Sunday, February 10, 2008

T-Bone Steak

This is a simple, great, dish, stolen without a moment’s regret from Umbrian uber-wondrous boutique hotel, the Villa Sassolini. There, a single steak of monumental proportions is served for two people, brought to the table ready-cut into chunks and placed before the gentleman, while a warm plate is served to the lady, who is then meant to be served by her paramour. Italy, at least this part of it, is either still delightfully chivalrous or irredeemably sexist, depending on how you view these things.

Alongside the steak is a dish of beans. And that’s the lot. Somehow, it works brilliantly – elegant simplicity at its most elegant and simple! This type of food depends for its brilliance on great ingredients. Tinned beans and Spinneys’ steak are not a patch on Umbria’s finest and yet it’s still, despite all that, very good indeed.

You might, looking at this recipe, think it all looks a little oily. Use the very best of olive oil judiciously and you will thank me. Promise.


  • Four good t-bone steaks
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Great olive oil
  • 1 tin cannelini beans
  • 1 tin borlotti beans
  • 3 bunches rocket or arrugula
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • 3 tbsp vinegar

First wash down and dry the steaks: Spinneys and others tend to cut t-bone with a band-saw, creating a distinctive deposit of bone dust on the meat. Get it off then pat the steaks dry. Rub the steaks with good olive oil, then season them both sides with lots of freshly ground pepper and sea-salt.

Empty the tins of beans, along with the water they’re in, into a pan. Wash the rocket and dry it in a spinner or colander. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes up (they’ll be oily, but keep the oil with them) and put them in a small bowl and add the vinegar and another splosh of olive oil as well as a pinch of sea salt.

Unless you’re going to use a covered pan for the next bit, you’d better have a good extractor fan in the kitchen. With either a grill pan or a covered frying pan, slide a good slosh of olive oil into the pan, crank the heat up to high and let it stand for a short while to heat up. Then put in the steaks: if you’re lucky you’ll get two at a time into the pan. Fry them for a good three to five minutes on either side, turning the heat down for a further five minutes for medium and another five for well, then keep them in a lowish oven while you fry the others, rare orders last of course!

Turn the oven off and let the steaks stand for five minutes. In the meantime, heat the beans (don’t boil them) for a couple of minutes and then drain them: rinse them off with a couple of cups of hot water from the kettle and put them in a serving bowl. Pour a good glug of oil into them, along with plenty of ground pepper and sea salt. You can tear some fresh herbs and throw these in too, if the fancy takes you.

Serve the beans in bowls alongside the steak, surrounded with a scattering of rocket with the tomato mixture drizzled over. If you can, do for a bottle of Montepulciano as well. And then dream of Tuscany!

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