Saturday, 30 August 2014

Perfectly Rich and Creamy Peppercorn Sauce for Steak

This is my perfect peppercorn sauce. I don't want to even admit how many years I've been making it, but I hope you like it too!

Out of all of the recipes I've ever posted or shared, this is probably the one I make the most. It's evolved over the years, and poured over juicy steak is the go-to pick-me-up treat of choice in this house. And there's no skimping allowed with this - a treat is a treat! Click here for the Thermomix version of this recipe.

Normally, I just cook it intuitively. I've done it so many times I don't weigh or measure anything, it's just all done by sight and taste and memory, because I make it the same way every time - but this time, I recorded it, and measured as I went so that I could share it. Part of me likes to think that when my kids have grown up and left home (hopefully not in the too near future!), this blog will be a little reminder of home, and some of the lovely food we've all shared together that they can recreate their favourites from (when they're not sneaking back for dinner!). I have to confess though, on the rare occasions we treat ourselves to steak, sometimes we hold out and wait until after they've gone to bed to have it (sorry kids!)... ;)

So, what to have this with? My personal recommendation is with your favourite cut of steak, cooked your favourite way (for me, that would be medium rare - we like to vacuum seal them, and put them in the water bath at 56.5C for an hour or more - more time makes no difference - oil lightly, season then just sear for a few seconds on each side on a searing hot griddle to get some 'barking' flavour), served with chunky chips or sautéed potatoes, and 'petit pois' peas (my preference over garden peas) with a grilled flat mushroom and grilled tomato. For complete overkill, add a few crispy onion rings in there, and you won't be able to manage pudding! Did I miss anything?

We like our sauce, we do - so this will give you a very generous amount. Probably enough for four people really - as you can see in the photo, you get a whole ramekin full to yourself (I'm a 'dipper', rather than a 'pourer'!). However, running out of sauce to go with your dinner is a heinous crime indeed - and you don't have to use it all up, it will freeze and re-heat gently, although you might want to give it a bit of a whisk when you re-heat it, to make sure it's smooth.

On this basis, I'm giving you a 'serves two'. Plus, I only have about 5 ounces of steak, and I know some people put away double that! Calories? Seriously? Oh OK then, call it 307 per serving with maximum cream. Well, I did say there was no skimping... [Calories in square brackets, spoilsports]

If you love my creamy peppercorn sauce, why not try my rich Madeira sauce with wild mushrooms with your steak next time?

  • 1 banana shallot, finely chopped (or you could use 3 small shallots, or half an onion) [21]
  • 1 'knob' of butter (around 30g) [221]
  • A shot of brandy or whiskey (35ml) [77]
  • 225ml beef stock/bouillon, made up double strength (I use Knorr Touch of Taste Beef Bouillon - comes in little brown bottles. I also add an extra 1/2 tbsp of it to the sauce at the end, but wait until you've tasted it first) [18]
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons of green peppercorns (usually found in small jars in brine), or to taste, my preference is to roughly chop them up - if you can't get hold of green peppercorns then just grind up plenty of black peppercorns to taste [9]
  • 0.5 to 1 tbsp cornflour (depending on your preferred thickness - feel free to use other thickeners or beurre manié if you prefer. I use 1 full, level tbsp) [72]
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 50ml double (heavy) cream (or to taste) [210]
  • Salt to taste

If like me, you're not a fan of running around like the proverbial 'blue-arsed fly' in the last few minutes before serving up dinner trying to bring everything together; this sauce will forgive you quite happily if you make it a little before needed, cover it (if you put a cartouche over it, it won't get a skin on it - otherwise, just whisk it in!), and then warm it through again stirring gently while your steak is resting and your peas are cooking...

1. Put the drained peppercorns onto a small chopping board or plate and use the back of a large spoon or fork to gently crack them, pressing until you feel them popping, but not crushing them.

2. Melt the butter in a small, heavy based pan and add the finely diced shallots. Sauté them  until completely softened - you're not looking for colour here, but it's ok if a few start to turn a little golden. Add the crushed garlic (if using) and continue cooking for another minute.

3. Pour your brandy or whiskey into a metal ladle, warm over another gas ring (if cooking on gas!) then tilt a little so the brandy comes to one side of the spoon, makes contact with the flame, and ignites (don't worry, at this point, it will just be a low flame - the 'whoosh' comes when you add it to the pan!). You might want to then hold the pan at arms length away from you and the cooker for a second, while you add the ignited brandy, as it may go up with an impressive show of flames! If your brandy fails to ignite when you add it to the pan (or if you prefer to add it to the pan without igniting it first), just ignite it carefully (at arms length, just in case!) with a long taper, or one of those long kitchen lighters. If you can't ignite it, don't worry, it will still taste fine!

4. Swirl it around until the flames die away, then add your stock, crushed green peppercorns and freshly ground black pepper (I like PLENTY!). Simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Mix 1/2 tbsp cornflour with a tbsp or two of cold water until lump free, and then gently whisk into the simmering sauce. Cook it out for a minute or two, until thickened - it should now coat the back of the spoon. If this isn't thick enough for you, repeat with the second 1/2 tbsp of cornflour (I tend to go for the full tbsp).

6. If you're happy with the consistency, then it's time to add the cream and finally adjust the seasoning to your taste. Regarding seasoning, I add a further 1/2 tbsp of beef concentrate, and a little shake of salt (and lots and lots of freshly ground pepper!), but everyone likes different levels of saltiness and pepper-heat, so taste and season, taste and season, until you're happy you have a killer pepper sauce! Enjoy!

Hmmm... Even thinking about this is making my mouth water... must be time for another steak dinner!

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