This recipe was developed as part of a paid partnership with Marks & Spencer.

I used to find the festive season quite difficult. It raised my anxiety levels which, to be honest, are pretty much consistently set to gnarly anyway. I know some people have a terrible time at Christmas but I think many of us have a sort of mid-level stressy time. I’ve learned to enjoy myself more by employing a cluster of coping strategies and one of them is taking a deep-dive into the festive food pool.

Entertaining a group of pals is part of the fun but I think we’ve all been in a situation where that too becomes more of a hair-pulling exercise than the free and easy social event it should be. I’ve definitely come a cropper thanks to an overly ambitious menu, spending the whole morning freaking out when I should be prepping a relaxed lunch with a glass in my hand. It is very easily done.

So this recipe is all about serving something a little bit different without giving yourself too much to do. I know it seems daunting baking something in a salt crust but it’s just a case of timings which I’ve already worked out for you. To remove any element of doubt use a probe thermometer – you can poke right through the crust with no issues.

M&S got in touch asking me to create a recipe using ingredients from their food hall as they’ve just opened a branch near me in East Dulwich. We’ve all done a mad dash around one on the way home from work but I was amazed at how much they stock after having a good root around for ingredients. I should say however that the fillet of beef I’ve used here needed to be ordered in advance via their website as it’s larger than the fillet steak they normally keep in store, so do bear this in mind as it took a few days to arrive.

Why cook something inside a salt crust at all? Well, it’s fun and dramatic at the table as you crack it open and the fragrant steam puffs forth. Whatever flavours you choose to rub onto the meat are trapped inside and the salt from the crust seasons everything beautifully. You’re probably more familiar with cooking fish this way but it’s fun to try with meat, I think, and I’ve had great success with a salt crusted leg of lamb too.

I rubbed the beef with dried mushrooms and pepper but you could use a combination of woody herbs like rosemary and thyme or pretty much anything, to be honest. I await your reports of freeze-dried raspberry rubbed beef with great anticipation. On the side, I served some potatoes roasted simply with lots of olive oil and salt (parboil, lightly squish and roast with 6 tbsp oil and 2 tsp salt at 180C for 20 minutes) plus buttered greens, carrots and prepared horseradish from a jar. We drank M&S Delacort champagne while cooking, which is impressively rich and biscuity for £35 – it’s great value and would also go very well with my crab vols-au-vent. With the beef, we drank a Gigondas from Perrin Pere et Fils (also from M&S) –  a wintry wine with spicy red fruit and plenty of body yet soft tannins which won’t fight against the fillet.

So there we go – maximum impact, minimal stress. What will I salt crust next?

Salt Crusted Fillet of Beef Recipe

You will need a probe thermometer for this recipe.

250g plain flour
200g rock salt
5 egg whites
1 x 750g fillet of beef
5g dried porcini mushrooms (not from M&S)
12 black peppercorns

Preheat the oven to 200C fan/220C no fan and put a baking tray in there to heat up.

Make the crust by mixing the egg whites, salt and flour. When smooth (apart from the rocks of salt) wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Remove the beef from the fridge (don’t let it come to room temp first). Heat a little oil in a heavy-based skillet or frying pan and sear the beef really well on all sides to get a nice brown crust on it because you won’t get the browning from pan cooking as usual.

Wrap the beef in foil then set it aside for 15 minutes. Blitz the porcini mushrooms and peppercorns to a powder and rub it all over the meat.

Roll out the salt crust, remove the foil from the beef and lay it on top then wrap the salt crust around it, sealing the edges. Make sure the seal is on the bottom.

Remove the baking tray from the oven and put the beef on it. Cook for 18 minutes then probe it – you are looking for a temperature of 46C for rare meat (obviously pop it back in if it hasn’t reached that temperature). Once it is 46C remove it from the oven and let it sit until it’s 50C, around 4 minutes. Carve it right away at the table as the beef will keep on cooking inside if you don’t.

Coffee and Chipotle Short Ribs

This is the second of four recipes I created in partnership with Vitamix and Great British Chefs (that means they paid me to write ’em). 

I’ve been trying to think of something to say about these beef ribs other than that they taste really good and I can’t, really, because it’s Friday and my brain is frazzled. What do British people do when they don’t know what to say? They talk about the weather. So I’m going to say that these are perfect for the barbecue now it’s cooled down a bit, and we can all contemplate actually standing in front of a metal bucket full of hot coals. I’m very glad to see the back of that heat, quite frankly, and until we get air con you can keep your 30 degrees + thanks very much. There, that’ll do, won’t it?

Oh yes, I should say that this is a fantastic rub made by whizzing coffee beans and chipotle chillies together in the Vitamix. The idea here, apart from the fact that it tastes brilliant, is to show you that the Vitamix will blend up pretty much anything, including those notoriously hard to grind beanz.

This results in a smoky, sweet and spicy bark that’s different enough to make people ask you for the recipe. You could easily serve these as tacos with sour cream, some pink pickled onions, hot sauce, black beans and so on. Think something hot, something creamy, something spicy, something crunchy and fragrant, then yer meat = TOP TACO.

Coffee and Chipotle Rubbed Barbecue Short Ribs Recipe

1 rack of beef short ribs
2 tablespoons coffee beans
1 handful of dried chipotle chillies
1 tbsp of dark brown sugar
1 tbsp of salt
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Add the coffee beans, chillies and cumin seeds to the Vitamix and pulse on Variable 5 until you have a medium to coarse spice rub consistency

Rub the paste all over the ribs and leave to marinate 24 hours (this is an important length of time, do not reduce it because it will affect the final texture and moisture of meat)

When ready to cook, remove the tough membrane from the ribs (the meat-side, not the bone-side), and cook at around 105°C on offset heat in a barbecue or smoker. The length of time will depend on the thickness of the ribs and could take 5–8 hours.


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.


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.

Cheese toastie with beef cheek, cauliflower leaves and pickled mustard seeds

Many of us need comfort after the events of the past week or, to be more accurate, the past year. Yes, the cheese toastie is a small thing but its cheering potential should not be underestimated; a shit tonne of melted cheese + nostalgia = a force to be reckoned with. I should, as a sandwich fanatic, own an old Breville toastie maker; I often find myself hankering for the old triangular style made with cheap white bread. Instead, I have a snazzy Heston Blumenthal contraption I was sent as a freebie but which I’ve battered through consistent heavy use. It just about works if you hold in a screw and say ‘melted cheese is the one’ three times fast while thinking about pickled onions.

The build. Piling on half the cheese, beef and pickled mustard seeds.
The build. Piling on half the cheese, beef and pickled mustard seeds.

There was something lovely about the simplicity of old school toasties, with their one, maybe two-item fillings. Cheese; ham and cheese; cheese and onion; cheese and tomato. We all know the dangers of hot tomato as part of the learning curve; many a child went to school with a tomato-shaped blister on their chin. Beans were also high risk. There was egg if you were being fancy (tricky to pull off).

Add blanched cauliflower leaves and more cheese.
Add blanched cauliflower leaves and more cheese.

This style of toastie is still popular in pubs in Ireland, at least in Dublin, where lots will do a ‘toasted special’ – a very basic toastie which I’ve seen cooked in a normal toaster turned on its side while I waited for my pint of Guinness to settle. Cheap white bread, weird canary yellow cheese, too-thick onion. Lovely.

Toasties now are a different thing entirely – a street food trend, people’s livelihoods. We buy them from air stream trucks and restaurants for anything between £5 – £10. They contain multiple varieties of cheese (for the right balance of flavour vs. stringiness) and there are additions, like slow cooked short rib; haggis; onion and herbs; chorizo; macaroni; roast broccoli; pickles; you name it, they toast it.

I rather enjoy the way toasties have evolved, even though it took me a week to make this one. Why? Life. I forgot to buy ingredients, then I didn’t have time to slow cook the meat, then Trump… nope, still can’t deal with it.

Cheese toastie with beef cheek, cauliflower leaves and pickled mustard seeds.
Cheese toastie with beef cheek, cauliflower leaves and pickled mustard seeds.

So this is a thoroughly modern toastie. There is beef cheek which has been cooked slowly in a sauce given depth with red miso. There are cauliflower leaves because right now I’m enjoying them more than the florets, and there is a poky mixture of pickled mustard seeds and onion to offset the cheese. About that: it’s Isle of Mull Cheddar and Marechal. A good combination for flavour + requisite stringiness. It’s a very full-on experience, a world away from the simple toasties of childhood. The thing is, I have a lot more to worry about now. I need a comfort toastie to match.

Cheese Toastie with Beef Cheek, Cauliflower Leaves and Pickled Mustard Seeds

We made the beef stew in a pressure cooker to save time (it had been a week, after all). I use an Instant Pot in case you’re interested. The method as a whole is actually a little ridiculous now I look back over it but hey this is what we did. It tastes fantastic.

For the stock and beef cheek

1 onion, diced
500g beef cheek
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 tablespoons red miso

For the stock

Beef bones (get some from your butcher, they’ll give you enough for stock)
2 onions, roughly chopped into a few pieces
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
Parsley stalks

Put the beef bones in a roasting tin and roast for 30 mins at 220C (not fan assisted). Remove from the tray (keep the pan with the drippings) and put in a stockpot, cover with water and add the roughly chopped onions, peppercorns, parsley stalks and bay leaves. Bring to the boil then simmer for a couple of hours, 3 or 4 if you have time, occasionally skimming off the scummy bits that rise to the top. Strain and reduce the stock by half.

Warm the pan with the drippings and stir in the flour, mixing well for 2-3 minutes. Add a good splash of stock to loosen everything, set aside.

Dice the beef cheeks then sear them in a little oil. Set aside. Brown the diced onion until soft and starting to colour, set aside. Add a splash of red wine, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add back the meat, gravy (from the roasting tin) and top up with the stock. Cook for 30 minutes then release the pressure quickly. Add the onions and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove the meat, reduce the sauce a little, add back meat and the miso. Season.

It’s best if you now leave it overnight. The meat mixture goes thick and jellified and is easier to work with.

For the sandwiches

Slightly stale sourdough
Cauliflower leaves (these are best if you go either high or low end. So, caulis from a farmers’ market or a supermarket basics range will have the most leaves)
Large handful cheddar, small handful Marechal per sandwich
1 tablespoon mustard seeds mixed with 1/2 finely diced onion, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons white wine vingegar for 10 mins

Butter the outside of the bread. Blanche the cauli leaves. Layer up sandwiches with half cheese, beef, cauli leaves, pickles, more cheese. Toast in a sandwich toaster, or you could use a hot pan (weigh the sandwich down with something heavy, fry in butter).


You give me the richest ragu/That’s why I’m in love with you.

Those are Sade lyrics, in case I’ve lost any of my younger readers. She loved ragu, apparently. Couldn’t get enough.

This recipe is from Kenji Lopez-Alt’s book The Food Lab. In case you don’t know him, he writes The Food Lab column for Serious Eats and is also their Culinary Director, whatever that means. Sounds good though, doesn’t it? We’re huge Kenji fans in this house, so much so that we considered building a shrine to him in our living room. Possibly.

His ‘thing’ is that he does lots of recipe testing, to the point where he’s comparing 30 eggs boiled for 30 seconds more each time, side by side, to see which is the best, and he delves into the science of cooking in a Harold McGee kinda way.

I wanted something I could get ready ahead of time since I had friends coming over, so gave his ragu recipe a go. It was fabulous, and had incredible depth of flavour, which is unsurprising considering it contained a paste consisting of anchovies, Marmite, soy sauce and chicken livers, and three kinds of meat. I also went to town with the quality of the ingredients, using Strianese tomatoes, the best Parmesan and hugely expensive pasta. It turns out that last move was a mistake.

Are you hungry? I asked my guests at around the 7.30pm mark. Yes, yes they were. “Magnificent!” I said, and proceeded to be very clever by adding my massively posh pasta to a pan of boiling water. Except it wouldn’t cook. It wouldn’t cook for like, an hour. Maybe more. Those attractive belts of flour and egg which had looked so appealing on the shelf turned into fat flaps of gummy gluten that just would not soften. We ate at around 9pm, after separating the pasta into two separate pans and burning ourselves twice. Someone was so hungry they went to the shop for spaghetti. “No!” I said, shaking from hypoglycaemia, “NO”. We will eat this f*cking clown shoes pasta, mainly because it cost me a tenner.” And so my friends suffered because I can’t control myself in expensive food shops.

Anyway, the ragu is fabulous and you must make it. I’ll admit that the blended chicken livers have one of the most unnerving textures I have ever come across in the kitchen, but you’ll just have to deal. This is an excellent recipe even if it is 100% faffier than any other ragu recipe you’ve ever made. I should also say that it took four hours to cook down, not two as stated in the recipe, which is quite a significant difference. One for the weekend.

Ragu Recipe

This recipe is from The Food Lab cookbook by Kenji Lopez-Alt, published by W.W Norton & Company. I halved the quantities in the recipe and converted them from American measurements, in some cases adjusting them very slightly. I also like to serve it with a gremolata (chopped lemon zest and parsley) which adds some freshness. The original recipe was for 8-10 servings, although I found this half quantity served 8, and you know how much pasta I can eat (at least 300g on my own. What?). 

60g chicken livers
2 anchovy fillets (more if they’re titchy, mine were a good size)
1/2 teaspoon Marmite
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
250ml milk
125ml cream (Kenji specifies heavy cream but I used single cream)
250ml beef stock (Kenji specified chicken but I bought beef because I hadn’t written it down correctly)
1/2 packet powdered gelatin (haven’t looked into why he uses powdered)
30ml extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Large pinch dried chilli flakes
Around 400g tinned tomatoes (I used slightly more in the end)
100g pancetta, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1.5 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
225g minced lamb
225g minced pork
225g minced beef (Kenji said veal but I couldn’t get it)
8-10 sage leaves, chopped
1/2 bottle red wine
2 bay leaves
Handful basil, chopped
Handful parsley, chopped
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
50g Parmesan, grated

In a food processor, whiz up the chicken livers, Marmite, anchovies and soy. Set aside. In a bowl, combine cream, milk, stock and gelatin. Set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat until shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, chilli flakes and cook for around 1 minute, stirring. Add tomatoes, with their juice and bring to boil over high heat. reduce to simmer and cook until liquid has reduced by about half. Set aside.

Combine remaining two tablespoons of oil in a large pot with a lid (you will cook the ragu in this) and cook the pancetta for around 6 mins until the fat is translucent. Add onions, carrots, celery and cook until softened but not browned. Transfer to a bowl.

Return the pan to the heat and add the butter, heat until the foaming subsides. Add the three meats and the sage and cook until meat is no longer pink (don’t brown it). Add livers mixture. Stir. Cook for five minutes. Add pancetta mixture. Stir. Add wine. Stir. Bring to boil, then simmer until wine is reduced by half.

Blend tomato sauce until smooth (easiest with stick blender). Add tomato sauce, cream mixture, bay leaves, half the basil and half the parsley to the pot. Stir. Bring to boil, reduce to very gentle simmer. Cover with lid left with slight gap. Cook for two hours. I cooked for two hours, then found it needed two more, one with the lid off. Use your instinct.

Add fish sauce and Parmesan. Season to taste. Remove from heat to cook for 30 minutes. Stir in remaining basil and parsley. Serve with sensible pasta and a gremolata of equal amounts chopped parsley and lemon zest.

Sichuan Feast

My friend and I cooked this Sichuan feast for another friend’s birthday present. The power of Microsoft Word was harnessed to create a voucher entitling him to “1 Sichuan Feast cooked in your own home”, which he chose to redeem on Saturday.

When the three of us get together, you could say that we enjoy a little drinky. Now this meal took a few hours to prepare so by the time we finished we were a little under the influence. Most of the feast was delicious although there were a few misses: the spicy cucumber salad from Fuschia Dunlop’s ‘Sichuan Cookery’ was strangely bland even though I’ve cooked it 5 times before and it’s always amazing; the tripe (we weren’t sure what to do with it really) and an attempt at getting creative with a bitter melon and black fungus. We blame the booze.

There were plenty of hits though – my mate and I make a damn good team in the kitchen and we’ve got some fine feasts under our belt like this and this. We made fish fragrant aubergines which ended up more like fish fragrant pork, fish and tofu hotpot, twice-cooked pork and the hot and numbing ‘dried’ beef. The meat is not actually dried but goes through a four stage cooking process: first it’s simmered in one piece then thinly sliced; next it’s marinated in a mixture of spring onion, ginger, shaoxing wine and salt before being deep fried, rendering it like strips of  jerky, with a bit more juiciness. Those slices are addictive, as you would expect bits of deep fried meat to be and you need to resist eating them all before the final stage of simmering with soy, ginger, spring onion and sugar until the liquid has reduced to the merest lick of syrup. It’s then dressed with the hot and numbing part – ground Sichuan peppercorns and dried chillies before being sprinkled with coriander and sesame seeds. The pieces of meat have a very satisfying chew and leave a tantalising tingle on the lips.

A few hours, two bottles of champagne and a bottle of Albarino later and we went at that feast like hungry wolves. Noodles flew; hot pot broth splashed; peppercorns bounced across the floor. It must have been quite a sight. Between us we’d prepared nine dishes, had as much fun during the cooking as during the eating and made our friend happy. I call that a success.

You can see more photos from the feast on my Flickr.

Hot and Numbing Dried Beef

(from Sichuan Cookery by Fuschia Dunlop)

500g lean beef in 1 piece
Oil for deep frying, such as groundnut or vegetable oil

For simmering the beef
Small piece of cassia bark or cinnamon
1 star anise

For the marinade:
2tsp shaoxing wine
4 spring onions, white parts only
25g piece of ginger, unpeeled
1/2tsp salt

For the braising:
1 tablespoon sugar
1tablespoon dark soy
25g piece of ginger, unpeeled
3 spring onions, white parts only
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the dressing:
1 teaspoon ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns
1-2 teaspoons ground chillies/chilli flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Very small bunch of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Put the beef in a large pan with the cassia bark and star anise, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer until the beef is cooked then remove and set aside. Reserve the cooking water. Slice the beef into 1cm slices along the grain, then slice across the grain into 1cm wide strips. Halve any long pieces so that all the strips are roughly the same size.

Crush the ginger and spring onions a bit with the side of a knife or heavy object then chop each into 3-4 pieces. Place in a bowl with the shaoxing wine and salt, add the beef and mix really well. leave for half an hour or more in the marinade.

Heat the oil for deep frying in a deep pan. Add the beef in small batches for about 4 minutes, until the pieces are reddish broan and crisp. Set each batch aside to drain on kitchen paper. Don’t worry if they stick together during frying, they should pull apart easily.

Heat 2tablespoons of oil in a wok, until smoking. Stir fry the ginger and spring onions for 30 seconds or until the oil smells fragrant. Add 500ml of the reserved beef cooking water plus the soy, sugar and salt. Add the beef and bring it to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the beef has absorbed almost all the liquid leaving a syrupy glaze coating the beef.

Mix together all the ingredients for the dressing. Arrange the beef on a serving plate and pour over the dressing then garnish with the coriander leaves and sesame seeds.

Jamaican Patties
Jamaican patties are a product of English colonialism and East Indian migration into the Caribbean: the former brought the idea of pastry while Indian slaves brought cumin. Both mix well with the Caribbean flavours: thyme, spring onion, scotch bonnet pepper and allspice.

The patties are highly savoury and perfect if you’re growing tired of snacking on mince pies, deep fried brown things and crisps, as I am. The way to eat a Jamaican patty is to pick it up and dunk it gleefully into your favourite hot sauce. Wash it down with a Red Stripe.

Jamaican Patties Recipe

This recipe makes 8-10 patties.

For the crust

250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g fridge cold butter, cubed
5-6 tablespoons cold water
1 egg, beaten

For the filling (I have a bee in my bonnet about doing a slow-cooked goat filling next time).

250g minced beef
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch piece ginger, finely chopped
1 heaped teaspoon thyme leaves
5 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 scotch bonnet chilli, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 170C

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable or groundnut oil in a pan and add the ginger, garlic and chilli for 30 seconds. Add the beef and cook until brown. Add the spices and stir for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, spring onions and thyme and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring every so often, until nearly all the liquid has evaporated.

While the beef is simmering, make the crust. Sift the flour, turmeric, curry powder and salt into a bowl. Add the cubes of butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mix resembles fine crumbs. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water (add another if it’s too stiff) until you have a stiff dough then turn it out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead until smooth. Do not over work the dough, knead it just enough until it is smooth.

Grease two large baking trays. Roll out the dough until a few millimetres thick and use a saucer to cut circles from it – as many as you can. You can re-roll the trimmings to get more circles. Lay the circles on the baking tray (they will be too hard to move once filled) and brush the edges of each with the beaten egg. Dollop some of the filling in the centre of each then fold over to form a patty. Seal the edges by crimping with a fork.

Brush the patties all over with more beaten egg and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with hot sauce and beer.

The crust recipe is adapted from the Waitrose website.

Beef Rendang

I actually made this a couple of weeks ago, when the weather had just started to really turn. What better way to stoke the internal fire than with a big bowl of rich rendang in the belly.

The recipe comes from William Leigh (which you can find on Dos Hermanos) and I will come out right now and say it: this is the best rendang I have ever made. So perfectly balanced; fragrant and rich. There is something very satisfying and heart warming about putting a load of ingredients in just one pot and a few hours later plating up a thing of great beauty, the smell of which has been intensifying with every teasing minute.

Aside from whizzing up the paste, that is essentially all you do until you get to the end stage when things get a little hairy. The final step of the recipe involves the splitting of the coconut milk and I’ll admit to feeling slightly alarmed when I returned to the pot to find this unholy mess.

Don’t panic though – this is normal. As the liquid cooks out of the milk the oil is left behind and the beef then fries in it, resulting in that all important flaky texture. You need to keep a careful eye on it at this stage, as once it begins to dry up, you are done. I would also recommend using a solid, heavy based pan (or a wok) and be prepared to give it a good soaking afterwards. One final bit of advice: the method section of the recipe on Dos Hermanos does not tell you when to use the can of water so I added it to the pot with the coconut milk as I couldn’t see any other logical time to do it.

I was rewarded for my patience with a deep, sweet, tongue titillating rendang;  fragrant with lime leaves, galangal and lemongrass, with a tropical note of coconut and a good heat from the 10 Thai chillies I added. William acknowledges that his final seasoning of fish sauce and lime juice is a break from tradition but I agree that it lifts the whole dish and gives a very welcome burst of freshness. The meat flaked apart at the merest prod with an eager fork. I urge you to try this recipe.

I served it with a  raita (tomato, cucumber, coriander, lemon juice and seasoned yoghurt) and an onion salad, which I serve with pretty much all curries. Just plunge finely sliced onions into a bowl of icy water and leave for an hour or so until they turn crisp then season and add dried mint; I keep a pot of dried mint for no other reason. We scooped up each greedy gob-full with warm chapattis then sat back and rubbed our bellies in an appropriately satisfied manner. If I could, I would have purred like a cat. I made the rendang again the very next day.

Beef Rendang (from Dos Hermanos)

6-10 Thai Chillis depending on how hot you like it
1 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown sugar

1kg stewing beef ( cut in 2in cubes)

2 tins coconut milk
1 tins worth of water
Stalk lemongrass
Lime leaves
1 bay leaf
2tbs fish sauce
Juice of a lime

Whizz the paste ingredients with a little water to a smooth paste. Add to a large pan or wok with the lime leaves, bashed lemongrass stalk, bay leaf and coconut milk.

Add the beef to this and let it bubble slowly for an hour and a half. Turn the heat up and cook until all the coconut milk has almost gone. This will take a while, maybe 45 mins to 1 hour, and it will look strange while it’s doing it. Eventually it will start to colour and the oil will come out of the coconut milk completely.

The beef will fry in this oil and turn quite dark brown and rather flaky – then you’re done. Turn off the heat and stir though the fish sauce and lime juice.