Today’s dishes are French in origin and reflect the time I spent travelling in France. They featured in my first restaurant, Braeval. Steak hache is a hand-cut burger, cut to order and prepared using a knife rather than mincing the beef. Using a sharp knife to cut the beef cleanly gives it a nice texture. It’s rather like steak tartare but you then fry it, and it’s served rare but with a lovely crust on the outside.
Serve this with a classic peppercorn sauce and creamed spinach. For those who don’t like spinach, this is the way to eat it. All you do is cook the spinach in double cream for a few minutes and it wilts down but it will absorb a huge amount of cream – not very healthy but delicious.
On the other hand, today’s dessert includes an apple sorbet, which is not only delicious but very healthy and easy to make. The recipe also features apple crisps which are simple to prepare and taste far nicer than any readymade dried fruit slices you’ll buy in the supermarket. When I make these at home, my kids demolish them instantly.
Steak hache with easy chips and creamed spinach
For the chips:
2 large rooster potatoes
3 tbsp duck fat
Salt and pepper
For the steak hache
360g good-quality beef rump
2 tbsp veg oil (plus a little extra)
For the spinach
150ml double cream
Nutmeg, grated (just a little)
Sea salt and black pepper
For the sauce
100ml chicken stock
50ml double cream
2 tsp green peppercorns
For the spinach, boil 100ml cream in a medium saucepan. Add the spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir until wilted. Reduce the heat and cook very gently for about 20min, stirring from time to time. Keep warm.
Heat the oven to 200C. Melt the duck fat gently in a pan. Cut the potatoes into large rectangular chips – they don’t need peeling, but they need to be even-sized. Toss in the melted duck fat, place on baking paper on a baking sheet and season with Maldon salt and finely ground black pepper. Cook for 20-25 mins in the hot oven until crisp and golden outside with a soft interior.
Using a large sharp knife, cut the beef into thin strips, turn 90° and cut into dice, then chop the beef until it looks coarsely ground. Oil your hands and board and form the chopped beef into two balls, then flatten to about 2cm thick. You can keep these ready in the fridge, but bring up to room temperature before cooking. Season generously just before cooking. To cook, heat a frying pan, add 2 tbsp veg oil then add your seasoned steak haché. Add 15g butter and cook keeping the fat in contact with the haché. Turn over after 3mins and cook other side for 2-3mins. The core temp should be at 34C for rare.
Meanwhile, place the sauce ingredients in a small pan and reduce to coating consistency, add the peppercorns and stir in 15g butter. Keep warm. To serve, place the chips on a warm plate, add a dollop of spinach, the steak haché and spoon over the peppercorn sauce.
Apple sorbet in a brandy snap with Calvados Pannacotta
For the sorbet
2 Granny Smith apples
juice of a lime
120ml apple juice
120g caster sugar
For the apple crisps
1 Granny Smith apple
For the Calvados Pannacotta
3 leaves gelatine
75g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split open
For the brandysnaps (makes roughly 20)
65g soft butter
100g icing sugar
50g golden syrup
50g plain flour
First make the sorbet. Peel, core and slice the apples, sprinkle with the juice of a lime and freeze. Now make a sugar syrup by boiling up the apple juice and caster sugar until reduced and syrupy. Allow to cool completely and refrigerate. Once fully frozen, blitz the frozen apples and syrup together in a food processor. Stop and scrape down the sides several times until the sorbet is smooth and creamy, then freeze until needed.
For the brandysnap baskets, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Work in the golden syrup then fold in the flour. Refrigerate this dough until needed. To cook the brandysnaps, form the cold dough into medium-marble-sized balls (12g each). Place on an ovenproof mat or greaseproof paper on a baking tray, 5cm apart, and cook at 200C for 5-6 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When they’re just pliable, use a Nick Nairn board scraper to lift over upturned dariole moulds. Mould them with your hands to form a cup. Remove from the moulds, cool and store any spares for 2-3 days in an airtight container (they make a great edible dish for ice cream).
For the apple crisps, make a sugar syrup with 200ml water and 200g sugar – boiling until dissolved and reduced, then cool. Finely slice 1 unpeeled Granny Smith apple. Place the slices in the cooled syrup for 5 minutes. Remove, shake dry and place on baking paper on a baking tray and cook at 100C for 1 hour. Remove the crisps. Store any spares in an airtight container.
For the Calvados pannacottas, soak three leaves of silver gelatine in cold water. Place the milk and sugar in a pan with the seeded vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the gelatine. Then add the cream and Calvados, mix well and pour into dariole moulds. Refrigerate overnight. For the apple syrup, peel the apple and slice into 4mm slices. Dice into 4mm-squared brunoise (tiny dice). Boil the apple juice and sugar together and add the apple for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cool. Store in the fridge until needed.
To serve, remove the sorbet from the freezer 5mins ahead of time. Place a brandy basket on each plate. Unmould a Calvados pannacotta next to it. Use an ice cream scoop to form a ball of sorbet and place a scoop in each brandysnap. Spoon round the syrup and diced apple and garnish with an apple crisp.