Rowley Leigh’s steak frites
There’s no point in cooking a steak on your own unless it is of a proper size. Making sure the interior of the steak is at room temperature is as important as ensuring the meat is well rested after cooking.
I maintain that all steak takes the same time to cook. A thick steak will need 4 minutes in the pan for a juicy rare, and 6 minutes of rest; 6 minutes in the pan and 4 minutes rest for medium; and 10 minutes in the pan and no rest for well done. Try it.
I don’t often make béarnaise sauce at home: pan juices, wine and butter, flavoured with pepper or shallots, are all that is required.
rump steak 1, cut from the eye of the rump and weighing 300g, at least 3cm thick
garlic 1 clove, sliced in half
black peppercorns 2 tbsp, lightly crushed
olive oil 2 tbsp
potatoes 3-4 large and long, maincrop variety
sunflower oil 1 litre
unsalted butter 40g
white wine (or red if that is what you have) 1 glass
watercress a large bunch
Rub the steak with the cut side of the garlic clove and press the crushed peppercorns on to one side of the steak. Coat with the olive oil and leave for about two hours to reach room temperature.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into thick chips at least 1cm wide and 8-10cm long. Rinse thoroughly in cold water, then place them in the top part of a steamer. Cook gently for 15 minutes or until they are just cooked through. Allow to cool.
Heat the oil in a wide and deep sauté pan until a heat haze appears – it must not be smoking. Drop the chips into the pan and make sure they are all floating free in the oil. Let the oil come back to a good frying temperature (ie, you can see the chips sizzling in the pan). Keep an eye on the chips while you cook the steak.
Get a small, heavy frying pan on the heat. When very hot, add half the butter. Place the peppered side of the steak into the butter and season the exposed side with salt. Let the steak colour well for 2 minutes before turning. Season the browned, peppered side of the steak with salt and cook for a further two minutes. Remove to a warm plate.
While the steak rests, pour the wine into the frying pan and scrape up the juices and the peppery residue. Allow to reduce.
Once the chips are golden brown, drain (saving the oil) and salt them, and keep them warm in a moderate oven. Once the juice in the pan has reduced to a syrupy glaze, add any bloody juices from the steak. Whisk in the remaining butter, then bathe the steak briefly in the pan. Put the steak, its sauce and the chips on a warm plate, and add the watercress. Eat with a good steak knife and as good a red wine as you can lay your hands on.
Rowley Leigh is a chef and author of A Long and Messy Business (Unbound, £25)
Signe Johansen’s carrot, pomegranate and chickpea salad with a spiced citrus dressing
One of the reasons I always have a tin of chickpeas in the cupboard is so I can make this dish. You can also use dried chickpeas – just follow the cooking instructions on the packet and fold them into the salad once cooked and drained.
carrot 1 large, washed (or peeled if you prefer) and roughly grated
pomegranate 1 small, shucked
chickpeas 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed
toasted flaked almonds a small handful
banana shallot 1 (or 2 if they are smaller shallots), peeled, finely chopped and placed in a bowl of iced water for a few minutes
flat-leaf parsley or coriander 1 bunch, leaves finely chopped
For the spiced citrus dressing
unwaxed lemon grated zest and juice of 1 small
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
ground cumin ½ tsp
olive or argan oil 4-5 tbsp
salt and black pepper
Place the grated carrot, pomegranate seeds, chickpeas, almonds, shallots (drained of the iced water) and parsley or coriander in a medium bowl.
Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and taste. If the dressing is too sharp, add a little sugar or honey to taste.
Dress the salad and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour or longer. This makes a great lunch or light supper, and can be kept for a day or so to be upcycled into a packed lunch. Add grilled chicken, feta, labneh, mozzarella or queso fresco (or tahini and more nuts if you would like to keep it vegan).
From Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One by Signe Johansen (Bluebird, £16.99)
Gill Meller’s seven-meal roast chicken
There’s something exciting about roasting a chicken for supper. Cooking a chicken for one might seem a little over the top, but not only do you get roast chicken, there’s also enough to make up to six more delicious dishes.
butter 50g, softened
garlic 2 small cloves, grated
dried marjoram 1-2 tsp
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp
water ¼ glass (or white wine or cider)
For the gravy
plain flour 1 tbsp
chicken or vegetable stock 300ml
Accompaniments of your choice
Remove the chicken from the fridge about 1 hour before you cook it. Combine the butter, garlic, marjoram and plenty of salt and pepper. Pull the legs away from the body and lift the wings out from under the bird – this helps hot air circulate around the chicken. Place the chicken in a suitably sized roasting tin. Lift the skin from the breast by carefully edging your fingers between the skin and the meat. Try not to tear the skin.
Spoon two-thirds of the herby butter under the skin, massaging it towards the thighs and wings. Rub the remaining butter over the top. Season all over with salt and pepper, and trickle over the oil.
Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, then remove and add the water, white wine or cider to the base of the tin. Cook, basting once or twice, for a further hour. Check the bird is cooked by pulling at a leg; it should want to come away without much effort. If it isn’t cooked, return it to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Lift the chicken on to a serving platter and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before serving.
To make a gravy, spoon off the excess fat from the roasting tin, then set it over a low heat. Sprinkle in the flour and stir well, cooking over a gentle heat for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, and tweak the balance with 1 or 2 teaspoons of redcurrant or other fruit jelly, and a dash of cider vinegar.
Serve 3 or 4 thick slices from 1 chicken breast with the gravy and accompaniments of your choice.
Recipes for leftovers
Chicken, watercress, boiled potato and anchovy salad (half of the second breast)
Boil a couple of peeled potatoes until tender. Drain and place in a bowl with the roughly shredded chicken, 2 chopped anchovies, a handful of watercress, salt and pepper, and a trickle of garlicky dressing. Mix and serve with a good mayonnaise.
Grilled chicken, red onion and emmental sandwich (remaining second breast)
Butter 2 slices of bread on both sides. Combine a handful of grated emmental with sliced chicken, half a chopped small red onion, a spoonful of mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Pile this on to 1 slice of bread, top with the second, then place in a hot griddle pan and weigh it down with something heavy. Cook on both sides.
Chicken pie with leek, rosemary and cider (1 leg)
Sauté ½ a leek in lots of butter, add a spoonful of plain flour, stir, then add ½ a glass of cider, 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper, and the chicken chopped into chunks. Spoon into a small pie dish, top with a sheet of puff pastry and bake at 200C/gas mark 6 for 35-40 minutes.
Chicken and coriander curry (remaining leg)
Strip the meat from the leg and fry with 1 medium sliced shallot and 2 garlic cloves in some oil. Add 1 tablespoon of curry paste, half a tin of coconut milk and a handful of chopped coriander. Simmer, season and serve with rice.
Chicken noodle broth with parsley (from the carcass and wings)
Strip any remaining meat from the carcass and reserve. Break up the bones and put them into a pan with ½ an onion, some celery and a carrot, which have been chopped. Add water to cover and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 2 hours and strain. Place half the stock in a pan. Add half the reserved chicken and 1 nest of noodles, roughly broken. Add chopped parsley and salt to taste. Serve at once.
Chicken, mushroom and barley risotto (from the carcass and wings)
Soak a large handful of pearl barley for 1-2 hours. Sweat ½ a small chopped onion, 3 or 4 sliced mushrooms and 1 sliced clove of garlic in plenty of butter. Add the pearl barley, stir, then add the remaining stock, a ladle at a time. When the barley is tender, add the last of the picked chicken, a handful of parmesan, more butter and plenty of salt and pepper. Serve with a green salad.
Gill Meller is a chef and author of Time (Quadrille, £25)
Nigel Slater’s grilled pork salad
A cracking spring salad with radishes, young leaves, grilled pork and a citrus soy dressing
Season a small pork chop, or a pork steak, with a little oil, salt and black pepper, then cook on a hot griddle until crisp on both sides and the fat is golden. Remove from the griddle and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Toast 1 tbsp of sesame seeds in a dry pan over a moderate heat, until golden. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together 1½ tbsp of ponzu sauce, 1½ tbsp of mirin, 1 tsp of dark soy, the toasted sesame seeds and a dash of sesame oil.
Slice the pork into pieces about the width of your little finger, then leave in the marinade, turning them over a couple of times. Pour any cooking juices from the griddle into the marinade.
Wash a couple of handfuls of assorted salad leaves and dry them. Slice 40g of white mooli into paper-thin pieces. Wash 6 small radishes and cut them in half.
Toss together the salad leaves, mooli and radishes, and place them on a plate. Add the slices of pork to the pile of leaves, then spoon over the dressing and eat.
To crisp the fat on the pork chop, hold the meat on its side with a pair of tongs, push the rim of fat down on to the bars of the griddle. It will crisp and blister. A pleasing mixture of salad leaves involves getting the balance between crisp (frisée, chicory), hot (watercress, land cress), soft (oak leaf, butterhead) and peppery (rocket or watercress).
Cook a chicken breast in the same way, or perhaps a lamb steak. Marinating the cooked meat in the ponzu and mirin dressing for an hour will produce a delicious result.
Nigel Slater is the Observer’s food writer
Janneke Vreugdenhil’s comforting little casseroles
Tender, well-spiced stewed meat topped with cheese-encrusted mashed potatoes … need I say more? They do take time, but you will have a wealth of comfort food to squirrel away for later.
Makes 4 portions
For the stewed beef
stewing beef 600g, cut into cubes
olive oil for frying
onions 3, finely chopped
dark beer 1 bottle
white wine vinegar 2 tbsp
wholegrain mustard 1 tbsp
ground ginger ½ tsp
bay leaf 1
gingerbread 1 thick slice (about 50g)
salt and black pepper
For the mashed potatoes
floury potatoes 1.25kg, peeled and cut into large chunks
hot milk 150-200ml
egg yolks 2
mature cheddar cheese 125g, grated
nutmeg freshly grated
Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper, and let it rest for 5 minutes. Heat the butter and a splash of oil in a heavy-based pan and brown the meat in batches over a high heat, around 3-5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Fry the onions in the fat in which you fried the meat until they start to brown, around 10 minutes. Pour in the beer and vinegar, then add the mustard, ground ginger and bay leaf. Crumble in the gingerbread and return the meat to the pan.
Bring everything to the boil, cover and turn the heat down as low as you can. Cook for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until it’s very tender. You might need to add a little more liquid or boil down the liquid at the end.
Meanwhile, make the mashed potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Lightly salt. Bring to the boil, then partially cover the pan and simmer for around 20-25 minutes, until tender. Drain and mash together with the hot milk and butter until smooth. Mix in the egg yolks and half the grated cheese. Then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Taste the stewed meat and add salt and pepper if necessary. Divide between 4 small ovenproof casserole dishes and top with a layer of mashed potato. Sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese.
To eat at once: place a casserole in a 200C/gas mark 6 oven until the cheese has melted, around 10 minutes. You can put it under the grill for the last few minutes of baking to give it a crisp crust.
To freeze: wrap the casseroles, dish and all, in clingfilm or put in a freezer bag, and freeze.
To reheat: thaw – for example, take one out of the freezer in the morning and put it in the fridge; it will be thawed by the evening. Unwrap and heat for 20-25 minutes in the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. You can also heat the casseroles straight from the freezer – this will take 45-60 minutes at 200C/gas mark 6.
From Solo Food; 72 Recipes For You Alone by Janneke Vreugdenhil (HQ, £16.99)