Fresh Szechwan Steak Garden Rolls


That photo, my friends, that one right there?  That is what tongue tingling flavour looks like.  Really!  I wanted something fresh and crunchy that didn’t mean deep-fried and heavy.  I would say that it was a desperate cling to summer and it’s fresh flavours but it’s not.  I like summer, don’t get me wrong but Autumn is my kind of time.  Breezy, fresh air whirling about, trees getting their Autumn/Winter wardrobe in, not to mention all the layering I can do!  Fine knits, deep jewel colours…Gah, I can’t wait!


You might need to have a little scout around for two of the ingredients in this.  Szechwan peppercorns and fresh Thai basil.  They are absolutely worth it though, really truly.  I would not lie to you about food.

The Thai basil is a bit more aniseed than Italian basil.. a little bit like tarragon too.  Tarragon and Italian basil put together, maybe?  But not spicy like star anise.. a clean aniseed, citrussy.  Ah hell just try it! It’s different and wonderful and combined with the Szechwan pepper will make your tongue tingle.  Szechwan pepper is different to black pepper.. it’s citrus and bright and doesn’t have the same heat.

If you can’t find either of them, no sweat!  Go for black peppercorn steak and coriander with the mint, just as fresh and bright and less of a shopping faff.


Smother your steak in a little sesame oil and crushed Szechwan pepper.  Sear it on a grill so it’s medium rare.  Sorry, I love the pink beef!



Let the steak rest whilst you faff about getting everything ready for wrapping.  Once you chop the two other items it’s really a very quick recipe.  And so full of flavour – or did I say that already?


The dipping sauce is minced garlic with a tablespoon of this that and the other.  Simple.  Fast.  Delicious.


Yeah, rolling the rice wrappers is a little tricky but you quickly get the hang of it. As long as you use a clean damp cloth you’ll be fine.

This recipe gave me 10 rolls, or it would have done if I hadn’t eaten so many as I was making them.

250g good steak, rump is fine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Szechwan peppercorns
Vietnamese rice wrappers
Vermicelli rice noodles
Spring onion, cut into strips
Carrot, cut into strips
Fresh Thai basil
Fresh mint

Dipping sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 crushed garlic

Cook the vermicelli noodles until al dente and rinse with cold water.
Rub the steak with sesame oil and press with the crushed Szechwan peppercorns. Sear the steak to your liking, mine was 2 minutes a side.
Let the steak rest.
Mix together the dipping sauce ingredients.
Get your rolling area ready. Lay down a damp clean cloth, get a bowl of water big enough for the rice wrappers and bring the fillings close to hand.
The rice wrappers can be a little tricky but you’ll get the hang of it. Dip it in the water and rub it until it becomes pliable and floppy.
Lay it onto the damp towel and begin to layer the fillings.
Place one Thai basil leaf and one leaf of mint down first, this way they’ll show through when you wrap them up.
Add a few strips of spring onion and one of carrot. One or two strips of beef, depending on their size and then a bundle of noodles. Fold over the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold in both sides and roll ‘er up.
It might take one or two goes to get the amount of filling right but they’ll all be good eating!

Salad Dressing Steak

It was New Year’s Day and instead of fixing beef wellington, or another time consuming roast, we opted for steak. Delicious charred pink protein.
On New Year’s Eve I waded my way through last minute foragers in the local grocer’s, I did the same in Waitrose and returned home to stuff everything in the fridge before going to work at 4pm. No way was I going to carry it all home drunk after a seven hour shift and that’s even if I remembered to take it. I was sure I had everything for a fast New Year’s feeding.

Except peppercorns.

On Sunday 21st December I had cooked Christmas dinner for the “Work Family”. Food to feed sixteen and two vegetarians. Of course I had to brine the turkey, and so used all the peppercorns.

No big deal? Normally in our house we’ll rub the steak with a little oil and blanket bomb it with coarsely ground pepper. And I was out.

So. I poked around the cupboard for something that wouldn’t take time to construct but could work magic whilst the steaks came to room temperature. Salad dressing. It contains pepper! and vinegar and oils and other lovely things which not only help to tenderize the steak but sweeten when seared. Yes, there’s salt in there which isn’t ideal but I had no peppercorns!
But it’s not just any bottled salad dressing, you see, we DIY but I happen to have an addiction to Newman’s Own. Really. I’ll drink it from the bottle if left unsupervised.
Anyway. We doused the cold steaks in maybe.. three tablespoons of Newman’s Own Italian Dressing. Rubbed it in and left them to come round.
When the chill had gone they were introduced to a really hot cast iron grill pan – so hot you can’t hover your hand over it for long – for two minutes each side. Served with rosemary puy lentils (for luck!), crispy potatoes and lemony greens. Excellent.