I seem to go through all or nothing phases with this website; a flurry of new content and then silence for a month. The fact I’m still sharing recipes after 12 years must count for something though, right? Just think of me now as a cantankerous old vending machine in need of a kick every now and then to get the Coke out.

I’m very into rice noodles (and soba, come to think of it) once the weather warms up. It’s gloomy today in London but the weather has generally settled into the sweet mid-20’s spot which is pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned. You can keep your 30C+ until this city gets air-con.

I’ve always got the barbecue lit at this time of year, and we had a piece of really good onglet to put on it. Onglet wants to be cooked quickly and sliced thinly across the grain – this will leave you with just the right amount of chew. Sliced too thicky it can become a real jaw workout. The flavour is incredible, and it’s very inexpensive compared to the swaggering ribeye.

I made a dressing from a pounded scotch bonnet (hi, still me!), garlic, grapefruit juice, lime, honey and fish sauce – the kind of salty/sweet/sour/hot thing that gets me excited during the warmer months. Loads of crunchy veg and roughly torn herbs and you’ve got a pretty amazing dinner. This recipe serves four but we ate it between two followed by Double Caramel Magnums because we are greedy and not even the heat seems to affect my ferocious appetite.

Rice Noodles with Onglet, Grapefruit and Scotch Bonnet Recipe

(Serves 4, honestly)

It helps if you have everything ready before you cooking the onglet unless you are fast at prepping. So make the dressing and chop the veg while you are waiting for the barbecue to be ready.

1 large onglet steak, butterflied (you can ask the butcher to do this)
1 scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and chopped roughly (this is a hot dressing so reduce to half a pepper if you want less heat)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
The flesh of 1 grapefruit, segmented
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 daikon, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 leaves Chinese cabbage, frilly parts thinly sliced
170g flat rice noodles
White pepper, for seasoning the onglet (just use black if you like)

Prepare the barbecue for direct cooking.

Make the dressing by pounding the chilli and garlic to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Stir in the grapefruit and lime juices, fish sauce and honey. Taste and adjust until you have a good balance of hot/sour/salty/sweet – this depends on the sweetness of your fruit and heat of your chilli.

Once the barbecue is hot, season the onglet heavily with salt and less so with white pepper, then grill for 2-3 minutes each side. Set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Cook the rice noodles by covering with boiling water and leaving for 6-8 minutes (or according to instructions on the packet).

Once the noodles are cooked, drain and mix with half the dressing. Slice the onglet very thinly and add to the noodles with the vegetables, grapefruit and herbs. Plate up and finish with the remaining dressing.

BBQ Steak and Pineapple Tacos

I rarely get around to sharing the off-the-cuff recipes I cook day to day. Look, writing a blog is a lot of hard work; I know it might seem like I just sit down and bash out a few hundred words and take a quick snap and, yeah, ok, that’s sort of what happens but let me tell you that doing it for a solid ten years takes a fair bit of organisation.

Making things look appetising is a concern, of course, because no-one wants to see a photo of brown stew taken with flash at 9 pm on a Formica countertop, so that means pictures are off limits once natural daylight has waned. If you want to share a recipe, then you need to write down exactly what you used and what you did, either at the time or very shortly afterwards because trust me, you definitely won’t remember. All this before you’ve even considered whether or not the end result is worth sharing.

Grilled Pineapple

Nowadays, most recipes I cook work the first time around (that’s a benefit of years of messing stuff up, so I’ve earned my stripes) but for all the necessary elements to come together without any planning, well, it just doesn’t happen too often. Sometimes my camera is out of battery, or I have people round and don’t want to be in food blogger mode. Perhaps I just can’t be bothered (I KNOW).

Anyway, the point is I’m going to try and share more of these ‘everyday’ recipes and before you say, ‘OMG no-one eats like this every day’ let me say that, yeah, sometimes I just make a sandwich or a boiled egg but actually, quite often we do bash out a batch of tacos of a lunchtime and what of it? I’m not trying to show off here – I eat for a living. This is just what I do.

So. This lunch was completely unexpected – I was on my way home when I got a call from the BBQ Hotline which went something along the lines of, ‘I have a few hours I didn’t expect to have – let’s grill’ to which I replied, ‘pass dem tongs’ and the result was these tacos.

BBQ Rump Steak

We rushed up to Flock and Herd butchers in Peckham, bought a fine hunk o’ rump and rubbed it down with ground Pasilla and chilli de Arbol, blitzed cumin and coriander seeds. We grilled fat wedges of pineapple until blackened, chopped them up to reveal their juiciness and dusted them with Tajin – an excellent dried lime and chilli dust that is everywhere on tables in California and Mexico (do not fret – you can buy it online). We oiled and blistered spring onions, purchased scary-red Mexican Habanero hot sauce (mucho authentico), then stamped out some corn tacos, cooking them on a hot plate on the grill.

BBQ Steak and Pineapple Taco

It’s the grilled pineapple that makes these so good – the sweet fruit alongside the lime, grilled steak and searing bite of the Habanero is a killer combination (see also: grapefruit and mango). We ate the lot between us, alongside several cold beers and afterwards, snoozed on the sofa. The perfect, impromptu Saturday lunch.

BBQ Steak and Pineapple Tacos

1 x 600g rump steak
1 Pasilla chilli
2 Chilli de Arbol
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon sea salt

6 spring onions
1 pineapple
Tajin seasoning
Coriander, to serve
Habanero hot sauce, to serve
Shredded white cabbage dressed with a splash of good white wine vinegar and salt and scrunched with your hands, to serve (totally optional and just for a bit of crunch)

10 tacos – you can either buy these – corn tacos are available now online and in shops, or you can make them. We made them but we didn’t write down quantities and it’s not helpful to say ‘add water until the mixture feels right’. Recipes are abundant online – here is one on Kitchn and another on BBC Food.

Light your BBQ.

Grind the chillies and spices and mix with the salt. Rub all over the steak.

Peel the pineapple and cut into quarters lengthways. Remove the core then cut each quarter into long wedges. Grill this on the BBQ (as it is), then chop.

Trim the spring onions then rub them with a little oil. Season with salt and grill whole until charred. Chop.

Dust any excess rub off the steak then grill it to your liking on the BBQ. We like it medium rare as you can see. This is going to take around 8 minutes on the BBQ, flipping every minute or so.

Pile it all into tacos. This isn’t rocket science. Ice cold beers on the side work very nicely.

steak-slice

I am around seven years old, standing in a car park somewhere in the South of England, crying hot tears onto a cold steak slice. Standing over me is a woman with desperation in her eyes, a woman who would do anything for this strange little girl to stop making a scene and get into the car so we can leave.

It’s not my mother but someone else’s. I’m on holiday with a friend – we’ll call him John, even though he won’t read this – and it is their family holiday. I have no idea why I was so upset (maybe homesick?) but the memories are flashbulb moments of his mum leaning over me – bewildered, frustrated and at times, downright angry.

Steak slice, ready for the oven.
Steak slice, ready for the oven.

She had a thing about hot Ribena for the duration of this holiday or rather, her kids did. Hot Ribena is the single most disgusting beverage in the world, right up there with warm snake’s blood and coconut water. For some reason, I felt like I had to drink it anyway, that reason most likely being that I was seven years old and didn’t have the confidence or bad manners to tell her otherwise.

I remember standing in the driving rain, feeling the sickly burn combine with nausea in the pit of my stomach. There was a time when I was being particularly difficult (perhaps bawling at the prospect of another purple blackcurrant juice scalding its way down my oesophagus) and The Mum had all but given up. Enter the steak slices. I remember clearly the moment when she popped the boot of the car, pushing aside the wellies, cagoules and carrier bags to reveal a pile of Ginsters, the black and red wrappers garish, her face grimacing as she handed them out. This was a woman who used to force feed us consommé from a tin and once had a go at me for using the wrong knife on a piece of cheese. She had aspirations.

steak-slice-3

I remember her apologising for the fact there was nowhere to heat up the slices but I couldn’t have been happier. She wouldn’t believe me. I really loved a cold steak slice, see, along with a cold steak and kidney pie, or a cold cheese and onion pasty. She was giving me a huge hug from home with one hand while trying to take it away with the other. I gleefully ate it, all the wobbly peppered steak inside gummy cold pastry.

I was reminded of all this when I made these toasties because the filling, when eaten straight from the fridge, tasted just like a steak slice. It transported me instantly to the inside of a rustling raincoat, tiny red fingers clutching a packet. I had to make them. They went a little wrong because I over-filled (rookie mistake) and one burst open in the oven. Coincidentally, I did this because I was upset about something and I simply cannot cook when my mind isn’t on the job. The past few months have been stressful, which is why I had just a little taste of a freshly baked slice, before letting it cool and putting it carefully to rest in the fridge. The next day, it emerged as the perfect comfort food, no tears necessary.

Enjoyed this trip down memory lane? You may also like my Horse Meat Crispy Pancakes in the style of Findus.

Steak Slice Recipe

I tried a couple of variations on this including one with cheese and pickled onions. It was nice, but in the end I preferred just the steak filling.

1 quantity of  this steak filling (I added a handful of tiny button mushrooms too)
1 x 375g puff pastry, ready rolled (why not, eh?)
1 egg, beaten

Once the filling has been made, allow to cool and refrigerate, I left mine overnight. It needs to be completely cold and jellified otherwise it will run everywhere.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Do this next bit fairly quickly, because the pastry needs to stay cold. Cut the sheet of pastry into 4 pieces, and place two of them on a baking tray. Divide the steak slice filling between the sheets leaving a 2.5cm border (that’s a guess) around the outside and brush it with beaten egg.

Roll out the remaining sheets of pastry so they’re slightly larger than the bases. Put them on top of the steak filling and press the edges together with a fork. Score the top if you like, using a butter knife (don’t cut all the way through). Brush the whole thing with beaten egg and cook for 20-25 mins until golden.

If you’ve got any taste at all you’ll let them go cold before eating. Maybe.

The structure of the sandwich is of utmost importance. As I have said during many an interview on the subject, there is nothing, NOTHING, worse, than the corner of a sandwich gone soggy as a result of seeping tomato juice; that’s just an amateur build, right there. Everyone knows you don’t put that tomato next to the bread, you put it underneath a protective barrier, such as lettuce. Unless of course, it is a tomato sandwich, in which case lettuce should be nowhere near it and you should simply be eating that sandwich immediately.

Another example is the construction of a burger. A burger with chillies and cheese. Think about the layering; what you don’t want to be doing is putting the cheese directly onto the meat and then attempting to settle the chillies on top; they will tumble out of the burger and onto your plate. Or your lap. The chillies should be placed directly onto the meat, and then sealed with the layer of cheese, creating a spicy pocket and preventing any loss of fillings.

The sandwich I’m going to tell you about in a moment contains caramelised onions, which have been cooked down in very concentrated beef stock and bourbon. Now if they were on a burger (which they bloody well shouldn’t be because that would be horrible and wrong), then they would need sealing on top of the meat with the cheese as per chillies. In the case of my cheesy creation however, it was only appropriate to smear them directly on the bread. Why? I don’t know. Such is the complexity of the sandwich build. Part rule abiding, part instinct.

The sandwich is made with Gruyère, steak and sticky onions, in a muffin. I ended up making this as a sort of homage to another food blogger – I’m not going to mention any names – who basically makes dishes ‘with all the flavours of’ other, existing dishes, ‘spaghetti bolognaise tacos’ for example, or  ‘fish and chips pizza’ (I may have made those up). Me and a few of my mates are addicted to this blog, and to laughing (affectionately) at the latest recipe. So this is a sandwich with – wait for it – ‘all the flavours of’ French onion soup. The onions, the beef stock, the onions, the cheese, the onions. It’s hella tasty I have to say. And extremely rich. I wouldn’t attempt it with anything bigger than a muffin, you’d probably be sick.

French Onion Soup Muffins Recipe

2 English muffins Gruyere cheese, grated 2 onions, sliced Beef stock, preferably home made Bourbon 4 thick slices good quality steak (I used sirloin) Butter

Melt a good lump of butter in a pan and let the onions caramelise very slowly in it. This should take about an hour. When they are nicely golden and soft, splash in an inch or so of beef stock and a splash of bourbon. Let this cook out until there is barely any liquid left.

In a hot frying pan or skillet, quickly sear the beef slices on either side for mere seconds, then let rest while you build the sandwich. In the same pan, toast the split muffins briefly. Preheat a grill, then spread each muffin with onions, on the top and bottom halves, and add a layer of cheese over each layer of onions. Wang this under the grill until the cheese is nicely melted. Remove and divide the steak slices between the sandwiches. Put the two halves together and off you go. Lovely with a beer.

For more on the structure and contents of sandwiches, buy my book! 101 Sandwiches is a collection of the finest sandwiches from around the world. 

Onglet, or skirt steak, is a great cut of beef to cook on the BBQ; it has so much flavour and just needs a really quick grilling over high heat. Over cook it and you’ll find dinner now has the texture of a flip flop, but get it right and you’ll cut into juicy meat with a texture like butter. I gave it a bathing in a spicy, fruit based marinade which was pretty damn fine when slung into tacos. Here’s what to do:

1. Meet @markymarket at Chancery Lane tube to take receipt of a kg of onglet. You can’t miss him – he’ll stick out like a sore thumb wearing a white butcher’s coat and lugging a cool box. Contact him via his website or Twitter to place an order.

2. Gather some mates together for a hot and sticky summer evening BBQ. They will bring loads of interesting wine because they are ace.

3. Make the fruit marinade. I was originally going to use papaya; a great meat tenderiser. I didn’t though because I didn’t have one and also, papayas are expensive. SO expensive. What I did have was 1 very ripe mango and 3 apricots, the flesh of which was whizzed with grapefruit juice, garlic and scotch bonnet chilli. This makes a great table sauce too, so reserve some for later. Pour the sauce over the onglet and marinate for an hour. It will look like it’s covered in sick. It isn’t; that’s your delicious mango sauce, silly.

4. Grill the meat. Rest the meat. Slice the meat. Eat the meat. We piled it into tacos and topped with guacamole, salsa, and onions quick pickled in lime and orange juice.

A dollop of that mango sauce on top is most excellent, too…

Mango and Scotch Bonnet Marinated Onglet Tacos Recipe

(serves 4)

1 kg onglet (skirt steak)

For the marinade:

4 cloves garlic, peeled
Flesh of 1 ripe mango
Flesh of 3 apricots
Juice of 1 grapefruit
1 scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded or not is up to you
Splash olive oil
Salt and pepper

Get the onglet out of the fridge about 2 hours before you want to cook it. Whizz all the marinade ingredients in a blender and pour 3/4 over the onglet, reserving the other 1/4 for serving. Light your BBQ and wait until the flames have died down and the coals are nice and grey/white all over, you want the BBQ as hot as possible and that doesn’t mean flames. By which point your onglet should be ready.

Brush off excess marinade and season well on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes, then flip and grill a further 2 minutes. Repeat this – so a further 2 minutes each side. This should give you pretty rare steak, but of course it depends on the thickness (you could also brush a little of the reserved marinade on while cooking, if you like. Don’t double dip the brush into the sauce you’re going to serve at the table, though). Let the meat rest for 10 minutes while you get everything else ready, then slice and serve with extras below.

For the guacamole:

I steal a trick from Thomasina Miers here and bash up a little onion and chilli first in the pestle and mortar, as well as mixing some in, which gives a really nice overall savoury flavour. Mix with the flesh of 2 avocados (roughly mashed, you want some texture), juice of 1-2 limes and a little more finely chopped onion and chilli. Finish with salt, pepper and coriander.

For the salsa:

Make a basic tomato salsa by seeding and finely chopping really ripe tomatoes, about 6, and mixing with half a small finely chopped red onion, a squeeze of lime juice, small handful chopped coriander leaves, and salt and pepper.

For the pickled onions:

Another trick nicked from Thomasina Miers, whose book ‘Mexican Cooking Made Simple’ is actually really bloody good. Cover finely sliced red onions with boiling water for ten minutes then drain. Squeeze in lime and orange juice, plus a finely chopped scotch bonnet chilli. Leave for a couple of hours. Makes a great condiment on loads of things, actually.

Tortilla/taco note: I have been e-mailed by a reader who pointed out I have ‘misrepresented’ tacos as I have actually used tortillas. Fact is, tacos are impossible to get hold of for me and also, I don’t like them. Too tough. So yes, I used tortillas and cut taco shapes from them. Apologies if this has offended anyone else. 

Chimichurri

When a girl gets gifted with a hefty hunk o’ prime cattle, her thoughts immediately turn to entertaining; a lengthy weekend lunch with mates was on the cards. Picture this: nearest and dearest gathered on sofas with a glass and a smile; the soothing rhythm of contented chatter drifting through the kitchen; me pondering whether or not to give the beef another 10 minutes resting. I imagine myself emerging from the kitchen carrying the magnificent centrepiece to a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and pairs of eyes gleaming with excitement. I’ll be as proud as punch as I set her down on the table and…

…pooff! That was the sound of my dream going up in smoke. We still don’t have a proper dining table and it’s breaking my heart. Our only stand-in is a dainty set of patio furniture which only sits two and well, it’s garden furniture. That only really feels right if you are either a student or it’s Christmas and you need to squeeze in a couple more relatives. So anyway that’s my excuse for two of us eating a piece of meat that could probably serve ten. I’m sticking to it.

I began by cutting off two fat sirloins for Sunday lunch. A ballsy chimichurri filled the craving for something with the invigorating prickle of salsa verde without actually being just that; I seriously need to overcome my addiction to the green mistress. Parsley is still a main contender here, whizzed with a lorra lorra garlic and spiky chilli flakes. A fine way to commence a week of bovine feasting. It’s a tough job, eating all that lovely meat, but someone’s got to do it.

Chimichurri

30g parsley leaves (a large handful)
2tsp hot chilli flakes or to taste
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 shallot
Olive oil, to loosen
4 cloves garlic
Salt
A sprig of fresh oregano, leaves removed (optional)

Either chop the garlic, parsley, oregano and shallot very fine or whizz in a food processor. Mix in the chilli flakes, vinegar, lime juice and loosen with olive oil to reach your desired consistency. Season with salt. Great with grilled meats and fish.

Steak Tartare

And so the year ended with one final meaty fling in the form of a birthday meal for my boyfriend. One last colon-clogging protein punch before our bodies gave in to cravings for nothing but fish, vegetables and miso soup. I expect you could hear my arteries begging me to stop from wherever you were at the time. Or maybe I really wanted to do fish but it was the 29th of December and all the fishermen were at home toasting their toes by an open fire, spending time with their families and generally having a life rather than braving the stormy seas catching fishies for my convenience.

Anyway. The fluster of festivities left me utterly unprepared and before I knew it I found myself in front of the butcher wondering, ‘what would Simon do?’ Simon Hopkinson that is. In my hour of need I turned to my king of British cooking. The pages of his ‘Week In Week Out‘, are so indelibly etched into my memory, that as I cast my eyes over the pieces of meat in front of me, I could hear him sagely whisper, “page 148,  Helen – surely you remember?” At once a stunning vision materialised: red nuggets of beef glistening against the silvery blade of a cleaver.

I used 125g lean sirloin per person (more flavour than fillet), and spiked the fine dice with whatever choice of seasonings took my fancy; chopped capers, cornichons, shallot, parsley, anchovies, Worcestershire sauce and mustard are all strong contenders. An egg yolk is essential for me, adding silky richness. Traditionally the tartare  is heaped onto toasted rye (I didn’t have any) or alongside a pile of frites (didn’t fancy making them) but thinly sliced baguette did the job just fine.

There is a curious excitement about eating entirely raw meat; it feels a little bit naughty – risky, even. Soft nuggets of melty beef are roused to life by piquancy and heat; as much as you dare. The key is not to tip the balance too far. Restraint, as always, is key.

For the main course, fish was obviously out and there was no doubt in my mind that serving a vegetarian course to the boyfriend on his birthday would be nothing short of highly offensive. I roasted a couple of partridges and served them with Simon’s bread sauce and game crumbs; bread crumbs crisped in the partridge roasting juices. Followed by cheese with beetroot chutney and a dark chocolate fudge cake, you could say it was the perfect end to a seasonal binge, and the perfect pre-cursor to a detox. To be  honest though, I’ve never really been into all that dieting malarkey and anyway, I have a feeling it might offend Simon.

Steak Tartare

Simon advises using 125g of either fillet, lean sirloin or rump. I used sirloin in place of fillet as it has so much more flavour. Chill it well then remove any fat and dice very finely, before placing in a well chilled bowl. You can now add your choice of seasonings, or if you are serving it at a dinner party or the like, just set things out on the table and let people add their own. As I said, parsley, capers, cornichons, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, anchovies, shallots and black pepper are all worthy additions. An egg yolk on top is essential in my opinion. Clearly not a dish suitable for the pregnant or vulnerable.

Steak with Salsa Verde

If I had to choose a ‘favourite meal’, steak with salsa verde would most definitely be up there – top 3. A well-hung  piece of meat which is dark, flavourful, the flesh marbled with fat. Yes please.

I remember the first time I tasted salsa verde. A summers day and one of my mum’s perfect summer meals. Roast chicken, slathered with herbs and butter. Broad beans with bacon and herby vinaigrette and new potatoes, glistening and flecked green with the salsa. I still make that meal to this day.

Salsa Verde Recipe

Small handful each capers and cornichons
1-2 cloves garlic
5-6 anchovy fillets (brown, salty kind)
Large handful flatleaf parsley, leaves picked
Slightly smaller handful each basil and mint
1 level tablespoon mustard (I used wholegrain but dijon is better)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
8 tablespoons olive oil
Pepper

– The key is to chop everything really finely, then put in a bowl before adding the mustard, pepper and vinegar. Then stir in the oil. If you find it too tangy or have a less than great red wine vinegar, try adding a little sugar.