|As the butter melts, the heat of the steak releases the pepper, lemon and rosemary aromas.|
|Pink peppercorns (Wikimedia CommonsCC-BY-SA-3.0)|
They have a sweetish taste quite distinct from black and green peppercorns, and are in fact not true peppercorns at all, being the fruit of Schinus terebinthifolius, a Brazilian flowering plant belonging to the cashew family, and also known as a Brazilian pepper tree, Christmas berry, or Florida holly. My husband bought a bottle of these for me from Germany after a business trip three or four years ago, and they're still as pungent as they were when I first opened the bottle.
The papery seeds are a beautiful deep coral-pink and crush very easily under light pressure from the blade of a knife. I'm smitten by their lovely colour and aroma, and I think you will be too, but as pink peppercorns have been known to cause allergies and dermatitis in certain people, I advise you to eat one and wait for a few hours before inflicting them on your darling.
You can use any sort of good quality, well-matured steak here. I like a good, juicy piece of rump (and no Valentine's Day sniggers from the peanut gallery, please) or rib-eye or sirloin, with a nice marbelling of fat. Everyone has their own method for cooking steak, but I find the best way to achieve a crusty, well-caramelised outside and perfect rosy pinkness within is as follows:
- Don't marinate the steaks
- Season the steaks with salt and pepper immediately before you cook them
- Heat the oil until it's ferociously hot and shimmering, but not yet smoking
- Lay the steaks in the shimmering oil and allow to cook for a minute and a half to two (depending on the thickness of the steak) without moving or prodding them. Turn them over with a pair of tongs when they're beautifully browned, and the add a knob of butter to the pan (see recipe, below). Cook for another minute and a half, basting frequently with the butter.
- If you're not confident about cooking steak, turn one of them over and sneakily cut a deep slit in its thickest part. You will lose some juices from the steak by doing this, but the loss is minimal. If the middle of the steak is a lovely dark pink, and you're looking for medium-rare, remove the steak from the heat immediately (it will continue to cook as it rests). If it looks disturbingly bloody on the inside, give it a little longer.
I love to serve steak with a baked potato brimming with sour cream and chives (or a mixture of sour cream and yoghurt, just to keep heart attacks from the door), but this would also be nice with a zingy potato salad, or little new potatoes, or a pile of warm, buttery mash. The salad leaves in the picture are mustard greens and red-vein sorrel leaves, both of which I grow in pots on my veranda.
Steak with Pink Peppercorn, Rosemary and Lemon Butter
2 well-matured rump, sirloin or rib-eye steaks
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
salt and milled black pepper
For the flavoured butter:
4 T (60 ml) softened butter
12 fresh rosemary needles
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) pink peppercorns
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) finely grated fresh lemon zest
First make the butter. Put a handful of ice chips on a small plate, and place it in the freezer. Finely chop or snip the rosemary needles and gently crush the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle, or a rolling pin. Don't pound them too hard, or they'll turn to a paste.
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is very hotand shimmering, add the steaks and cook on one side until nicely browned and caramelised (see my notes, above). Flip the steaks over. Add any remaining flavoured butter to the pan, and, using a spoon, baste the steaks every twenty seconds. When the steaks are done to your liking, remove them from the pan and place on a plate to rest for 5 minutes.
Slide the steaks onto plates and top each one with a pat of flavoured butter. Serve immediately with green salad and a baked potato.