Date Archives May 2015

Fillet Steak, Red Bordeaux and a 60th Birthday


What a truly fantastic and relaxing week. May is my favourite month. Not only is it is filled with selfish Birthday treats but my favourite ingredients are coming into season! The days are light and longer, a natural prescription for the post February Vitamin D deficiencies we all seem to develop if my fellow London commuters are anything to go by! So, a May holiday break back to my favourite place in the world down at Lands End. I’ve been visiting this little village haven since I was seven where I ironically celebrated my own birthday. I will never forget the patio bbq and days spent thrashing around in the surf. Was it warmer in May 16 years ago or was I just better at embracing the cold!? However I am not the 60 year old this year that this post proudly boasts. This year, it only seemed natural that we’d return here to my pa’s mutual favourite home-away-from-home to celebrate his 60th Birthday. Smooth beer, fresh fish and chips, sea air by the lungful, feisty surf and the stickiest chocolate cake….what could we all want more!? Well….fillet steak and a flashy red bordeaux would go down nicely…?

RECOMMENDED ACCOMPANIMENT:  Mellow music, sunsets dog walks on the beach, lighthearted chatter, slurping, chewing, all topped off with a competitive and crude (at times) game of scrabble. Followed by coffee and chocolate cake! Seemed to work for us anyway!?


Serves 4

Green vegetables and some hearty homemade potato wedges are a great accompaniment here! The sweet, slow cooked juicy onions act as a delicious sauce that doesn’t detract from the flavour of the steak. Fillet steak, with very little flavoursome fat, is not the most notorious for being full of flavour hence why classic blue cheese or peppercorn sauce are often used. But I wanted a sauce here that wasn’t too powerful!

  • 4 fillet steaks
  • 2 large white onions
  • 2 red onions
  • Thyme leaves
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Vegetables to serve
  • Hand cut potato wedges to serve
  1. If you can, remove the steaks from their packaging/wrapping in the morning and place on a wire rack or plate to ‘dry’ a little in the fridge.
  2. Start with the onions. Heat a frying pan to medium low heat. Slice the onions in half and then slice into think half moons. Heat 1-2 tbsp of light oil in the fry pan and very gently soften the onions for about 15 minutes. Keep the heat low and make sure they don’t begin to catch. You want to end up with lovely soft, sweet onions that are just begging to brown.
  3. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Add the chopped garlic and the thyme leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Once ready, cover and set aside but keep warm.
  4. Remove the steak from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. Season all over well with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little oil. If you like, slice a garlic clove in halve horizontally and use it to rub over the steak flesh. It just adds a subtle flavour. When ready to cook, heat a frying pan to a high heat. Fry the steaks on the below timings to your liking. As the last few seconds come around, spoon over about a 1tsp of butter per steak and baste.
  5. Its really important to rest the steak after! I cannot stress this enough especially with fillet steak! Don’t be tempted to just slap on the plate and eat. The meat needs to rest so the juices that are forced to the centre during cooking can settle out and diffuse out within the meat. This is where the flavour is! It also provides you with those all important juices for adding to your onions.
  6. Once cooked to your liking, place the steaks on a large piece of foil and wrap up tightly to rest and collect the juices. Rest for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Reheat the onions if needed and cook any vegetables you wish to serve with this
  8. After 10 minutes, open the foil and steaks. Pour and resting juices into the warm onions. Serve the steaks topped with a generous spoonful of juicy sweet onions to act as a sauce!

Cooking times:

I’m a medium rare steak lover so I always go for this timing so I’ll admit I’ve never tested the others accurately! But I presume they do the trick! All based on a 2cm thick steak. As a rough guide, add 1 minute for another cm.

Blue: 1 minute each side
Rare: 1½ minutes each side
Medium rare: 2 minutes each side
Medium: 2¼ minutes each side
Medium-well done: 2½ – 3 minutes each side.


Steak Choice:

Everyone seems to have their favourite steak cut and there are many that are simply not popularly seen especially in supermarkets. Each cut has a purpose and is great for different occasions, recipes or side dishes and sauces.  Below is a very brief guide to help with some of the more well known and eaten cuts. First, a few things to note when choosing.

FAT: The fat content is important for two reasons. It is where the flavour is! When it cooks, the fat melts into the meat. This not only adds flavour but helps keep the steak succulent!

LOCATION: The more tender the steak, the less work the muscle has done. Therefore, a relatively unused muscles such as the loin will be more tender, and therefore usually more expensive

Sirloin: melt-in-the-mouth and succulent with some fat marbling. Lots of flavour but lacks flavour compared to a rib eye for example.

Rump (and my favourite cut): A large steak with huge flavour. It needs a long time to hang and a good cooking time as it can be tough if rare.

Fillet/Loin: Buttery tender and soft. Little or no fat so therefore very little flavour. It also cannot be hung and aged for long. My advice on a day to day basis is to opt for any other steak for economical and flavour reasons as you’ll be much more satisfied!

Rib eye: Lots of fat marbling provides a rich flavour.

Minute steak: Thin, cheap, can be cooked quickly. It can be tough however but if often seen for use in sandwiches!

T bone: The cut is part sirloin, part fillet so the cooking time is hard to judge…and then there is the cumbersome bone…


Charred Broccoli, Almond, Lentil Salad

Using up leftovers is one of my favourite challenges! And hence where my suitability for Masterchef would come in….ahem. If anyone reading this is from the admissions team (fat chance) then PICK ME! Anyway, my yearly voyage to my most favourite place in England, Sennen Cove at Lands End, is fast approaching and with only two more sleeps and two more meals I was challenged to use up the innards of the fridge in a creative yet tasty way.

Charred purple sprouting broccoli and almonds tossed with earthy lentils and balsamic red onions. Healthily delicious.

Serves 2

  • 4 oz Puy lentils
  • 1 large red onion, sliced into slithers
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Large handful flat leaf parsley
  • Handful flaked almonds
  • Purple sprouting broccoli for two
  1. Simmer  the lentils in boiling water for about 18 minutes until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan to a medium-hot and toast the almonds gently for a few minutes until just turning golden. Remove from the pan and set aside when done
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of light oil in the pan and turn the heat down. Gently and slowly soften the onions for about 5-10 minutes until sweet and soft and just beginning to colour. Add the chopped garlic and fry for a few more minutes. Season.
  4. Turn the heat up and add the balsamic. Simmer until reduced for about 1 minute and the onions are coated in a sticky sweet glaze. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. Par-boil the broccoli for 1-2 minutes and drain well. Heat a griddle pan until hot and charr the broccoli on all sides for a few minutes on a high heat.
  6. Meanwhile, drain the cooked lentils and season well. Add the onions and parsley and stir. Finally add in the charred broccoli and finally some of the almonds, reserving the majority for the topping to keep them crispy and crunchy!

Spanish Lamb Shanks


adore slow cooked dishes especially as it usually involves a a budget friendly cut such as lamb shanks. My favourite way to cook meat, besides the barbeque obviously…But while the first May bank holiday weekend delivered us a beautifully sunny and fresh evening, the morning hadn’t been as promising for a barbie. My sodden raincoat and squelching trainers sat drying in the sun were evidence enough. With not much time in my working week to knock out a slow cooked creation, the bank holiday offered the perfect opportunity. So a slow cooked, tender, succulent lamb shank in a glossy, sticky sauce studded with manly chunks of chorizo and vege was a definite good alternative. Scattered with fresh mint served on some creamy silky parsnip mash we went to bed with happy stomaches. Oh and we might have finished the meal with some bank holiday brownies. Ahem….

Serves 4

  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 300ml hot beef stock
  • 350ml red wine (Rioja is suggested)
  • 200ml balsamic vinegar
  • 4-6 garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
  • 125g chorizo, sliced
  • 1 red onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 carrots, sliced into chunks horizontally
  • Fresh mint to serve
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly cracked black pepper and salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Heat a large casserole dish on a medium high heat and add a good splash of olive oil. Season the lamb shanks well and brown on all sides in the pan until golden and crisp in places then remove to a plate.
  2. Using the same pan, heat the wine and vinegar and boil for about 5 minutes to simmer off the sharpness of the liquids.
  3. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, some seasoning and the hot stock. Peel the garlic cloves and crush lightly with the back of a knife. Finally add these and the lamb shanks submerged in the liquid.
  4. Place in the oven for 2 hours with the lid on.
  5. After 2 hours, remove from the oven and baste. Add the chopped onion, carrot and chorizo and turn the oven up to 180°C. Remove the lid and place in the oven for a further hour to brown and reduce the sauce.
  6. After this time the meat should be deliciously tender and falling off the bone. Remove the dish from the oven. Place the lamb shanks onto a warm plate and cover with foil while you deal with the sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil on the hob and simmer for about 5-10 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce (Add 1 tbsp of cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp of cold water if needed and whisk this in to thicken further). Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Place the lamb shanks back in the glossy sauce and pop in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the side dishes. I served mine with creamy parsnip mash and purple sprouting broccoli.

Serve one shank per person in a warm bowl a top some creamy mash with some vege and sauce. Scatter over some fresh mint and enjoy!image

WINE: Nothing seems more appropriate here than a native Spanish vino and something substantial to complement the lamb. Try a Rioja such as the La Rioja Alta, 2008 Viña Alberdi Reserva available at Armit Wines.

Jess - Rioja Alta

Sticky Soy and Sesame Pork


peedy and delicious. If you get embarrassingly excited at the idea of sticky sweetly glazed tender strips of pork on soft oozing coconut rice then I suggest you give this recipe a try. Another long week at work, Friday nights recipe choice had high expectations to satisfy a variety of needs. I craved nothing more than comfort, flavour and relative speed. If you serve this on plain rice then you’ll have an even speedier dinner in minutes but I can never resist a coconut infused creation. Except coconut water. Whats the fad about? Dishwater disguised in a eco-friendly carton. Having been found on numerous occasions unashamedly desperately corkscrewing a hole into a fresh coconut only to slurp the fresh juicy ‘milk’ from inside with a straw this is a far healthier (economical) and dramatic way to get your coconut hit! Its fresh and delicious. Plus you get the joyful task of angrily throwing the empty coconut onto a hard floor (outside recommended) to crack it open to access the meaty pure white flesh. Perfect for grating into curries, porridge, use in cakes (see here) or into your coconut rice!

Serves 2

Sticky Pork

  • 1 pork fillet, sliced into thumb sized slices
  • 1 knob ginger, chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander, stems and leaves chopped separately
  • 1 heaped tsp cornflour
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp rice wine vinegar
  • Sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 50g salted peanuts, crushed lightly

Coconut Rice

  • 4 oz brown rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Good handful desiccated coconut
  • 1 lime, zest
  • Handful chopped coriander to serve
  • Green vegetables to serve
  1. Begin with the rice. Warm the coconut milk in a saucepan with about ½ cup of water (you may need to add more water as it cooks). Bring to a light simmer but be very careful as the milk will boil over if left unattended on a high heat.
  2. Let it simmer on a fast simmer for about 25 minutes. You want to end up with cooked rice that has absorbed mostly all the liquid but is still loose so it oozes on a plate. Keep an eye out and add more water if it dries out before fully cooked.
  3. When cooked and still oozing, add the desiccated coconut, chopped coriander and lime zest and keep warm.
  4. Start on the pork which is a pretty speedy process so have your green vege and warming plate ready to go not soon after!
  5. Combine the cornflour with 2 tbsp of cold water in a jug. Add the soy sauce, sesame, vinegar and honey and mix well.
  6. Heat a frying pan or wok on a medium high heat. Quickly flash fry the chopped chilli, spring onion, garlic, ginger and coriander stalks in a splash of sunflower oil until softened. Add the pork and turn up the heat to get a nice colour on the outside.
  7. Fry for about 5 minutes or so until the pork is just cooked but still soft and not dry. Immediately add the soy mixture and stir quickly.
  8. This will thicken and bubble and glaze the pork. If it turns too thick too quickly loosen with a splash more water!
  9. Remove from the heat to prevent it overcooking and add the chopped peanuts and sesame seeds.
  10. Serve atop your coconut rice scattered with extra coriander, any spare sesame seeds alongside your green vegetables with a wedge of lime.

Coffee and Walnut Brownies

Leftover Easter eggs. Still you cry! Yes, as a dark chocolate lover you don’t need much hence why I have a vat of the stuff still sitting patiently in the pantry. Brownies anyone?

Without doubt the best, most trusty brownie recipe and one I’ve always gone back to time after time. My only concern each time I make it is the sugar content. But we are talking about brownies here which come with a certain set of health flaws anyway. Courtesy of Green & Blacks but highly adapted here to reflect one of my favourite cakes, walnuts for crunch and coffee beans for surprise.

Makes about 20

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate (70%) Green & Blacks
  • 350g dark brown soft sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • Pinch salt
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • 2 tbsp coffee beans, ground into chunks in a pestle and mortar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 28cm x 18cm brownie tin with parchment (or a similar size)
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted and combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Stir in the sugar and instant coffee granules until combined.
  4. Whisk the eggs and vanilla well in a bowl and then whisk these continuously into the chocolate mixture until well combined and glossy.
  5. Gently fold in the flour and salt.
  6. Finely, stir in the chopped nuts and crushed coffee beans.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crispy on top but still soft inside. The edges may cook quicker leaving the middle pieces gooey and dense.
  8. Leave to cool completely (yes I know…amuse yourself here) until cold. Then cut into enormous pieces. Serve with some cool creamy ice cream.