Asparagus soup with poached egg on toast

There has been a chill in the air all of this week. We’ve been spending a lot of time indoors which I always find a struggle. At home Lexie seems to need constant attention. Why is she incapable of playing by herself? Ever? It drives me nuts! In an attempt to do something fun with her that wouldn’t end in (my) tears, we built our first fort. Thankfully it was a success, though it took a while to convince Lexie she didn’t have to put all her toys and clothes in it. Does anyone else’s child love stuffing everything into places? Lexie is obsessed with cramming things into her suitcase/bag/oven/Sylvanian camper van.

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Another soup recipe from me today. It seems fitting for the chilly weather. It’s from the Jamie at Home cookbook which is divided into seasons. Under spring falls my great love asparagus. I’ve tried all the recipes in this section and the standout winner is this creamy asparagus soup with poached egg on toast. It is really delicious and tastes so luxurious despite the lack of cream and butter.

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The book tells me asparagus is one of the most nutritious vegetables you can eat, full of vitamins and folic acid. It is also a diuretic and a good liver cleanser (although I think this soup is lovely with a nice glass of white burgundy). Lexie really enjoys eating this and helping to make it. She likes making soups as our handheld blender is broken so I have to use the magimix and she gets to press the button. She also loves poaching the egg, helping me crack it into a little bowl and stirring the water to create a vortex.

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Asparagus soup with poached egg on toast

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 35 mins
Budget: £5 (£3 asparagus, 20p onion, 20p celery, 50p leek, £1.30 eggs)
Ease: Easy for the soup – medium for the poached egg
Serves: 4

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, rinsed, trimmed of edges and chopped into 2cm pieces
  • 1 sliced leek
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 sliced stick of celery
  • Chicken stock cube
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg per person
  • Bread – ciabatta is nice for this recipe

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Gently heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion, celery and leek with a little salt. Sweat gently for 10 minutes without browning. Add the asparagus, stock cube and top up with water. You can make this soup as thick or as thin as you like depending on how much water you add. Cook for 20-30 mins. When it’s ready whizz it in a blender and season to taste. A word of warning – once I made this in a rush, didn’t sweat the vegetables and cooked it for just under 20 mins. The result was like eating the leftover stringy pulp from a juicer! So definitely respect the cooking times!

My method of poaching eggs is not foolproof and doesn’t always work (I mean doesn’t always look pretty). Use the freshest eggs you can and crack them into bowls – one bowl per egg. Boil a small saucepan full of water and add a small splash of vinegar and a tiny bit of salt. Reduce the heat so the water is simmering and create a vortex by swirling a spoon around the water. Pour the egg into this simmering vortex and leave for 3 minutes. If doing more than one egg make sure you pour it into a different part of the saucepan at the same time – I’ve never done more than 2 at a time! Start toasting the bread and when the egg is done, remove with a slotted spoon and place on the toast. Serve the soup either as Jamie does, with the poached egg and toast resting on top of the soup or, as I do, on the side.

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Two dresses, some tulips and a cauliflower soup

It’s been a week for flowers and dresses. I couldn’t resist getting some beautiful tulips from the market and we have small branches of apple blossom dotted around our flat. Lexie likes shaking them and making the blossom “snow” on her head.

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Inspired by the new season I’m finding myself wearing dresses, drawn to anything floral or white and crocheted. Two ebay finds that have delighted us this week are this little Laura Ashley number for Lexie (99p!) and a Whistles dress that I will probably wear at my wedding – I love it!

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Continuing on the white theme, I also made the most delicious scallops with cauliflower the other day. The recipe is, as always, by the beautiful Mimi Thorisson whose book: ‘A kitchen in France – a year of cooking in my farmhouse’ is now available to preorder – hurrah!! This was wonderful, light and fresh despite the copious use of butter. The cauliflower was probably my favourite element – I adore cauliflower. As there are only two of us and there is only so much cauliflower one can eat at a time – even for an aficionado like me – I used less than half of it for this recipe. I needed to make something else with the rest… hmm decisions decisions.

I thought about cauliflower cheese but didn’t really fancy it. I love Lewis’ Indian spiced cauliflower he serves as part of a ‘Rice and Three’ vegetarian curries – the other two are usually sag aloo and dal. But I don’t know how to make this (there is still some cauliflower left so his recipe will probably be on the blog next week). As it’s still quite chilly despite the blue skies I decided on my mum’s cauliflower soup. This is a delicious and simple creamy soup that we ate with cheese toasties and, in Lexie’s case, a sombrero.

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I should add that my mum is the worst person in the world to ask for a recipe. For example: “Mum how did you roast this amazing pheasant?” (which includes brandy and flambeing in the cooking)… Mum: “I put it in the oven.” When I asked her how to make this soup, she replied: “Like every other soup.” Lewis and I think it’s hilarious to do ‘my mum’ impressions when cooking. Me: “Lewis what are you doing?” Lewis: “Cooking hmmmpfh!” etc etc.

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The pic above is us out in our new dresses and old denim jackets. Lexie turned to me aghast that day and said: “Mummy where our coats!!!!” She was right, it was far too cold to be out without proper coats.

Cauliflower soup 

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Budget: Under £5 (£1.50 cauliflower, 20p potato, £1 milk, 20p onion)
Ease: Easy
Serves 4

  • 1/2 cauliflower head, cut into florets
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small sliced white onion
  • Chicken stock cube
  • 1 cup milk
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

Gently fry the onion in a little olive oil or olive oil and butter for 10 mins. Add the potato, cauliflower and stock cube, cover with water. Cook for 20-30 mins then blitz in a blender. Put the soup back in the pan and gently heat. Add a cup of milk and a little knob of butter and stir in. Season to taste and serve.

Crab linguine with Albert – Lexie’s other boyfriend

This is another mother-in-law recipe that has become one of my all time favourites. It encompasses all my favourite ingredients – salt, lemon, chilli, garlic, olive oil. We make it regularly buying dressed crabs for ease, but nothing will beat eating this in the Scottish Highlands. The local fisherman delivers crabs caught that morning directly to my mother-in-law’s house.

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Yes that beach is in Scotland. The weather is always changeable in this part of the country but last summer we were blessed with a run of glorious sunny days. Lexie was overjoyed to be on the beach and ran headlong into the freezing Atlantic sea completely nonplussed. Usually the weather is more like the picture below taken the year before. I couldn’t find a picture of the crabs but here is one of me with a lobster that was also part of our special delivery.

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Crab linguine ticks a lot of boxes. It’s often our Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve main course. Recently it’s been my go-to dish if cooking for girl friends because it’s luxurious yet ready in the time it takes the pasta to cook. Perfect for a midweek lunch with Caroline who was visiting with her son Albert. By perfect I mean as perfect as lunch with two awake two year olds will ever be (Lexie: “Mummy need wee wee”… Albert: “Mummy I need wee wee NOW” etc). It was so lovely to see them. I mean how can you not adore a little boy who arrives to see your daughter like this…

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Albert is Leo’s main competitor. Him and Lexie have been friends since they were 6 months old as we lived over the road from each other. Caroline and I found the local area difficult and we both ended up moving after a year, in their case to Brighton by the sea. It is such a shame we don’t get to meet up as much anymore – I mean just look at these two!! I’m already picturing my grandchildren with Albert’s amazing hair.

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We all ate linguine but the kids had peas and parmesan instead of crab. I’m not sure when I’ll give Lexie crab – can two year olds eat crab? In any case ours had lots of chilli so wasn’t kiddie appropriate. The crab was yummy as always but I’ll probably aim for something even easier next time we are all together. The kids were way too excited to eat and after the various wee stops/spillage wipe ups etc our pasta was pretty cold. But it was fine because we had bubbles! And strawberries and cherries in garden after lunch which were very popular and made up for the lack of lunch eating. Come back and see us soon Albert and Caroline!

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Crab linguine

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins
Budget: £10 (£5 crab, £1.50 parsley, 50p lemon, 50p chilli)
Ease: Easy
Serves 2-3

  • 1 dressed crab per 2 people
  • Olive oil
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • Lots of chopped parsley
  • 1 or 2 lemons
  • Salt and pepper
  • Linguine

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Start by making the crab mixture. Scoop the prepared white and brown crabmeat into a bowl adding a generous amount of olive oil. Add the chopped parsley, crushed garlic and finely sliced chilli – I wear rubber gloves and use scissors to chop chillis and avoid getting any on my hands (I wear contacts and also worry about touching Lexie with chilli fingers). Mix it all together with a spoon and season with salt and pepper to taste. Start cooking the linguine and just before it’s ready squeeze some lemon into the crab mixture. Drain the pasta reserving a tiny amount of the cooking water. Mix the crab into the pasta so that the linguine strands are all nicely coated. Serve with extra olive oil for drizzling and more lemon slices. We always seem to add loads of extra salt and lemon. Serve quickly because it cools down fast but, having eaten it cold this very day, I can say it’s still tasty cold! Not optimal but still good!

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I love the two pictures below of Lexie in Brighton last year on a trip to see Albert.

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Braised fennel, tomatoes and chickpeas (nice with cod)

When I was pregnant we lived with my mother-in-law for six months. Our beautiful flat (that we no longer live in… sigh) was being renovated. We moved into it in September and Lexie was born a month later. Although it was a bit stressful being displaced, it was also a golden time. Living in her light, airy Georgian house that summer I felt extraordinarily free. I wasn’t working, I spent a lot of time napping, reading and sitting in the shade of the fragrant garden. It was an oblique time compounded by the displacement perhaps and I was very happy.

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She also cooked us so many wonderful meals. This is one of her recipes that I love. Fragrant, filling and nutritious, I usually make this with baked or pan fried cod but it’s lovely by itself too. Ideally use dried chickpeas using the cooking water as the stock, but I rarely have the foresight and use tins. I haven’t managed to get Lex to eat the fennel yet but she loves the tomatoes, chickpeas, fish and broth.

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Braised fennel, tomatoes and chickpeas

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins
Budget: £5 no fish, £10-£15 with fish (£1 chickpeas, £1.50 tomatoes, £1 fennel, £1.50 herbs)
Ease: Easy
Serves: 2

  • 1 tin of chickpeas or equivalent dried chickpeas soaked overnight and cooked for 1 hour
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion (white fine too)
  • Some small tomatoes on the vine
  • Bouillon
  • 1 clove peeled and sliced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of chopped fresh parsley or basil
  • Splash of vermouth or sherry or white wine (optional)
  • Fillets of cod (optional)

Put the sliced onion and fennel in a pan with olive oil and some salt. Cook slowly, partially covered for 10-15 mins. Then, If using sherry or vermouth, add a splash now and sizzle for a bit until the alcohol has gone. I haven’t used any booze in this dish for ages – it’s fine without. Add the garlic and place the tomatoes into the pan and cook on a medium heat. Stir from time to time but the idea is for the tomatoes to retain their shape so stir around them with a wooden spoon. After another 20 mins add a small glass of water and a tiny sprinkle of bouillon. Add the drained and rinsed tin of chickpeas along with the chopped parsley or basil. Add more water to get the consistency you want – it can be as soupy as you like, maybe just add a little more bouillon in which case. Cook for another 5 mins or so and it should be done. Serve with olive oil for drizzling and some nice fresh bread to mop up the broth.

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  • If you have used dried chickpeas (so soaked overnight, drained and rinsed, then cooked for an hour in fresh water), use some of the cooking water in place of stock and also add the cooked chickpeas as above.
  • If having fish, either pan fry or bake. To pan fry – salt and dust the cod fillets with a little flour, heat some sunflower oil in a pan to a high heat, place skin side down and don’t touch for 2-3 mins, gently turn over add a squeeze of lemon and fry for another 2-3 mins. The fish should be ready and serve on top of the chickpea, fennel broth with a slice of lemon. To bake – place some of the chickpea, tomato and fennel broth into a casserole and place the fish fillets on top. Drizzle the fish with olive oil, coarse sea salt and a squeeze of lemon. Put in a pre-heated oven for 10 mins – you will need to judge the cooking according to your oven and the size of the fish – when done the fish should be flaky and slightly translucent.

Here is a picture of my mum and Lexie enjoying my mother-in-law’s beautiful garden last summer.

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Basque hake with clams

I have a confession – I don’t like fish. It didn’t use to be this way!! There was a time when sardines or seabass, a plate of oysters or mussels filled me with joy. Then I got pregnant and it all changed. Suddenly, and sadly ever since, I am one of those people who say they don’t like fish because it’s ‘fishy’.

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Lexie loves fish. Lewis loves fish. My mum is from the Basque coastline near San Sebastian where seafood reigns supreme. For their sakes I’m trying to like fish again! I’ve made some headway with seafood. There is no way on earth I could stomach a mussel or oyster right now but I have started eating crab.

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One of my favourite fish dishes used to be hake with clams and parsley. This is a staple of my family, especially my beautiful cousin Maite Miren and I always have it when I visit the Basque country. Hake is incredibly popular over there but very common in the waters around the UK. It’s mostly shipped to Spain which is a tragedy because it’s fantastic. Here is a photo of Maite with her two gorgeous daughters Sara and Andrea. I have no idea why they are so pouty in this photo so here’s a jollier pic of them with my other cousin Olatz (also beautiful!) during the famous ‘Carnavales de Tolosa’ (a week of fiestas before Easter, on the first Friday night the whole town buries a sardine at midnight, the next morning they dance la Diana around town and so on for a week… all in fancy dress!).

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If anything is likely to cure me of my fish phobia this is it so Maite sent me her recipe. Lexie and I bought top quality hake fillets from Applebees, the best fishmongers at Borough market (we also shared one of their delicious prawn wraps). Then we bought Palourde clams from the popular fishmongers in the middle of the market as Applebees didn’t have any.

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The verdict: this recipe is delicious… if you like fish! It’s very simple, the flavours are subtle so the hake and clams are the the stars of this dish. This is Lewis favourite style of Basque cooking. He’s not a fan of the mayonaisy/bechamely style of tapas that are also very popular. Lexie also loved it though I left the clams out for her, I’m not quite sure why. I liked the clams and the hake was cooked to perfection BUT it just tasted fishy!!!

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Hake with clams

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 5-10 mins
Budget: £15-20 – good quality fish costs lots of money (£13 hake, £4 clams, £1.50 parsley)
Ease: medium – there is a knack to cooking fish well that must be learnt by experience even though the recipe is simple
Serves 3

  • Hake fillets or steaks (fillets have no bones so better for kids)
  • Clams – as many as you fancy
  • Olive oil
  • A little flour for dusting
  • Salt
  • Big handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 chopped garlic clove
  • 1/2 white onion chopped
  • 2 big glasses of white wine

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Start by cleaning the clams. My cousin always gives them a bath in salty water ‘to make them feel at home’ she says, and to release any grit. Check all the clams and discard any that are open – they should be tightly sealed shut. Drain then add the clams to a pan with a glass of white wine and cover. Cook on a high heat until the clams have steamed open – 3-5 mins approx. Set aside reserving the liquid.

Gently fry the onion and garlic in a frying pan that will be big enough to take the fish fillets. Fry for 10 mins or until the onions have softened but not browned. Salt and dust the fish fillets with a little flour, turn up the hob to medium hot, then add to the onions with the skin side up. Add the clam liquid and some more wine – this recipe is poaching the fish in the pan, not frying it. Cook for 2-3 mins then gently turn and cook for another 2-3 mins. The sauce should be bubbling down and you may need to add a little fish stock or wine for more liquid if the fillets are thick or if the sauce drying up. At the last minute add the chopped parsley and clams y listo! My cousin recommends serving this with chunky chips and a hardboiled egg (I’m not sure if she means a finely chopped boiled egg to sprinkle on top – will check). Lewis hates boiled eggs so we omitted this and we made rice instead which was fine as there is a lot of sauce. I gave Lexie the fish with a little rice and sauteed courgette and she ate it all happily.

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Baked rhubarb with orange and ginger

Rhubarb isn’t very Spanish and I was in my 20s the first time I had it. I think it was my mother-in-law who made me the most delicious rhubarb fool served with sable biscuits. This recipe is also hers – dreamy rhubarb baked with orange and ginger and served with vanilla ice cream. The perfect desert after a long Sunday lunch!

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Baked rhubarb with orange and ginger

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins in the oven or 15 mins on the hob
Budget: £5-10 (£3 rhubarb, 50p orange, £4 ice cream)
Ease: easy
Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of rhubarb, ends trimmed
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • A few chunks of peeled ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream

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Put the chopped rhubarb into a baking tray with the sugar, ginger and orange. Cover with foil and bake at 180 for 20-30 mins. Or you can cook covered on the hob for 10-15 mins. When it’s done the rhubarb should be all fluffy with a gorgeous red syrup. Remove the ginger and serve hot with scoops of vanilla ice cream!

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Globe artichoke with butter and lemon

I distinctly remember the first time I ate a globe artichoke. It was 2002 in Aix en Provence where I was living for 6 months as a student. Here’s a pic of me outside my wonderful studio flat! There are a gazillion things I loved about living there – the weather, the beautiful architecture, the beaches and countryside of Provence – and of course the wonderful food markets and bakeries.

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One week my cousin from Australia came to visit me and we duly perused the local market. She bought huge globe artichokes and cooked them so simply, with some melted butter and lemon to dip the leaves into. We ate the artichokes on my little rooftop balcony, watching the sun set with a bottle of Rose! La vie est belle!

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Yesterday I cooked a wonderful roast chicken for a big Sunday lunch with my mum – her first proper outing since a knee operation in January. I made Mimi Thorisson’s lemon, thyme and rosemary roast chicken and it was delicious – I highly recommend it! Mum and I love artichokes and, spotting them at the market, they were an obvious starter along with some asparagus.

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Globe artichoke with butter and lemon

Prep time: 2 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins
Budget: £5 (2 artichokes for £5)
Ease: easy
Serves 2-4

  • 2 globe artichokes
  • Half a pack of butter
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt

Place the artichokes in a deep pan, cover with water and boil for 20-30 mins until it’s easy to pull the leaves off. Just before serving make the butter sauce – melt the butter gently in a pan, add salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Drain the artichoke and serve alongside the buttery dipping sauce and a big bowl for the discarded leaves.

(In the pic below Lexie is protesting that she wants to start eating NOW!!)

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Simple asparagus tapas

My family is obsessed with asparagus. In fact I think the whole of the Basque country is obsessed. Whenever we have big family dinners there’s always a plate of asparagus as an appetiser, it’s always in the bars – the ubiquitous green vegetable. If it’s a special occasion, like Christmas, we have delicate white asparagus served with langoustines and mayonnaise – divine! I’m very very happy that my daughter loves asparagus too!

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Here is a super simple and traditional way to serve a tapas of asparagus! This is my go-to starter for all meals with friends and family – I made it recently as a starter for friends before crab linguine, and yesterday as a starter before a delicious roast chicken (I made Mimi Thorisson’s rosemary, lemon and thyme roast chicken – I highly recommend this recipe!). It’s great with other tapas – jamon, boquerones, Spanish tortilla, garlic mushrooms, pan tumaca etc.

I just have to add, having written asparagus a few times now, it is totally one of those words the more you write it, the weirder it becomes! Is it really spelt like that etc!?! Apparently it derives from a latin word that derives from a greek work that derives from the Persian ‘asparag’ meaning to sprout or to shoot! There you go!

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Asparagus tapas

Prep time: 1 min
Cooking time: 5mins
Ease: Easy

  • 1 bunch of green asparagus, rinsed and ends trimmed
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Place the asparagus in a wide pan and cover with water. Parboil for a few mins depending on thickness. Drain and set aside. Heat the olive oil in the same pan on quite a high heat, add the asparagus and sprinkle with salt. Fry for a couple of mins then you can shake the pan a bit or turn the asparagus with a fork. Add a generous squeeze of lemon and after a couple more minutes they should be done. Sometimes I cook asparagus on a really high heat and blacken some of the sides, other times I lightly fry them – they are pretty versatile!

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Basque piperade with eggs

There are so many nights when I still don’t know what to make us for dinner. Yesterday was another day where the fridge was bare and it was too late to pop to the shops. The only fresh ingredients I had were eggs and some peppers.

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Omelettes never feel very substantial and scrambled eggs on toast I reserve for when I’m completely out of time. Egg fried rice was an option but I kept thinking about a recipe for baked eggs with tomato and chilli my friend Dani recommended. I didn’t have chilli but was reminded of Basque piperade – a tomato sauce with peppers – that I did have the ingredients for.

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Piperade goes with lots of things – cod, chicken – but in our family we always had it with rice and fried eggs. My mum made this for me a lot growing up but I associate it more with my aunty Consuelo, herself a mother of 5. My mother Carmen, Consuelo and their little sister Feli were known as the Brigitte Bardot sisters such was the resemblance – three blonde bombshells! (See the pic above – my mum is in stripes with Consuelo behind her – I need to find some more pics of them!). They are wonderful cooks, even now they are in their 80s with arthritis ravaged fingers, the food they produce is incredible (I’ve a vivid memory of watching my aunty last year expertly joint a chicken with a machete and she still pulls off a 6 course Christmas dinner for 15!!).

This is a tasty recipe that’s quick and easy to make and very cheap. I’ve used my mum’s recipe with no paprika or pimenton (spicy paprika) because we don’t really like the smoky taste. I’ve asked my cousin to send me my aunty’s version which I’ll add here when it arrives and another time I’ll share a very similar recipe for courgette or marrow that is just wonderful. Lexie loved it – she loooves fried eggs so much so anything that is a vehicle for them goes down well with her.

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Basque piperade with eggs

Serves 4
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins
Budget: £5 (£1.80 eggs, £1.50 peppers, £1.50 parsley)
Ease: easy

  • 1 or 2 tins of whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 white onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • Rice
  • 4 eggs
  • A little sunflower oil – the amount you use to fry eggs, we use quite a lot

Put enough rice on to cook for 4 people. I use the cup method – one cup of rice to two cups of water, stir once, bring to the boil then cover and reduce the heat, leave simmering for 10 mins. Check the rice is done and if it is then turn the heat off and cover the saucepan with a clean tea towel with the pan lid on top to seal it tightly shut. My Spanish flatmate taught me this – apparently the tea towel helps absorb moisture. Even without a tea towel it’s good to let the rice rest off the heat for another 10 mins and it will sit happily for longer, steaming away making the rice all perfect. Another very Spanish way to cook rice is to fry a bit of chopped garlic in olive oil in the saucepan, then adding the dried rice and tossing it about in the oil before adding the water then cooking as above.

While the rice is cooking, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan (i.e. Le Creuset). Add the onion and a little salt and fry gently for 10 mins. You can make a piperade with a sofrito base (slow cooked onion for ages) but traditionally all the veg is cooked quickly and retains a bit of bite which I prefer. Add the peppers and garlic then fry for another 5 mins. Then add 1 tin of tomatoes or 2 sieved tins of tomatoes according to preference (in Spain we always sieve tinned tomatoes), add the bay leaf, a pinch of salt and a tsp of sugar and bubble away for a few minutes. Bring the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 20 mins or until you are happy with the sauce. Add a little water or wine or stock if it’s drying out. 5 mins before you want to serve it add the fresh parsley.

Around the time you add the parsley start cooking your eggs. I can manage 2 at a time, no more than that so do batches – kids first for example so their meal can cool a little while you cook yours. Our method is to heat some sunflower oil to a high temperature (but not spitting) in a non-stick frying pan with one peeled garlic clove. Break the egg into the frying pan and reduce the heat immediately – it should sizzle when it hits the pan and the white should bubble up. Salt then fry until you are happy with it, baste with a bit of the oil if you like. Discard the garlic! It’s only there to flavour the oil.

To serve we’ve always put the rice and sauce separately on a plate with the fried egg on top and some fresh baguette or white bread to dip into the egg and mop up the delicious juices!

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L’amour! C’est le steak frites!

One year for Valentines we tried to be ironic and go for a curry. The joke was on us as the entire restaurant was full of heart shaped balloons and tables for two. Since then (and because I love Valentines) we stay in, have steak and chips and watch a classic movie. This year’s film was Riso Amaro which also provided the soundtrack to our evening.

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Lewis always cooks the steak ever since he attended Ginger Pig cut up a cow masterclass. He also makes the chips as per my mum’s recipe but for a change we decided to try matchstick chips! I loved them but he prefers my mums. Our usual steak of choice is rib-eye but I think I’m wavering. We had an incredible T-bone a while ago then recently a Thai ‘Crying Tiger’ sirloin that just blew me away, both challenging the rib-eye’s title as the steak of true love! Quick question: what is your favourite steak and why?

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Rib-eye steak and matchstick chips

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Budget: £15-20 (£12 2 rib-eye steaks, £2 potatoes, £1.50 parsley, £1.50 green salad)

  • 2 rib-eye steaks
  • 2 peeled potatoes
  • 40g softened butter
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 or 2 chopped anchovies
  • Sunflower oil (or groundnut oil)

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Make the butters – I like garlic and parsley so add 1 clove crushed garlic and some chopped parsley to the butter and mash it all together. Lewis likes anchovy butter – exactly the same but with some anchovy as well. Put the butter on a plate ready to serve.

To fry the steak and chips it’s a simultaneous job so make sure everything is ready! For the steaks – just before frying season with salt and pepper and brush with groundnut or sunflower oil. Heat the griddle pan (or heavy bottomed pan) until it’s very hot but not smoking. For the chips – what a palaver! Peel and chop the potatoes into matchsticks (ha ha ha) 1/4 inch thick. Rinse in cold water and pat dry with kitchen towel. Get a pan of sunflower oil really hot (mum and I are 100% convinced sunflower oil is the best oil for chips/any fried potatoes). Then you are ready to fry!

Put the chips on first, lower the potatoes into the oil. Fry until golden and crispy. Because they are so thin it should take a matter of minutes. Don’t overload the pan – we did 2 batches but the first batch went a bit soggy whereas the fresh batch were crispy and super tasty – less is more!

Fry the steaks at the same time as you put the chips on. On the high heat fry for 2 mins each side (rare) or 3-4 mins (medium rare-medium). The temperature of the pan and the thickness of the steaks will affect results but that is a general guide. Once done, set aside to rest for a few minutes on a plate covered with foil while you finish the chips. When the chips are ready remove with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen towel to absorb some of the oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately! Put some of the butter on the steak so it melts into deliciousness. We followed our steaks with a simple green salad and some dark chocolate (usually we have Lewis chocolate mousse after steak but we didn’t make it in time). Voila – l’amour!

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