I have finally reached Z (and therefore the end of this blog). Don’t despair however, as I will be starting a new blog about cooking food that’s in season very soon, so stay tuned.
This week I decided to go all out and cook something I’d never eaten before: zebra steaks, which I found at The Exotic Meat Company in Borough Market. They source their zebra products from a managed ranch in South Africa. It was expensive (~£10 for two steaks), but as this isn’t an everyday meal and has been shipped in, the price is justifiable for a one-off meal.
The zebra steaks I bought were very lean and having done my research, zebra has a delicate flavour for red meat. Therefore I didn’t want to overpower the meat with other intense flavours too much, so I could enjoy it properly. I therefore decided to marinate the meat in a simple marinade, and serve with gnocchi and a crunchy, colourful salad.
The recipes below serve 2.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Half a bag of designer salad leaves (I used watercress, spinach and rocket);
Radicchio – finely shredded;
¼ fennel bulb – finely shredded;
1 stick of celery – finely cut;
2 spring onions – finely sliced;
1 tbsp white wine vinegar;
2 tbsp (extra virgin) olive oil;
a pinch of salt
a squirt of lemon juice
½ tsp Dijon mustard
500g gnocchi (homemade or straight from a packet is fine);
3 tbsp olive oil;
a pinch of salt;
2 twists of pepper;
1 tsp of rosemary – finely chopped;
2 x 150g zebra steaks;
4 tbsp olive oil;
2 tbsp lemon juice;
1 tbsp yuzu juice;
1 tsp salt
several twists of pepper
Firstly prepare all the ingredients for the salad and toss together in a bowl. Then make the salad dressing by combining the white wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon, salt and mustard. The dressing should start to emulsify thanks to the mustard (as opposed to separating). Don’t pour the dressing over the salad until you’re ready to serve.
For the zebra steaks, put all the ingredients in a shallow bowl to make the marinade. Place the steaks in there and leave to stoop for about 5 minutes a side.
Put a large frying pan over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once it’s hot enough (the oil will start shimmering) tip in the gnocchi. They will take a couple of minutes to cook on either side. About halfway through the cooking, add the seasoning (salt, pepper and rosemary) and remember to toss / turn over so they get an even colour.
Whilst the gnocchi is on the go, put a griddle pan over a high heat and leave to hot up, then add the steaks. As always, I oil the steaks (via the marinade), not the pan to avoid the kitchen filling up with smoke. It takes 3-4 minutes to cook on each side if you like your steaks somewhere between medium and rare, although tailor the times to your preference.
Once cooked, take the steaks from the griddle and wrap in tin foil for 5 minutes. This resting time allows the steak juices to settle and makes the meat more tender.
In the meantime, dress the salad and serve up the gnocchi, salad and finally add the steaks to your plate and dribble over the juices.
This evening’s blog, despite having a rather impressive French name (Salmon en croûte literally meaning ‘crusted Salmon’) is actually very simple to prepare and cook. Quite frankly, anything wrapped in golden, cooked puff pastry looks great, so when you cook this for guests they never need know how easy it is to actually assemble. I use this word, as this recipe is more of an assembly job than actual cooking.
This recipe is for 2 (greedy) people, but if you want to make a bigger one, just double (or triple) up the ingredients. A large salmon en croûte makes for a great centrepiece when you’ve got a few guests round for a dinner party.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
2 (240g) fillets of salmon – skins cut off (ask your fishmonger to do this, else use a small knife and do it slowly and carefully yourself so as not to waste any of the flesh)
250g puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge from frozen is fine)
130g spinach (young leaves, freshly washed)
5 chestnut mushrooms (finely sliced, and then sliced again into very small cubes/morsels)
1/2 large onion – finely chopped
2 tbsp crème fraÎche
Freshly ground pepper
Oil (anything flavourless)
Knob of butter
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
Over a medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan with the oil (this stops the butter burning), then add the onion and mushroom and leave to fry off for 5 minutes.
Once everything has softened and the onion has become translucent, add the spinach and turn the heat down low. Leave to wilt – this will only take a moment or two if you carefully mix the spinach into the mushrooms and onions with a wooden spoon.
Once wilted, add the juice of half the lemon, a pinch of salt, a couple of turns of pepper and crème fraÎche and mix together for a moment. Then take off the heat and put the mixture in a sieve over a small saucepan (no heat underneath is needed). Leave the liquid to drain off (but do not discard) and the spinach and mushroom mix to cool slightly. The reason this is cooled now is because if the mixture went onto the pastry hot, the butter in the pastry would melt and you could end up with a gooey mess.
Whilst you’re waiting for this to cool, it’s time to prepare the pastry. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to just under ½cm thick. The width should be big enough that it accommodates the salmon filets with a 2cm borden. The length should be enough, so that the pastry can be folded over and encase (or ‘crust’) the salmon. Transfer the pastry to a baking tray.
Season the salmon with a sprinkle of salt and pepper on both sides. Then place the fillets on one half of the pastry. Take the spinach mix and carefully spoon this over the fillets, ensuring it ends up on the salmon rather than falling onto the pastry around it.
Beat the egg in a small bowl. Using your finger, run some of the egg mix around the rim of the pastry – this will help the edges stick together when you fold it over.
Fold over the empty half of the pastry carefully so the sides match up, then use a floured fork (the flour helps it to not stick to the pastry) to imprint the edges and seal your parcel.
Gently score the pastry in diagonals and brush all over with egg white. Trim to neaten the edges and place in the middle of the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the ‘croute’ has puffed up and is golden brown.
When the salmon is ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a moment before slicing and serving. In the meantime reheat the sauce that you reserved from spinach/mushrooms. Add another dollop of crème fraîche and mix together. Serve the salmon with the sauce and some steamed vegetables of your choice.