January 31, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Northwest European — ros @ 2:16 pm

steak bearnaise 

but oh, so good.

I’m aware that this blog is turning into a bit of a  red meat -fest. I make no apologies. This phase will probably wear off when it gets warmer.

Steak Bearnaise is my idea of treat food but at the moment treat food happens every time Goon visits. I really shouldn’t spoil him so much. In spite of my best efforts to get him to live like a civilised human being, Goon has reverted to eating ‘convenience’ food of the lowest order. By that I mean the sort of food that most of us would be reluctant to eat even if the only alternative was to chew off our own arm.

I’m serious! He eats tinned chicken curry on pasta. Or tinned steak and kidney pudding on pasta. Or tinned chilli on pasta. You think I’m joking? I didn’t believe it until I went around there and saw his bin.

Ah, well, at least he’s learned to cook pasta.

Even though these poor living conditions are entirely self inflicted, I feel the need to treat him when he comes to my place and, on school nights when I’m feeling uninspired, steak bearnaise is an obvious choice. It’s not cheap and it’s not healthy but it is tasty and  if the home made chips weren’t a safety issue, I could probably make it with my eyes shut.

Steak Bearnaise and Home Made Chips

  1. 2 sirloin steaks (200-250g each)
  2. 4 medium maris piper potatoes
  3. oil for deep frying

For the Bearnaise Sauce

  1. the yolks of 2 large eggs
  2. 100g unsalted butter
  3. tarragon vinegar - around 1 tbsp
  4. 1 level tbsp finely chopped tarragon

A green vegetable such as asparagus or green beans to serve

To make the sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a pan. .
  2. Bring a small pan half full of water to the boil
  3. Whisk the egg yolks in a heat proof bowl.
  4. Place the heat proof bowl on the pan so it is sitting above the boiling water
  5. Continue to whisk the eggs until they start to thicken, then trickle in the butter a little at a time while you keep whisking.
  6. When the sauce is smooth, fairly thick and light yellow, add the tarragon vinegar a little at a time. It pays to taste it after adding a teaspoon, to see that it isn’t becoming too tart.
  7. Finally stir in the chopped tarragon and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Take the water off the boil. The sauce can be left while you make other things but it needs to be whisked ocasionally to stop a skin forming on the top.

For the steak and chips 

  1. peel the potatoes and cut into large chips.
  2. Bing a pan of salted water to the boil. Boil the chips for 5 minutes. Drain thoroughly and set aside. 
  3. Rub the steaks with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and cook on a griddle to your preferred taste. I got a griddle pan very hot, then cooked on one side for 30 seconds, turned the steak around by 90 degrees then cooked it on the same side for another 30 seconds. then I turned the steak over and did the same on the other side.
  4.  Wrap in foil and keep at room temperature for about ten minutes.
  5. While the steaks are resting fill a large sauce pan one third full of sunflower oil. Heat over almost full power for two or three minutes. Keep a large plate covered with two or three layers of kitchen towel ready to drain the chips on.
  6. To test if the oil is hot enough, drop a cube of bread in. It should sizzle and go brown in anbout 1 minute.
  7. Remove the bread cube with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the chips in batches to the oil. Remove with a slotted metal spooon as they turn golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and allow to drain completely.

Serve each steak with the chips, a green vegetable and a big dollop of sauce. Garnish with extra tarragon. 

January 9, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Mediterranean — ros @ 9:36 pm

That’s an understatement. It’s f*cking freezing.

I swear there hasn’t been a winter this cold since I moved back to London. I have swapped my pretty fur trim gloves for big thick things that look like they belong in a boxing ring and still I can’t feel my hands by the time I get home. In fact yesterday I couldn’t feel anything below my knees either, which led to a very embarrassing tumble outside Tesco.

Even in weather like this, I still get bored of stews so I’ve been trying to vary them as much as possible. Veal blanquette has made an appearance as has a spicy root vegetable and lentil curry but this week’s favourite was the one below.It’s an interesting combination of flavours: slow cooked beef with warm spice, sweet sultanas and a slight bitterness from the pepper.I blogged it a few years ago before my hard drive crashed but that page is in quite a state so it is worth reproducing.

Cephalonian Beef Stew

cephalonian beef casserole

  • 3-4 large shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 very small, or half a large green pepper, cored, deseeded, sliced 
  • 200g stewing braising steak
  • half a small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • a handful of sultanas
  • 3-5 cloves
  • a splash  (capful) of red wine vinegar
  • 400ml beef stock
  • a heaped tsp of crushed coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon 
  • cooked tagliatelle, tossed in marscapone and nutmeg to serve
  1. Brown the beef in a medium suacepan (I needed to split it into 2 batches). Remove the heat and set aside.
  2. In the same pan sautee the peppers until soft. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the shallots to the pan and allow to soften.
  4. Return the beef to the pan and stir in the spices.
  5. Add the beef stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  6. Stir in the chopped squash, vinegar and and simmer for another 30-40 minutes until the beef is tender and the squash soft.
  7. Stir the peppers back into the pan
  8. Taste and season and serve over the tagliatelle.

January 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Region(s), Japanese, Light — ros @ 2:38 pm

Regrettably, I’ve never been to Japan. I hope to one day. It sounds like an amazing place and the little bits I hear about the culture fascinate me.

Of course, the cuisine captivated my attention as soon as I heard about it. Raw fish! How many other cultures will serve this up? Ok, there’s the cured salmon we have in Europe and things such as ceviche in Mexico, but not such a range as you’ll find in Japanese cuisine.

Having said that, I remember being unimpressed the first time I was introduced to sushi. Those little rice rolls from M&S in the mid nineties did nothing for me. But then, sometime during my student years, I was at a certian popular conveyor belt restaurant and discovered sashimi. My fellow mathmos raised their eyebrows slightly as I devoured several plates of raw salmon and tuna and then they indiscreetly pointed ot that I was now responsible for most of the bill.

Within the last week or two I visited a nice Japanese retaurant in Westminister, heard a friend wax lyrical about his amazing new life in Tokyo ad was told about a nice restaurant in Barcelona that I must visit if I ever got around to going there. I take this all to be a sign that I should learn more about Japanese food. So my starting point was to buy some Japanese ingredients I hadn’t used before.

In the dish below, which is an amalgamation of various ideas I found online, we have my new purchases of mirin and soba green tea noodles. I used these and some wasabi powder and pickled ginger to create something which is probably not much like a real Japanese meal but at least is a step in the right direction. I’m not confident enough in my knife skills to atempt tuna sashimi yet. I go for the next best thing- tuna just seared so it’s practically raw but the very outside is cooked.

Tuna ‘almost sashimi’ with Soba Noodles, Mirin dressing and Raw Vegetables with Wasabi Dip

tuna and soba noodles

  • 350-400g fresh tuna steak in one piece. I find that it is best to let it come to room temperature before searing it.
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds( I think black would look good but I couldn’t get any) plus a bit extra to garnish
  • Sesame oil (2 tbsp should do)
  • salt and pepper to season the steaks
  • about 175g soba noodles
  • half a cucumber, finely diced
  • 4 small spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander

For the dressing

  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • 2 tsp ginger, finely grated/crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp brown sugar
  • a squeeze of lemon


  • 8 baby carrots, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced into thin strips
  • wasabi and pickled ginger to serve, plus perhaps extra soy
  1. Prepare the vegetables and coriander.
  2. Rub the tuna steaks all over lightly with sesame oil. Season and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Sear over a high heat until just cooked on all sides, Wrap in kitchen foil and leave to rest in a warm place.
  3. Make up the mirin dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients as listed above. Taste and adjust to your liking.
  4. Cook the soba noodles according to packet instructions, drain and refresh in cool water.
  5. Toss the noodles with the spring onion, cucumber and coriander, then toss the mixture in the dressing. Place a portion of the noodle mixture on each serving plate.
  6. Thinly slice the tuna steaks amd arrange over the noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Serve with the matchstick vegetables and the wasabi and ginger.


I did a bit of research on my two new ingredients.

Mirin is an ingredient I haven’t knowingly encoutered before, although no doubt it was one of those flavours in plates of sushi unidentifiable to me. True mirin apparantly is about as alcoholic as sherry, although versions with less than 1% alchohol are produced now which have the same flavour. The flavour is unique and very strong, but dominated by a heavy sweetness.

The word soba can refer to any noodle of medium thickness- i.e. not an udon noodle. Usually they’re eated cold with a dipping sauce or dressing  or hot in a broth. Mixing them with salad vegetables like this is a fairly modern idea. My soba noodles were flavoured with green tea but the flavour was barely discernible even before the dressing was added.

Also, Goon says the noodles don’t taste good raw. He should know, he ate a quarter of a pack. You probably guessed that yourselves without trying them.