Cafe de Paris butter recipe

This post is a long time coming. A long time. Pregnancy stopped me in my tracks in more ways than simply preventing me from posting here. My main focus was on growing a healthy baby. And that was it. Motivation to achieve much else waned. But then Pat was born and immediately I felt invigorated. Ready to pick up where I left off and reenter life at full throttle. This Cafe de Paris butter recipe is one of the first things that I was inspired to make for the sheer pleasure of it to go with a celebratory meal to mark our new family unit of four.

Let’s be clear. This recipe is not for the fainthearted. It’s butter, flavoured with a myriad of ingredients, to sit atop steak. The method is straightforward enough, but for the mixture a trip to the shops to restock the pantry will be required. The finished product is well worth the effort though and will keep in the freezer for months ready to crown grilled beef and transform it into a glorious meal at a moments notice. Serve aforementioned meat with shoestring fries and it’s one of my favourite dinners.



Enough of dinner though. Pat. Patrick Finch Thompson. My little man. After a rather traumatic pregnancy with more monitoring than I care to ever remember, due to my history with Thea and some abnormal findings, Pat arrived safely into the world at 11.19am on Thursday June 30th 2016 36+6 weeks, all 2.4kg and 45cm of him. I was allowed to hold him skin to skin after his birth and I bawled. Howled. The relief. All the months of heartache worrying how long I’d be able to carry him. If he’d be ok. And he was. He was perfect. Oh and the love. The absolute pure unending love that I’m sure every parent feels as soon as they see their baby. That love is so special.



I don’t feel that I need to say much more here right now. About Pat. Or about this Cafe de Paris butter recipe. Basically this a great compound butter to transform steak and chips from average to wipe-the-plate-clean delicious. And Pat. Well, I’ll definitely be mentioning him again soon.

Cafe de Paris butter recipe

Adapted from a recipe from French by Damien Pignolet

1kg soft unsalted butter
60g tomato sauce
25g Dijon mustard
25g capers, roughly chopped
125g French shallots, finely chopped
50g parsley, finely chopped
5g dried dill
5g dried thyme
10g tarragon leaves, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 tbsp brandy
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch of dried rosemary, ground
8 white peppercorns, ground
juice 1 lemon
zest 1/2 lemon
zest 1/4 orange
10-12g sea salt

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy.

In a separate bowl combine all the remaining ingredients and then add them to the butter and mix thoroughly.

Next take a long length of aluminium foil and on top of it place a long length of baking paper. Spread the butter out along it and try to keep it an even width from top to bottom. Now roll the butter into a log, twisting the ends of the foil to tighten it.

To serve, cut discs of the butter and place (once at room temperature) on top of warm steak to melt while the meat is resting.

A baba ganoush recipe

‘Your eggplants are burning’ observed Mark. I’m sure the eggplants sitting directly over the gas flame on the stove could indeed look like they were scorching. I was making baba ganoush and charring the dark, purple skin of the eggplants to impart an aroma of smoke to the final dish. Baba ganoush is very straightforward to make, with a handful of ingredients and a few key steps to getting it just right. In its finished state it’s rather alluring and seductive. Sharp and zesty it pricks your palate, and with wonderful smoky undertones, it leaves you wanting more.

I was preparing the Middle Eastern side dish to accompany roast lamb. Spiked with lemon and mint, it makes such a great partner for the sweet, earthy meat, cutting through its richness. Baba ganoush also serves well as an appetizer, whizzed in a food processor with a big spoonful of natural yoghurt, so that it’s nice and smooth for scooping up with a triangle of toasted pita bread. Placed atop individual, crisp, rounds of golden, puff pastry with some mild goats cheese, a few wedges of cherry tomato and some rocket, it creates a stunning little entrée. And of course, it plays a wonderful role as part of a meze platter, perhaps sprinkled with a few pomegranate seeds for a bit of glamour.

Smoky and zesty could quite possibly be one of my favourite flavour combinations. Think thinly sliced pieces of smoked salmon and a single Iceberg lettuce leaf, (I think Iceberg for the undenied crispness of it), placed on a slice of hot buttered toast, then doused in lemon juice and black pepper. Rounds of chorizo fried in a pan and eaten smothered in lemony, garlic mayonnaise. Paella, full of chicken, pork and seafood, with a wonderful, almost burnt, base layer, and a wedge of lemon to marry all the flavours together. Steak cooked over a char grill, until the exterior is blackened and caramelised, served with pomme frites and lemon dressed salad leaves. You get the picture I’m sure.

There’s something very reassuring and authentic about cooking over a flame, harking back to culinary institutions of times gone by, before induction stoves and Thermomixes. (Sorry. As good as I’m sure they are, I’m not in the Thermomix camp.) And I like to keep in touch with tradition. So even though you can jazz this recipe up with herbs and seeds and pastry and pita, at its core, it’s insanely simple. Traditional. Time honoured. And with good reason.

Baba ganoush

The one thing that makes this dish really sing is cooking the eggplants over an open flame. Be brave. Embrace your inner pyromaniac and try this method. Simply put a cake cooling rack (an old one as it will discolour) over a gas flame on your stove (or you could use a camping stove) and place one or two eggplants on top of it. Yes the eggplant will burn sitting directly above the burner, but only the outer skin, and as you keep turning the fruit until every side is black, the flesh inside will become soft and take on a smoky aroma.

When the eggplants are nicely charred all over, place them in a bowl to cool. When they have dropped in temperature sufficiently enough to be handled, peel away the skin, place the flesh in a colander sitting in a bowl and let the juices run out. Drain for at least one hour.

To the drained flesh, add finely chopped garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper and olive oil. At this point the baba ganoush will benefit from being left to sit for an hour or two, even overnight, to allow the flavours to mingle.

To garnish, just before serving, stir through some finely shredded mint and parsley and sprinkle a few pomegranate seeds on top.

To recap, for 2 eggplants you will need the following.

  • 2 cloves garlic, either grated with a microplane or very finely chopped
  • the zest of 1 lemon plus 2 tbsp lemon juice, or more to your particular taste
  • 6-8 tbsp olive oil
  • generous pinch sea salt and grinding of black pepper
  • optional small handful of each parsley and mint leaves, finely sliced and a few pomegranate seeds

Did I mention that baba ganoush is great with Roast Lamb?

 

Chicken in milk

I have been absent. From my computer and camera though. Not the kitchen. I’ve still been busy in there, creating some comforting and filling week night dinners in preparation for a half marathon that I’ve been training for. Pork belly with roast parsnips and leeks coated in a white sauce, Karen Martini’s baked polpette with brussels sprouts and washed rind cheese and Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk. Winter food to warm, fuel and nourish.

I am proud to report that I completed the 22 kilometre race course at the weekend in two hours and four minutes, much faster than I had anticipated. There’s a lot to be said for a little competition. To challenge yourself with your inner dialogue to overtake the lady in the grey top, and then the man in the blue t shirt. To maintain the faster pace because you tell yourself that you have trained well, that the scenery is beautiful and it’s a wonderful feeling to be up and exercising early on a Sunday morning. And then there’s the marshals cheering you on, uplifting your spirits and making you smile. It seems I run faster with a smile.

So now the question is, do I continue training for the full marathon in September. Currently with a cold and sore muscles, I’m not sure. But the possible achievement of completing the 42 kilometre run around Sydney, including running across the Harbour Bridge, does seem like a worthwhile feat. It’s also something that I’m curious to know if I can do. Watch this space.

But back to the chicken in milk. Cooking meat in milk is something that has been on my kitchen to do list for longer than I can remember, yet I have been scared of doing so for fear that it would be a complicated task. I can assure you now, it’s not. In fact this recipe yields stunning results for the small amount of effort that you have to put in. I adapted Jamie’s original recipe slightly to incorporate the flavours of bread sauce, a classic British sauce that traditionally accompanies roast chicken. It’s a sauce that I am an absolute fan of. Enjoy.

Chicken in milk

Adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver from his book Happy days with the naked chef

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 lemons, zest removed with a vegetable peeler
  • bunch of sage, leaves picked
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 500ml milk

Begin by browning the chicken on both sides in a little oil. Use a sturdy bottomed pan to do this, preferably that one that you are going to cook the chicken in the oven in. Heat the pan over a low heat, place the chicken inside and simply let it sit on one side until it is golden brown, which will take about 5 minutes, before turing it over (with thongs) and repeating the process.

If there is excess oil at this pout, drain it form the pan.

Now add the the remaining ingredients and place the pan in an oven preheated to 180 C.

Cook the chicken for about 1 hour 30 minutes, basting with the milk regularly.

Serve with green vegetables and mashed potato to soak up all the beautiful sauce. I used some of the milky sauce in the mashed potato. Delicious.

Enjoy this recipe. You might also like classic meatballs and spaghetti.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs

Do you ever get that impulse, that you just have to make a certain dish. I do. And last week it was for classic spaghetti and meatballs. From out of nowhere came the absolute burning desire to make flavoursome Italian meatballs with a caramelised crust, in a rich, slow cooked, tomato sauce, with my favourite of all the pastas, spaghetti. A dinner to be served in a wide, shallow rimmed bowl, with garlic bread on the side to mop up all the delicious juices. Not a sophisticated meal, but complete comfort food, to be enjoyed with friends around a table with a bottle of red wine.

It just so happened that we would be dining with friends on Saturday night. During the day we would be removing all of our furniture from our house in order to store it in Ma and Pa’s garage. Knowing that Thea would need to be looked after for such a task, her Auntie and Uncle had stepped in to take care of her for the day and as way of thanks, I would cook them a delicious dinner. One that could be pre prepared a few days in advance, needing a few finishing touches on the night just before we all sat down to eat. My impulse to make classic spaghetti and meatballs and our weekend arrangements seemed perfectly aligned, so I headed to my new favourite butcher to buy the ingredients.

Making the meatball mixture is a straightforward job. One that you can stop and start, which is useful when there is a small person at your feet who is far more interested in gaining your attention than in patiently waiting while you make dinner. Portioning the balls however is a task that requires your toddler to be well occupied. Once your hands, and using your hands is the best way to do such a wholesome task as this, are immersed in meatball mixture, there’s no easy or fast way of turning back. So with snacks provided, books and toys all over the floor, Thea seemed happy and I set about rolling portions of parsley flecked meat between the palms of my hands.

For my meatballs I use half Italian sausage meat and half beef mince. The combination seems to make for really tasty, as well as, juicy meatballs. Ones that make you want to come back for seconds and thirds. When the mood strikes to prepare something like meatballs, it’s worth making a large quantity. The raw portioned mixture will freeze extremely well and serve as a quick and hearty week night dinner. I managed to roll out all two kilos of the mixture before Thea emptied the last of the contents of cupboard under the sink onto the floor. Something that I’m rather proud of. It is possible that since having an active baby, I am now faster in the kitchen than I was during my time working in restaurants. The thought of the chaos that she could cause while I’m busy with a task, is far more frightening than the wrath of any head chef!

With my impulse for classic spaghetti and meatballs satiated, a meal for Saturday prepared as well as a dinner for another night, I felt a cheerful sense of achievement. I sat on the kitchen floor with Thea and we restocked the kitchen cupboard. It seems to me that children always act on impulse, doing whatever is is that makes them feel good. Perhaps it’s something that we adults should all do more often, act on a whim, because it’s nice to feel happy.

Classic spaghetti and meatballs

For the meatballs. Makes 60-70.

  • 1kg beef mince
  • 1kg Italian sausage mince
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • bunch of chopped parsley
  • 1 cup loosely packed grated parmesan
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • generous grinding of black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. Portion the mixture into walnut sized balls.

For the sauce.

Plenty for 20-30 meatballs, assuming that the remainder have been set aside to be frozen.

  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 x 400g tins tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 500ml beef stock
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • a splash of balsamic vinegar to taste

Over a low heat, sweat the onion, carrot and celery with a little oil in a large pot. By sweat, I mean cover the pot with a lid and leave the vegetables to cook slowly for about 10 minutes until they are very soft.

Next add the garlic and cook until it’s fragrant, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and stock.

Bring the tomato sauce to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour until it has slightly reduced.

Using a stick blender, blend the sauce until it’s smooth and then season with salt, pepper and vinegar to your taste. It should be slightly sweet and piquant. Keep the sauce warm over a gentle heat. Perhaps put a lid over the pot at this stage incase the sauce bubbles and splatters.

Now to assemble dinner.

Cook the meatballs (5-7 per person) in a little oil in batches a frying pan. Make sure that there is enough space in between each ball so that they don’t sweat, but instead caramelise and brown. Make sure that they are well coloured before you turn them. Doing this will impart depth of flavour into the finished meal. Now add the cooked meatballs to the tomato sauce so that that flavours can mingle.

With the sauce and meatballs ready, cook the spaghetti and drain it. Tip it back into its cooking pot and add a few ladlefuls of the tomato sauce. Now set the pot over a moderate heat and stir to combine the two. This method will ensure that all the strands of pasta are not only coated with rich tomato sauce, but that it clings to it too.

Combine the spaghetti, meatballs and rest of the sauce together, stir once again, transfer to a big serving platter for people to help themselves to (or even just take the cooking pot to the table) and enjoy with grated parmesan, garlic bread and a glass of red wine.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like A versatile beef and red wine stew

Marinated hanger steak

We were lucky enough to spend the weekend in the city. In a hotel. Crisp, white sheets, a king bed, blackout blinds and the ultimate lie in. No Thea to serve as our early morning alarm clock. Thanks to Ma and Pa she was very well taken care of, trike riding under blue skies, feeding ducks by the lake, exploring cubbies with her cousin and apparently sleeping through the night for them. We on the other hand were indulging in good food, delicious wine and some parental freedom. Inspired by the savoury morsels sampled throughout the day and into the night on Saturday, on Sunday morning after a beautiful breakfast at Kitchen by Mike (I’m a huge fan), we headed to Victor Churchill to continue the feasting at home. The impromptu visit turned into a memorable dinner of marinated hanger steak. A first, but not a last.


Victor Churchill is a pretty darn amazing butcher. The origin of the animal and what it’s been fed are clearly labeled by the way of white handwritten signs studded into the various cuts of meat, which are displayed behind tall glass fridge doors that line one side of the shop. Passionate staff who weave among the customers skillfully assist with purchases, while butchers, behind more glass that lines the opposite side of the store, prepare meat on glorious, oversized, wooden chopping blocks. One such member of staff was on hand to help with our enquiry as to whether there was any hanger steak. We were in luck. There was.

We came to know hanger steak long before Thea. Back in the days when we could drive, on impulse, to a restaurant that I had a hankering to go to. One of those spur of the moment, let’s go out and have dinner journeys, led us to Bird Cow Fish, an amazing restaurant then run by Alex Herbert. We both ordered the hanger steak. I’m not sure why because normally we order different things so that we can try the maximum amount of things on the menu between the two of us. But this night we ordered the same. And I’m glad we did. The standout steak, which was followed by a ridiculously good chocolate tart with light as air pastry and an unctuously rich filling, kept company with a little pot of thick cream, has stuck fast in our minds ever since. So we seized the opportunity to buy hanger steak to see if we could make it taste as good as we remembered.

With strict instructions from the butcher that this was a cut of beef that we really had to cook right and not to undercook the steak or it would be bloody and chewy and not to overcook it, or it would be tough and tasteless, I decided a digital thermometer would result in the best outcome we could hope for. Google, in the car back from the city, told me that the magic number that I should look for was between 51-54 C. I also found out that hanger steak takes well to bathing in some citrus before cooking. With this knowledge, when we got home I laid the steak in a marinade of lemon and lime juice, garlic, oregano and olive oil. It luxuriated there while we caught up with Ma and Pa on Thea’s adventures and shared our own from the previous night.

Our mission for our night in the city had been to have no plan. To simply find a few  bars, have a drink and a plate of food in each before moving on to the next. Among our ramble through Sydney, we found 10 William Street, a seriously cool little wine bar. Loud and dimly lit, with bentwood chairs, round, little marble tables and informative staff, a great selection of drops by the glass and some moorish nibbles to go with them. We stayed in the bustling narrow establishment for two glasses, Iggy’s bread (you have to try it to understand how good this sourdough bread really is), simple but excellent calamari, home made biltong and olives. We also found ourselves back at The Baxter Inn, perched on bar stools, sipping single malt from old fashioned brandy glasses, listening to the likes of Bobby Darin. The whisk(e)ys, it’s predominantly a whisky bar, on offer at Baxters is staggering and with there being so many, I always falter when making my selection, wanting to get the perfect drink. In my mind that’s a smoky, smooth, slightly sweet wee dram.

Weekend stories exchanged, the hanger steak went onto the barbecue. All eyes were on the thermometer, watching the digits steadily rise, as garlic smoked trailed into the night. At 53C, the steaks came off the heat and sat on the kitchen bench while the beans were cooked and the duck fat ‘chips’ (roast potatoes cut into batons, boiled until soft and then roasted in the oven with duck fat) finished crisping. When all the elements were ready for the table, the steak was sliced on the diagonal and heaped onto a communal platter. It’s interior was a surprisingly dark, ruby red colour. It sliced easily and once in the mouth was tender, with a small amount of chew and a deep, zingy flavour. The butcher who served us would be proud.

Marinated hanger steak

Serves 4

Approximately 1kg trimmed hanger steak

For the marinade

  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • 4 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • handful oregano
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper

Simply mix all the marinade ingredients together and then bathe the meat in the mixture for about two hours.

Heat a pan or the barbecue, whatever your preference, until really hot and then cook the steak until it reaches between 51-54C. Ok. That’s the simple version.

With meat, it doesn’t need to be constantly agitated. Once you put it on the heat, leave it. Leave it until a nice crust forms. A beautiful, brown caramelised outside that will impart texture and flavour into the meat. When you feel that the piece of meat that you are cooking has formed said crust on one side, turn it. And once again leave it. If there is another side that still hasn’t seen the heat, if you are cooking a round piece of meat like a fillet for example, turn it once again to sear the final side.

Searing meat is really important and it’s actually really easy. The biggest factor is patience. And a scorchingly hot pan to start with. Anothter pointer. Oil the meat, not the pan. I sometimes use melted butter to add another flavour dimension and because it forms such a beautiful crust. But good old oil will do just fine. Next salt and pepper the meat. By salt, and always when I refer to salt here, I mean sea salt. Large, transluscent flakes, which can be liberally sprinkled all over the cut about to be cooked. Salt is another factor that helps form a crust and again, imparts flavour. I add pepper too. Some say that it’s not necessary at this stage. I disagree. I grind the hell out of my pepper grinder until  my steak is covered in little black flecks of peppery heat.

So. The hanger steak has reached 53C. Whisk it from the heat, place it on a deep plate so that the juices can be contained and leave it to rest. To relax. To metaphorically sit back in a comfortable chair, yawn, stretch and unwind. It will feel so much better in your mouth if this rule is adhered to, the resting rule of thumb being, rest meat for at least half the time it took to  cook. As I’ve written before about roast lamb, meat stays hot. Don’t fret about it getting cold, and if you are worried that is will happen, simply cover the patter with foil and some tea towels.

So, to recap. Patience to sear. Patience to rest. And now time to enjoy. Open a bottle of red. Pour a glass. Slice the hanger steak on the diagonal, which is much more visually pleasing. And eat.