You will also need a heavy based frying pan/skillet
Warm a plate in the oven.
Trim any excess fat from the steaks. Crush the peppercorns coarsely using a pestle and mortar, or with a flat-ended rolling pin, and spread them out onto a plate. Press both sides of the steaks down onto the crushed peppercorns, shaking off any loose bits as you lift them off.
Heat the pan until it is really hot then add the oil. Place the steaks in the pan and cook them for 3–4 minutes on each side for rare or 8–9 for medium to well done. Transfer to the warmed plate, cover loosely with foil, and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the wine into the pan and let it bubble up and reduce until it makes a thick, syrupy sauce. Add the balsamic vinegar and butter and then stir in any juices that have run off the steaks. Season to taste.
Serve with the sauce poured over the steaks and the mashed potato alongside to soak up the juices.
A tasty way of serving fish that is quick to prepare and just right for a summer supper. A thick fillet of sole is grilled/broiled smothered in tiny broccoli florets and a cheesy sauce until the sauce is bubbling and golden.
170g (6 oz) broccoli florets (a medium head of broccoli)
40g (1½ oz) butter (3 tbsp, or ⅜ stick)
40g (1½ oz) flour (¼ cup)
300ml (10 fl oz) milk (1¼ cups)
115g (4 oz) cheese, grated (1 cup)
4 large sole fillets, each weighing about 170g (6 oz)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
butter for greasing
28g (1 oz) Parmesan, grated (¼ cup)
Baby new potatoes
You will also need a vegetable steamer and a large baking tray/sheet.
Preheat the grill/broiler to high.
Cut the broccoli florets from the head of the broccoli and then trim and discard the stems. Separate into 1cm (½ inch) chunks and then steam for about 2 minutes until just tender. Remove the steamer from the pan and set to one side.
Now melt the butter in a small pan and then add the flour and stir until smooth. Let this cook gently over a low heat for 1–2 minutes, until it starts to bubble.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in the microwave for 1 minute, which will make it easier to blend into the roux. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the milk, stirring continuously until there is a smooth sauce. Return to the heat, bring the sauce to the boil and stir until it has thickened.
Now remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the cheese until it has melted and blended into the sauce. (Just use the heat of the sauce to melt the cheese. Don’t put the pan over heat on the stove as this will make the cheese go oily.) Set to one side.
Season the fish and then sprinkle over the lemon juice.
Grease the baking tray/sheet and place under the grill/broiler for 1 minute to heat up.
Now lay the fish on the tray/sheet in a single layer. They will sizzle as they touch the hot baking tray/sheet.
With the grill/broiler rack 7.5cm (3 inches) from the heat, cook the fish for just 3 minutes and then remove.
Carefully spoon the broccoli into the cheese sauce to evenly distribute the florets. Now spoon this over the fish and then sprinkle the grated Parmesan on top.
Put the fish back under the grill/broiler and cook for a further 4 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and beginning to turn golden.
Sprinkle a pinch of cayenne pepper over each piece of fish and serve immediately.
*In the UK you can buy packets of powered béchamel sauce to which you just add milk and heat. However, I can’t find this in Canada and so have to make the sauce from scratch, which is very easy. You will find the recipe below.
You will also need an ovenproof dish large enough to take 16 filled cannelloni shells in a single layer.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), (gas 4).
If making the béchamel sauce from scratch, make it now (see below).
Heat the oil in a large frying pan/skillet then gently fry the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Now add the meat and brown over a medium heat for 5 minutes, breaking up any clumps as it browns.
Next stir in the tomatoes along with the seasonings. Gently simmer for 10 minutes.
If making the béchamel sauce from a packet, make it now, following the directions on the packet.
Pour half the passata into the ovenproof dish.
Fill the cannelloni shells with the meat mixture, placing them in the dish as you go.
Now pour over the remaining passata and then top with the béchamel sauce.
Sprinkle over the mozzarella and then the Parmesan covering the sauce completely.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
In UK the packets of grated mozzarella have no additional additives. In Canada the shredded mozzarella does. To avoid the additives, shred block mozzarella, popping it in the freezer for 30 minutes first to firm up. It will make shredding easier.
1 shallot, skinned and sliced OR a small piece of onion skinned
1 small carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 stick celery, washed and thickly sliced
1 bay leaf
28g (1 oz) butter (2 tbsp)
3 tbsp flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pour the milk into a small pan. Add the vegetables, bay leaf, and peppercorns then bring slowly to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Strain the milk, discarding the vegetables and flavourings.
Melt the butter in a clean pan and then, over a low heat, blend in the flour. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and then slowly add the milk, stirring continuously, until the mixture is smooth. Now return the pan to the heat and cook the sauce until it thickens, stirring continuously. Season to taste.
The traditional shepherd’s pie can be quite bland and my basic Shepherd’s Pie recipe has extra seasonings to liven it up. This one brings a touch of Italian using a Napoletana sauce and with grated Parmesan on the top.
1 fresh rosemary sprig (or a large pinch of dried)
225ml/8 fl oz red wine
500g/17 fl oz Napoletana pasta sauce (or similar)
900g/2 lb potatoes (floury)
50g/2 oz butter
50g/2 oz Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
Brown the lamb in a large pan over a medium heat, stirring frequently to break up any lumps, about 7 minutes. It should be really well browned. Then remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion to the pan with the rosemary and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. There should be enough fat left from browning the meat not to require adding any oil.
Return the lamb to the pan and stir in the wine. Loosen any crusty bits from the bottom of the pan, then leave the wine to bubble gently until roughly half of it has evaporated. Stir in the pasta sauce, then simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into large chunks. Put in a pan of water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes until tender. Drain and return to the hot pan to dry off any excess moisture. Mash with the butter and half the Parmesan.
Preheat the grill to high.
Spoon the meat sauce into a medium-sized ovenproof dish. Top with the potatoes, no need to smooth the surface, then sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Brown under the grill for about 3 minutes.
Serve with seasonal vegetables.
The dish can be prepared ahead of time up to the grill stage. Cover the dish then refrigerate for up to two days. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and cook the pie for 25–30 minutes until heated through and golden on top.