Cooking fussy dishes and fine dining is all very well, but ultimately food is something we indulge in 3 times a day. That means a repertoire of meals is important to fit around our lives, then even when food isn’t a priority for your day you can still create something tasty in a short time.
This was a last minute lunch I prepared. Start to finish will take under 20 minutes (assuming you’re handy with a knife) which is half the time a pizza delivery takes and less than most ready meals (cooked in the oven at least).
Ingredients for 2
- 1 quality dry aged rib-eye steak, 12oz (some may prefer 16oz or more, I think this is enough for a light meal)
- 200g runner beans
- 4 shallots
- Wholegrain mustard
- White wine vinegar
- Castor sugar
Firstly put a small frying pan on a low-medium heat with a splash of oil. Put the heaviest pan you have (ideally a nice cast iron grill pan) on a high heat. Also start the kettle boiling for the beans. Peel and finely slice the shallots and add to the small pan to gently fry.
In the meantime lightly rub the steak with a high-temp oil (e.g. groundnut / vegetable) and season generously with salt and pepper. If you have some foresight you can season the steak early, but make sure it’s at least an hour before (for the science you can read this fascinating article on salting steaks ). Place in the hot pan and turn once a minute to your taste (for a thick cut rib-eye 4-5 minutes is probably about right). To my mind medium-rare is better for fatty cuts, to allow it to start rendering some fat and crisping up a bit. Take off the heat and let it rest for at least 5 minutes in a warm place.
Top, tail and de-string the beans (I found it quickest just to “peel” the edges off) and chop fairly finely on a slant. Boil for 3-4 minutes in a pan, drain and set aside. When the shallots have softened (6-8 minutes total) take off the heat and add a tablespoon of mustard, a tablespoon of vinegar and 1/2 tsp of sugar along with the beans. Season and mix together well.
Once the meat has rested, it’s vital to cut it the right way. Find the grain of the meat (pull the top a bit and look for long strands) and then cut against the grain (i.e. slice over the long strands). This means the knife does the work your teeth would have and the steak will appear far more tender. Serve up the beans and place the steak slices on top. Enjoy!
Bread baking has become an enjoyable part of my repertoire, after some frustrating early attempts. The River Cottage Handbook No. 3 (Bread) was a fantastic introduction to the confusing world of yeasts and glutens with clear simple explanations to the magic.
I was keen to get into sourdoughs, but each attempt at cultivating my own breadmaking army resulted in enemy invasions taking over, with the inevitable yeastocide (i.e. tipping them down the sink). Fortunately my cousin-in-law very kindly donated two of her yeast starters for me to cultivate, and being already established means they are now thriving even in my care.
I picked the classic River Cottage white sourdough recipe. It’s a long recipe with the “sponge” being left overnight and then allowing time for 4 rises and a final long proving. The bread still didn’t look huge but I placed it quickly in the super hot oven along with a dash of hot water for steam. The results were great, it puffed up nicely with some decent air holes and a fantastic flavour.
Bread baking at home is very satisfying, and not as hard or mysterious as people think, so I would encourage every one to give it a go. Even a slightly awry loaf is still SO much better than the awful, light as a feather, thin sliced breads in the shops.
Here’s a delicious mid-week recipe to cook, and for those of you with carb (or lack thereof)-obsessed partners it should work even better. I’d say it’s pretty healthy with white fish and veg, the prosciutto isn’t essential but adds seasoning, texture and sheer damn tastiness.
Ingredients to serve 2
- 1/2 cauliflower
- 1 red pepper (Bell or Romano work well)
- 2 cod fillets
- 4 slices of prosciutto (parma ham would work nicely as well)
- Chives (flowering if you can get any) or some spring onions
- Whole grain mustard
- 1 lemon
A nice easy recipe, you’ll just need one large and one small pan. Heat up the large pan over a medium heat with a decent splash of cooking oil (olive / vegetable is fine). Chop up the cauliflower into small florets, halving any particular thick ones to ensure even cooking. Add to the pan. Chop up the pepper into short slices and again add to the pan. Keep moving occasionally to brown evenly for 12 minutes.
In the meanwhile wrap each cod fillet in two slightly overlapping slices of prosciutto and place the smaller pan over a medium-high heat with a splash of cooking oil again.
Once the peppers and cauliflower are looking close to ready (12-15 minutes) add 2 teaspoons of the mustard, plus season with sea salt and ground pepper. Lower the heat and add the juice of the lemon / chives, you just want to keep it warm at this point now.
Add the wrapped cod fillets to the pan and turn every minute or so until cooked. This will depend on the width of the fillets but will be between 5 and 8 minutes roughly, assuming a decent heat in the pan. Plate up a few large spoons of the veg mix per person and place the cod gently on top for a classy, tasty, healthy low effort meal.