Roman Steak and Rocket (Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola)

In a bid to reassert some order over this blog I have decided to make a small post today to get back into the Monday/Friday pattern. This might be a simple dish but it’s a cracker and one which you can throw together in minutes after work.

During our summer holiday we stopped over in Rome for a few nights. being of thrifty mind (and light of pocket) we were keen to find foodie delights which, whilst stretching our waistlines, didn’t stretch our budgets. Looking through the Rough Guide book we came across Da Augusto in Trastevere which was described as an “old-timer […] serving Roman basics outside on the cobbles”. Equally importantly, “a hearty meal” would only set us back around 14 Euros with wine. We made a bee-line for the restaurant and were not disappointed. Set on a small piazza the tables are jammed into rows together outside and every seat was full with expectant diners at least 45 minutes before dinner service began or the restaurant doors were even open! The queue was constant with more discerning and hungry punters than tables.

Whilst service was patchy (ours was great but a lovely young German couple beside us didn’t get their starters until we were half-way through our mains after ordering at the same time…), The food was brilliant. Roman basics they may have been, but each dish was well flavoured, seasoned and presented sticking to the Italian dictum of simplicity and quality.

The highlight of the meal for me was the bistecca di manzo con rucola, or beef steak and rocket. The steak, so tender and juicy, is beautifully offset by the crunchy peppery rocket (or as used in the recipe below giant cress). By luck, last week I picked up a few copies of The River Cafe cook books and a recipe for the dish jumped out at me. The simple flavours marry so well together that it really needs nothing else but if, like me, you’re the hungry type, you can stick some nice boiled new potatoes on the side.

Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola

Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola

It really couldn’t be simpler:

  • Bistecca di Manzo con Rucola (serves 2)
  1. Two nice sized steaks out (roughly 250g each)
  2. Two handfuls of rocket (or some good giant cress – not the micro watercress though)
  3. Five tsp extra virgin olive oil
  4. Juice of a whole lemon
  5. One tbsp of red wine vinegar

First, flatten your steak between two sheets of clingfilm with a mallet or rolling pin. I used some good quality frying steak here but you can use a couple of sirloins if you’re feeling flush. Get them as thin as possible and then slice into thin strips.

In a jar mix the oil, lemon juice and vinegar and set aside.

Heat a griddle or heavy-based frying pan until smoking and then fry the steak in batches until browned.

dress the rocket or cress and place the steak on top.

Simple!

I hope you get a chance to make this dish and that you enjoy it as much as I did. There’s real pleasure in the concise ingredients list and the few minutes taken to knock it up belie its classy flavours. This is fast food Jim, but not as we know it.

It would be a travesty if I wrote a whole post on a Roman theme without saying: ‘when in Rome’ (eat bistecca di manzo con rucola)!

Until next time…

Some summer foodie happenings.

I have finally returned from a mega-busy summer and I fully intend to tighten up my blogging discipline… starting by posting on the wrong day. Ach well, at least I’m getting something up eh? Since the last post I have been on Tiree in the Inner Hebrides and in Thurso, as well as Foodies Festival in Edinburgh. It’s been a busy time and I haven’t always had access to internet. With a bit of time I will hopefully get a bit better at using the scheduled post function.

Anyway, I thought I’d try to condense all that into a single post about the last wee while told through food.

Tiree was phenomenal! The weather was amazing and we spent most days biking around the island and swimming in the sea (not to mention watching all the Olympics that we could get our eyes on!). Take my advice on this one and visit if you get a chance, if you like the outdoors you won’t be disappointed. We ate well with different teams cooking food each night and a mega BBQ to finish the week. I had such a good time that I forgot to take any photos of food and so unfortunately you’ll just have to use your imagination.

In between Tiree and Thurso we went to Foodies Festival in Inverleith park in Edinburgh. Following the standard food festival format of producers’ stands, chefs demonstrations and plenty opportunity to eat and drink everything from the best of Scottish cheese and fresh local bread to oysters and champagne. I achieved a long-awaited foodie first and knocked back a big ol’ oyster with a touch of Tabasco, fully expecting it to be foul. I couldn’t have been more wrong; the ozone freshness with the heat of the chilli was a delight and a few chews of the salty-sweet flesh later it was gone and I was converted. Also, luckily, the aphrodisiac effect didn’t seem to grab me and I was able to carry on enjoying the festival without any lascivious episodes.

It was great to see so many local producers showcasing the freshest quality ingredients. A personal highlight was fresh smoked kippers:

Upright smoke cabinet

Upright smoke cabinet

Pictured above is an upright cabinet but we ate kippers from an even more traditional smoker dug deep into the ground and covered with wet burlap sacks:

Traditional underground smoker

Traditional underground smoker

The fish was beautifully tender and naturally oily. Real smoked fish doesn’t have that acrid flavour or ungodly yellow colour that you get from the artificial rubbish so get your chops round the good stuff if you’ve got the option.

Whilst at the festival we did a Malasian cooking class for free which included two dishes and provided a tasty and thrifty lunch-time meal. I’m including the recipe here and I recommend it highly. We used a special piece of kit for the pancakes but if you move quickly enough in tight spirals you could probably use a piping bag on the thinnest nozzle you’ve got.

Malaysian chicken curry and crispy spiral pancakes

Malaysian chicken curry and crispy spiral pancakes

Here’s a pic of Norman Musa and me with his book Malaysian Food: A Selection of My Favourite Dishes and The Inspiration Behind Them: 

Norman Musa

Norman Musa

Finally we nipped up to Thurso to visit family. My auntie Ros has just opened a lovely wee tea room called Cups selling some of the best cakes and traybakes around! Cups is the culmination of a lifetime of amateur baking and the baked goods are a clear indication of this commitment. The ethos of the cafe is right up my street too: local produce, high quality ingredients and a bit of fun with flavours. The Haggis and cheddar toasted sandwich on fresh Orkney corn bread hits the spot and the homemade soups will warm the bones after a brisk stroll along the beach to the beautiful ex-chapel which houses Cups. The cake and traybake selection is vast and the variety means that there’s something for every palate from the sumptuously fruity paradise slice or the coconut and cherry sponge to brownies or scones with homemade jam and clotted cream.

Cups' cakes

Cups’ cakes

I was pleased to see that my great granny Isabella’s gingerbread had made it onto the menu and the malty treacly sponge was an absolute delight spread thick with butter on the 8 hour train back down. It even made Scotrail’s instant ‘coffee’ bearable. This is not (just) a shameless nepotistic plug, Cups is a real gem!

Now that I’m back I’ll try to keep to more regular posts and I promise to put up a proper recipe tomorrow for you to get cracking with. until then…

Porty Passion – Congrats to Caddy and Sendy the newly married couple of the moment!

Porty Passions (Thanks to Jessica Chan for the cheesy photo of me enjoying mine a little too much!)

Porty Passions (Thanks to Jessica Chan for the cheesy photo of me enjoying mine a little too much!)

I found myself in the position last weekend of making 125 cocktails. We were at couple of friends’ wedding in Portobello, Edinburgh which was one of the most genuine and enjoyable events I’ve had the pleasure of attending. I designed a cocktail (using my meagre experience at Harvey Nichols’ Forth Floor cocktail bar) to suit the occasion and to be logistically achievable. After much experimentation (tiresome obviously), I settled on a take on the passionfruit mojito. This comes highly recommended and, should you ever find yourself in the position, can be scaled up easily enough. The cocktail is named after the area in which we all grew up and where the wedding was celebrated Portobello (Porty for short).

  • Porty Passion (makes one 250ml drink)
  1. 50ml dark rum
  2. 50ml passion-fruit juice
  3. Juice of half a lime
  4. Half a lime (quartered)
  5. Half a passion-fruit (flesh and seeds)
  6. Large sprig of mint
  7. Dash of Angostura Bitters
  8. Roughly 50ml cloudy lemonade
  • Method:
  1. Mix ingredients 1-7 in a tall glass.
  2. Top up with plenty of ice (the more you can fit in, the better).
  3. Fill to top with lemonade and stir through with a cocktail stirer or straw.

These might only have a double rum in them but be careful! the sugar makes them potent and they are easy to drink. A deadly combo… I learned the hard way!

Have fun folks.

Until the next time!

Chinese honey roast chicken with a cucumber, chilli and peanut Asian salad

Last night, left alone in the house, I decided I’d order in a Chinese takeaway. After some deliberation, however, I opted to cook something and post a recipe because as this comes to you (by the very clever wordpress scheduled post function) I will be nearing Oban with my girlfriend and her family in order to catch a ferry tomorrow morning at 7am bound for Tiree. Oban, coincidentaly has a fantastic chippy if you’re ever up that way called the George Street Fish and Chip Shop, where we will be eating tonight.

Instead of ordering Chinese, I thought I’d make something Asian inspired and, given that I was alone and needed some entertainment, decided I’d head to the local wine/beer shop and try to match a few nice beers to the meal. I nipped up to Lidl to see what they had (I’m a firm believer in local produce and Lidl is less than a mile away) and ended up with some chicken legs, a lime, some herbs, peanuts and a cucumber. It was like ready steady cook. On the way back I nipped into said wine/beer shop: Appellation Wines (who do a seriously vast array of beers for the real connoisseur) and had a chat with the guys there about what I planned to cook.

Enough waffle! I ended up cooking Chinese honey roast chicken legs with a cucumber, peanut and chilli salad.

Chinese honey roast chicken with a cucumber, chilli and peanut Asian salad

Chinese honey roast chicken with a cucumber, chilli and peanut Asian salad

To go with the meal I was recommended a Porter and a Weisbier, both of which were sublimely matched, and chose myself a bottle of Hardcore IPA by Brewdog as a wee renegade bottle (mainly because it was a binend cheapo and, being a massive fan of Punk IPA, I just fancied it). Here’s the recipe. It’s decidedly rough because that’s how the meal came to fruition but I promise it’s good.

  • For the Chicken:
  1. Two chicken legs (skin on… please!)
  2. Two tbsp of vegetable oil
  3. Two tsp of Chinese five spice
  4. Two pinches of sea salt
  5. Two tbsp of chilli bean paste (this is optional but can be found in all Chinese supermarkets and is totally worth the trip)
  6. Two tbsp of runny honey
  • For the salad:
  1. One whole cucumber (halfed, peeled, cored and chopped into 5mm slices)
  2. Handful of dry roasted peanuts
  3. Two chillies (more if, like me, you like a bit of burn)
  4. Large handful of fresh Coriander chopped
  5. The same of mint
  6. Three tbsp of rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar will do grand)
  7. One and a half tbsp of Thai fish sauce (or soy)
  8. Juice of half a lime
  9. Two tsp of palm sugar (caster will do)
  • Method:
  1. Rub vegetable oil, salt and five spice into each leg and pop on a roasting tray in the oven (200C/400F/gas mark 6) for 25 mins)
  2. Whilst the chicken is roasting away, combine ingredients 1 – 5 of the salad in a bowl and mix through.
  3. Take ingredients 6-9 of the salad and mix well in a jar. This will be the dressing.
  4. After 25 mins, remove the chicken from the oven, baste with the cooking fat, spread a tbsp of chilli bean paste on each (making sure not to put a chickeny spoon back in the jar) and return to the oven for 20 mins.
  5. At this stage you could put on some basmati rice.
  6. Five mins before the end of cooking, add a few handfuls of peas to the rice and drizzle a tbsp of honey over the chicken before returning to the oven.

You’re done! plate up and serve with one of the amazing beers suggested below. If you’d prefer wine: I’d go for something with a wee bit of sweetness rather than an all out dry white like Sauvignon. Try a chenin blanc or even an un-oaked chardonnay to compliment rather than stand-up-to the strong flavours.

The beers:

Ayr Brewing - Rabbie's Porter (4.3%)

Ayr Brewing – Rabbie’s Porter (4.3%)

Karg Murnau - Helles Hefe-Weisbier (5%)

Karg Murnau – Helles Hefe-Weisbier (5%)

And a wee one which I drank after and enjoyed thoroughly:

Brew Dog - Hardcore IPA (9.2%)

Brew Dog – Hardcore IPA (9.2%)

The Cambridge Bar, Edinburgh.

I’ve decided that the blog format will be fairly structured, with a post on Mondays and Fridays, in order to force me into keeping it up. “But this is neither Monday nor Friday” I hear you cry. No. And this is because I’ve also decided to post about meals we have had out as a wee bonus. With that in mind, this post comes to you from the good folk at The Cambridge Bar on Young Street in Edinburgh (just of Charlotte Square).

We’d been out for a coffee and a bit of shopping, ahead of our upcoming Island holiday, and Cat decided she wanted a burger. after a seat and a pint (to give us time to do some research…) we settled on The Cambridge Bar. This is a cosy wee pub for a quiet drink and has an excitingly vast selection of beers. The main event for us though were the burgers. The list contains a few classic toppings – like blue cheese or chilli sauce – as well as a few more interesting, and tasty looking, options such as terriyaki, bacon and guacamole and camembert and cranberry. I went, as I almost always do, for the biggest burger they had: ‘The Aussie’. This beast included a 7oz beef burger, cheddar cheese, beetroot, pineapple, bacon, and a fried egg. It was, as burgers go, fantastic.

The Aussie Burger

The Aussie Burger

Cat’s burger, a slightly more conservative version of mine, was great too, and the chips and onion rings served up alongside were really crisp on the outside and beautifully fluffy inside. I had a pint of American pale ale called USPA brewed by Hawkshead brewery which packs plenty of american hoppyness and punches fairly hard at 6%.

All in all, a great place for some honest (and well cooked) pub grub alongside a good pint of the amber nectar. Well worth a look if you’re at this end of town.

Beetroot, Goat’s Cheese and Nutmeg Ravioli

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Homemade pasta tastes amazing and if you have a pasta roller is really easy to make. These ravioli are an adaptation of a favourite midweek recipe of ours: beet and goats cheese risotto (found years ago in the Observer’s Food Monthly and written by a female chef we’ve both forgotten the name of…). It’s very simple in terms of flavours – sweet and salty with a perfumed edge from the nutmeg – but goes down well as a starter when cooking for guests. I served it here with my take on a Genovese basil pesto, peas and wilted spinach. If you don’t have a pasta roller you can use a long rolling pin like this although it’s a fair bit more effort. The recipe for pasta can be found on the Big Flavours basic recipes page. Here’s the rest:

  • For the pesto:
  1. Two large handfuls of fresh basil
  2. One large handful of shelled walnuts
  3. Two tsp of anchovy paste (or 6-8 fillets of anchovy)
  4. One garlic clove roughly chopped
  5. One and a half tsp of sea salt
  6. Plenty of black pepper
  7. 75-100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • For the filling:
  1. 150g goats cheese
  2. 2 cooked beetroot (if you have time, roast them yourself from raw)
  3. pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • The greens:
  1. 150g of peas
  2. 75g of fresh spinach
  3. knob of butter
  • Method:
  1. Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor and blitz (you can use a stick blender here if you don’t have a processor) to desired consistency. I like to make it fairly smooth but it’s sometimes nice to add the nuts at the end and leave them fairly chunky particularly if your pesto is the main event! You can add more oil to loosen it a bit at this stage.
  2. Transfer your pesto to a container and set aside for now.
  3. Now combine all your filling ingredients in your food processor and blend to a smooth paste. 
  4. remove your pasta from the fridge (as per the basic recipe instructions) and roll to the second thinnest setting on your pasta roller. this should be around 2mm thick if you’re using the rolling pin method.
  5. Lay two rolled sheets of pasta on a floured surface and place teaspoonfulls of filling at regular intervals.
  6. dampen the pasta around the portions of filling with a clean pastry brush and some cold water.
  7. place the second sheet of pasta over the fillings and press down round each portion making sure to expel any excess air.
  8. Once cut, place ravioli on a clean tea towel to dry slightly. stages 5-8 should be done relatively quickly to stop your pasta getting soggy/sticky and to stop your ravioli tearing. 
  9. Add peas (I mostly just use frozen) to a small pan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes.
  10. Drain peas, return to heat and add the butter and spinach – stirring until the butter has melted and the spinach has wilted.
  11. bring a large pan of well salted water to the boil and add the ravioli, cooking for 3-4 minutes.
  12. Finally drain the ravioli and serve on a bed of peas and spinach topped with pesto parmesan and a touch of freshly grated nutmeg.

This is a firm favourite here, I hope you enjoy it too.

The beginning.

Welcome to my blog.

I’m Ruari and I’m a 24 year old human geography post-grad student from Edinburgh. I’ve been a serious foodie for years now and my girlfriend Cat has encouraged me to start posting my food experiments and experiences up online. I love big flavours and enjoy cooking in all sorts of different styles. I look forward to getting a few followers and sharing some recipes.

Just back from a holiday in Italy where, after 6 months of pasta making with my Imperia pasta roller (a brilliant Christmas present), I was excited to come across a few bits and pieces of kit. Ravioli tonight, details and pics to follow.