Saturday, 7 May 2011

In praise of the doggy bag. Recipe: Leftover porterhouse steak salad

The doggy bag... (box) from Dean Street Townhouse

How English of us to be embarrassed by the doggy bag. Sweeping up those bits we’ve chosen not to scoff, taking them home to reheat dodgy-style in a microwave.

How tight. How uncouth.

But surely it’s the second highest compliment a restaurant can receive: that the food was so fabulous and generous, we’d like to eat it again, thank you very much. The first compliment, of course, would have been to love it the first time round.

Well, the asking for the doggy bag needn’t be embarrassing nor confined to the back-street Chinese restaurant.

The porterhouse steak and béarnaise sauce

I’ve never been shy of asking (it’s my Chinese genes). My last doggy bag was from the impeccable Dean Street Townhouse in Soho. The Scottish porterhouse steak is a beast of a dish, all tender tenderloin fillet one side of the bone, and beefy sirloin on the other. Enriched with custardy yellow béarnaise and accompanied by thin-cut chips.

It wasn’t a cheap meal, this. In fact this beast will set you back a good £65, and it rather defeated us on the night. But it turned into a fantastic salad supper the day after (recipe below), and saved us having to pick up anything new.

Dean Street Townhouse was gracious enough to accept the compliment. In fact, they were prepared for it and as soon as we asked, packed us off with a fancy box and a bag. After our waiter informed us that many fail to finish the Porterhouse, I’d wager they’d not ask for the doggy bag, which to me seems a waste of prime steak.

Our waiter did wonder if we had a dog as we asked if he could pack the bone too.

“No dog”, we replied, “just us”.

Waitrose Food Illustrated’s William Sitwell started the campaign a couple of years back, and was taken on by Jay Rayner and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but I wonder how mainstream doggy-bagging actually is.

Is it something that you’d be happy to do? Or is it just a bit too embarrassing?

The tenderloin fillet (left) and sirloin (right) before...

...and after

Recipe: Leftover beef salad

There were heated discussions while waiting for the bill on what to do with the beef, which was to be used for the next day’s dinner. Stir fry? Pasta?

Fears that the beef would lose its already fantastic flavour cast those ideas aside. We decided to freshen up the steak with lots of vibrant herbs, and enhance rather than hide the flavour with a simple lime dressing.

Serves 2

Beef marinade
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 heaped teaspoon palm sugar
Few drops sesame oil

Leftover rare steak from last night’s blowout
100g dried vermicelli noodles

Handful of herbs - anything like fresh mint leaves, coriander, thai basil or all three is great. I like mine with mint and coriander
Scatter of dry roasted peanuts - roughly crushed with a pestle
Half a cucumber, sliced

Juice from two limes
Fresh chilli or cheat with dollops of sweet chilli sauce

Using a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Pour over the steak and marinate for at least an hour.

Cover the dried noodles with boiling water for ten minutes, then rinse under cold water

Flash fry the steak - you don’t want to cook that rareness out. If already sliced, then it’s a token heat through to take the edge off the marinade. If not, take out and leave to stand before slicing thinly.

Throw the noodles, sliced herbs, peanuts, cucumber, beef. Combine the lime juice and chilli, pour over, toss and serve.

Dean Street Townhouse
69 - 71 Dean Street


020 7434 1775

Thanks to Tom for the recipe

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Bank Holiday Asam Udang (Tamarind Prawns)

Crete is unforgiving.

As Professor Trefusis says in Stephen Fry’s The Liar, travel broadens the behind and my eight days on this craggy beaut of an island has certainly done that. Sixteen meals of carnivorous feasting was just mixed-grill pleasure.

And so I arrive back on bank holiday Monday - the depression of the Royal Wedding weekend - resolutely craving a week of Asian food. Craving Nonya food in fact.

Nonya flavours are magnificent. The wince of tart tamarind, against the salt-tang of shrimp paste. I grew up with those flavours - so glorious in Penang laksas and satay. The cuisine is the 600 year old offspring of Chinese merchants and local Malay women along the Malaysian Straits. Nonya originates from Malacca, but Singapore has some of the greatest Nonya food I know. Personally I think this is the best food in the world - and I don’t say this lightly - the best of both Chinese and South-East Asian worlds.

The things to have in your larder will be a block of tamarind, a bottle of shrimp paste, lemongrass, galangal and chillies - all readily available from your Chinese supermarket.

Unfortunately, bank holiday supermarkets are also unforgiving, so all I managed to pick up was a pack of raw prawns and I had to shave a lemon as I didn’t have any lemongrass.

Still, my hit has begun the process of unbroadening that behind.

Asam Udang (Tamarind Prawns)

Serves 2 and takes 15 minutes max

150g prawns - either legs trimmed off, or for convenience a packet of raw prawns (as pictured)

Sauce ingredients
1 onion sliced
1 stalk lemongrass - bruised (peel from 1 lemon, bruised, if you don’t have any)
4 birdseye chillies - red and green, deseeded and slit lengthways
1 generous tablespoon tamarind pulp mixed with 450ml boiling water
1/3 tablespoon shrimp paste
1 level tablespoon sugar
pinch salt

Push the pulp through a sieve and collect the water in a saucepan. Put the rest of the sauce ingredients into the saucepan.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes uncovered. Let the flavours get to know each other.

Add the prawns and simmer until just cooked.

Serve with rice and a generous helping of garlic broccoli with oyster sauce.