What is the first evening meal that Ian Fleming describes in the James Bond books? The answer is a very small tournedos with sauce Béarnaise, and a single artichoke heart, which James Bond consumes in the restaurant of the Hotel Splendide in Casino Royale (1953).
There’s a recipe for tournedos with Béarnaise sauce in my cookbook, Licence to Cook. Here, though, I’d like to suggest an alternative recipe that might also appeal to James Bond: tournedos mignon Saint-Amant, which was on the menu of the buffet de la gare de Rouen – the railway station restaurant at Rouen. As we know from Goldfinger (1959), Bond is rather partial to French station restaurants, and one can imagine that at some point Bond visited this one, especially as the town lies in the same department (Seine-Inferieure, now Seine-Maritime) as Royale-les-Eaux (at least in Casino Royale; by the time of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service it has moved north to Pas-de-Calais).
The recipe is inspired by one submitted by one Monsieur Bouveret, the concessionaire of Rouen’s buffet, for inclusion in Les Plats Regionaux des Buffets Gastronomiques, a collection of recipes published by SNCF, the French railway company, in 1951.
- 2 fillet steaks (beef)
- 2 rashers streaky bacon
- Large knob of butter for frying
- 10ml Calvados (or brandy)
- 2 pieces string
For the sauce
- 2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
- 50ml cider (preferably French)
- Another large knob of butter
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 slices of bread
- Vegetable oil for frying
Using a pastry cutter or chef’s ring (7-8cm in diameter) as a guide, cut a circular piece from each steak. Wrap a rasher of bacon around the side of each piece, securing it with some string. Heat the butter in a frying pan over a high heat and fry the meat for 3-4 minutes on each side, occasionally turning the steaks onto their sides to cook the bacon. Towards the end of the cooking, pour in the Calvados and (taking care as you’re doing this) set it alight. Once the brandy has stopped flaming, remove the steaks to a warm plate and allow them to rest.
Cut two discs from the bread so that they’re the same size as the tournedos and, in another frying pan, fry them in a little oil until both sides are golden. Put the fried bread on one side.
Return the pan in which the tournedos were cooked to the heat and add the shallots, frying them for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the cider and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the butter and stir to mix well. Allow the sauce to bubble away for another minute, then take off the heat.
To assemble the dish, place a piece of fried bread on each plate. Top this with a tournedos and spoon the sauce around it. Serve with potato fries and a salad.