Steak…I seared it my way.

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Steak. One of the tastiest, most enjoyable indulgent pleasures, yet one of the most common culinary disaster zones. Here are my simple foolproof tips to avoid annihilating your favourite cut.

Firstly, choose your steak wisely. Personally, I love a good sirloin. I like it relatively thick, and I always try to choose one with some marbling as the fat keeps the meat moist and adds a depth of flavour leaner cuts lack.

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I usually leave my steak out on the counter top all day on the day I plan to use it. This ensures it comes up to room temperature ready for cooking, and gives it a few more hours to mature.

Heat a dry, nonstick pan on the hob over a medium high heat. While the pan is warming, oil the steak and season with freshly milled salt and pepper.

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Put the oiled steak into the pan and cook for two or three minutes each side, depending on how thick it is and how you like it cooked. Don’t be tempted to keep checking it. Just put it in the pan and leave it be. The result should be seared, golden brown loveliness as so:

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Remove it from the pan, and place on a warm, but not hot, plate. Top with a knob of butter (I used the simple wild garlic butter I showed you in a previous post), and cover with tin foil.

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Now, let it rest. Simply let it sit there, finishing itself off, relaxing those meaty fibres and getting deliciously juicy.

After about six to eight minutes, serve your meaty masterpiece with whatever you fancy. I often top a Pho soup with it, but today fancied little roasted garlic chive and rosemary potatoes and an interesting salad.

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So to recap:
1) Buy a decent thickness of steak with some fat marbling.
2) Take out if the fridge the morning of the day you plan to eat it to allow it to come up to room temp, and mature a bit more.
3) Oil the steak not the pan.
4) Season well.
5) Sear in the pan without repeatedly turning it over.
6) Allow to rest wrapped in a foil blanket.

Enjoy.

Growing celery from a shop bought bunch

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Last summer, I bought some celery, and chopped the sticks off it leaving the base in tact. I put the base in a bowl of water until it sprouted roots and then planted it in the veggie patch. I did it twice and the results were amazing! Two huge bunches appeared and I’ve literally just dug them up this week to make space for the new season plants.

Contact the Elderly

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Elderly people are underrated. All that life experience, wisdom, tales of times gone by, so many interesting conversations to be had, yet somehow, they seem to be a sector of society that are often forgotten.

For a while I’ve had an urge to get involved with an organisation that specifically reaches the elderly, providing social interaction, friendship and fun, because, let’s face it, what is life about if enjoyment isn’t a feature?

I did some research and settled on a fantastic charity called Contact the Elderly. The idea is that once a month on a Sunday afternoon (which is very often the loneliest day of the week for older folk as most other agencies are closed) volunteer drivers will pick up between six and eight elderly people from their homes and drive them to a volunteer host’s house for afternoon tea.

It’s a very simple concept which works wonders for the most isolated and lonely elderly people, injecting a bit of social interaction and fun back into their often insular lives.

I applied to be a host, but was told that unfortunately there weren’t enough volunteers in my area to warrant setting up a group. Never one to be deterred, I called on a few friends and local churches and lo and behold within a matter of weeks we had enough volunteers to form a group. We’re still in the early days, but are looking forward to our first tea party, hopefully in July.

It really doesn’t take much to make a huge difference in these precious lives. If you’re capable of putting on a simple afternoon tea spread, have a downstairs loo, and an easily accessible house then you could host. If you have a car and a spare Sunday afternoon once a month then you could drive. It really is that simple.

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I’d really like to encourage you to at least check out the website if not volunteer. I’ll let you know how it goes in July, and please do let me know if you end up volunteering in your area.

Chocolate and peanut butter cake pops

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In my previous post I showed you my Chocolate and Peanut Butter Frosting Mini Cakes and was aware that some of you may be wondering what I did with all the left over scraps of cake once I’d cut out the mini cakes?

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Well,  I would’ve been well within my rights to devour it myself, however I had a far more creative idea up my sleeve… Cake Pops! I’ve never attempted them before, but with all that cake and peanut butter frosting left over it just made sense!

Put all the cake and some of frosting in the mixer.

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Beat until it’s all combined. It needs to be pretty sticky to hold its form, so you may need to add in more frosting as you go.

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Now get your hands in there and roll the mixture into little balls.

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Leave to firm up in the fridge for a few hours (I actually left mine overnight). Once firm, crush some salted peanuts for decoration, melt some chocolate for dipping, get some skewers and something to stand them in to dry (I used a piece of left over butternut squash).

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Put a skewer in one of the balls, blunt end first, then dip in chocolate, sprinkle with the bashed up peanut pieces, and push into the squash to dry. Et voila! Easy peasey!

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There’s no way we could manage all those cake pops in one go, so I did six as little after dinner treats for our Sunday lunch guests tomorrow, and put the remaining balls in the freezer for use at a later date.

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Chocolate and peanut butter mini cakes

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The other day I watched Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, whip up a batch of peanut butter frosting. As well as smooth peanut butter, she added in regular butter, a splash of cream and icing sugar. 

I had some left over chocolate buttercream in the fridge which I wanted to use up (recipe on the BBC Website), so loosely following what I’d seen the Barefoot Contessa doing, I came up with my own version by simply beating the chocolate buttercream with a tub of smooth peanut butter, a splash or two of double cream, a pinch of salt, and icing sugar.  This is all to taste, making adjustments as you go along. If if tastes good to you, then it’s fine. I put it in a piping bag ready for the next stage. 

I was a bit disappointed my cakes had come put if the oven with unsightly domes on top.

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Never one to be defeated though, I decided to make individual mini cakes, by slicing the tops off the cake, and using a cookie cutter to make little rounds, as so:

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“What about all that waste?”, I hear you shrieking. Fear not my friends, I have plans for the left overs….(see here) Pipe the frosting on each mini cake and adorn with a few halves of salted peanut.

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The amalgamation of the rich sweet chocolate, with the creamy saltiness of the peanut butter is an unlikely union, but as the old adage goes, opposites attract, and this is certainly a match made in heaven. Enjoy!

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