Anne Oxford via Eliza- beth Lambton and is embroidered by me.

Coffee Meringue (Original receipt)

8 meringues (bought ones are best) in pint double cream 1 tablespoon of Camp coffee u4 lb blanched almonds 1 dessertspoon white sugar

Chop up the almonds and heat with the sugar in a pan until brown and caramelised, turning them all the time as they can burn very quickly. Leave them to cool on some greaseproof paper. Break up the meringues into a glass bowl. Whip the cream until thick enough to stand in points, mix in the Camp coffee. Spoon over the meringues, then scatter the sugared almonds over the pudding. I do not see any reason why bought meringues should be best, unless what is required is their very cementy crisp- ness. I like the chewiness of my own meringues, but they can be baked longer to obtain thorough dryness.

As I always have many frozen egg whites longing to be used up, I wouldn't dream of going out and buying meringues. They are really easy to make. Use two tablespoons of caster sugar to each egg white. Whip whites stiff, add half the sugar, whip again, then fold in the rest of the sugar. Bake on oven trays covered with non-stick baking parch- ment, having dropped the mixture in ser- ried blobs on the trays with the help of two spoons. Bake for 1"2 hours at Gas "4, 240F, 116C.

Finally, I would scatter the entire pud- ding with freshly ground real coffee. It's delightful, delicious and d'lovely, and most- ly air.

Jennifer Paterson