How to Make the Perfect Steak

For the second of my courses at Leiths, I learned an invaluable life skill – how to make the perfect steak.


I’ve always loved steak – ever since I was a little girl. When I would go back to Japan in the summers, my grandfather would always prepare a steak to which I would compare all other steaks to for the rest of my life – Kobe beef with the most delicious sauce. I used to get homesick for that sauce, but he always kept the recipe close, and when he passed away I thought that the recipe was lost forever.

Steak slicesSteak

I’ve been cooking steaks more since my course, where I picked up some great tips and knife skills – I can now confidently say that I can whip up a pretty damn good steak. I now know the perfect amount of time to fry my steaks for (a minute and a half each side for medium rare), the right oil (one with a high smoke point, like sunflower, never olive oil) and how to cut an onion like an absolute pro.


The men outnumbered the women in the class – mostly those who’d been given the class as a gift for Christmas. The class was a lot of fun – we practiced our new techniques on a few steaks, and tried our hand at making a few different sauces, including peppercorn, bearnaise and chimichurri. For a dish with relatively few ingredients, there are quite a few moving parts (like how to know when the oil is hot enough!) and my steak cooking skills have most definitely improved as a result. We also got to try different types of steak – fillet, rump, sirloin (my personal favourite!), rib eye, bavette, kangaroo, venison and buffalo. It was a serious contender for the happiest afternoon I’ve ever had.

Steak Plate

With all my experimenting, I think I’ve cracked the family sauce, too – so here’s my recipe for the perfect Japanese wafu steak.

The Perfect Wafu-Style Steak
This is the sauce my grandfather used to make me when I would return to Japan in the summers. With all my experimenting, I think I’ve cracked the family sauce– so here’s my recipe for the perfect Japanese wafu steak.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Japanese
Serves: 2 Steaks
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons of soy or tamari sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of sake
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  1. Drain off the excess fat from the frying pan used for the steaks, and discard.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in the pan on a medium heat, gently scraping the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the slivers of sliced garlic to the pan, and once browned, take them off of the heat.
  4. Place the garlic pieces on some kitchen paper, and add the sake and mirin.
  5. Stir constantly until the alcohol in the sake has been cooked off, before adding the soy sauce.
  6. Once the soy sauce has been added, turn off the heat but keep the pan on the hob and stir.
  7. Sprinkle the garlic pieces over the meat, and ladle the sauce over.
  8. Serve the steak cubed, with a side of sesame seed coated spinach, plain rice and miso soup.
I loved my courses at Leiths, and will definitely be looking into doing some more in the future!

5 Stars (5 / 5)

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Kurobuta, Marble Arch

I’d wanted to go to Kurobuta for a while – it’s been one of those places I constantly get as a recommendation, as in “oh, you’re Japanese? Have you been to Kurobuta?”

I booked a table for two ahead of time on the Zomato app. They were fully booked from 7pm, but we managed to get a 6.45 table at the Marble Arch branch. Curiously, it didn’t really fill up until about 7.30, so not sure what that was all about, but by the time we left the place was pretty packed so it’d be best to book to avoid disappointment.

Kurobuta, Marble Arch

I ordered what is now my new favourite cocktail on the recommendation of my enthusiastic waiter, the Green Bastard. (The cocktail, that is, not the server). It had all of my favourite things in a glass – Hendrick’s gin, midori, cucumber and lime – tart, refreshing and perfectly amazuppai – the Japanese word to describe something that’s both sweet and sour (but in the best way possible).

Kurobuta attempts a Western twist on the classic Japanese izakaya, and the theme is consistent throughout – from the atmosphere and decor to the dishes and menu itself.

In traditional izakaya style, Kurobuta offers a wide selection of small, tapas style plates, ideal to eat family-style – my favourite way of eating anything. Ordering at Kurobuta presented more of a challenge than usual, as everything is so appetising – and the combinations so unusual.

After much debate (the waiter had to come and go a few times) we settled on six dishes between the two of us, as well as a few bottles of Asahi black for the mister. Couldn’t get much more out of him on the subject beyond “it’s beer”, but the Asahi black is a dark lager beer – if you’re a fan of Guinness then this is worth tasting.

Kurobuta Pork Scratchings

The first dishes to arrive where the porky scratchings with yuzu kosho dip. Pork scratchings isn’t something I’d ever end up buying in a shop, or attempt at home, but every time it’s on the menu I inevitably end up ordering it (with no regrets). Duck and Waffle do great ones in my opinion (okay, okay, they’re pigs ears if you’re being picky about it), but the Kurobuta ones are in a league of their own. The light crispness is reminiscent of tempura batter, but the way it melts pleasingly on the tongue, along with the distinctively porky aftertaste confirms that it is not. If I come back as a pig in my next life, then this is the fate I would hope for – to end up as these porky scratchings. Served with a yuzu kosho dip, these aren’t overly sickly either, and felt relatively guilt-free – though make no mistake, these most definitely are not!

Kurobuta Jersualem Artichoke Chopsticks

The porky scratchings were shortly followed by Jerusalem artichoke chopsticks, served with a truffle ponzu dip. I don’t know how they managed to squeeze so many of my favourite things into one dish, and once it arrived I was even more delighted to find that the artichokes had been shaped into attractive chopstick shapes and deep-fried. These were beautiful, although I must admit I much preferred the yuzu kosho dip from the porky scratchings, and found myself dipping these into that sauce instead.

Kurobuta Miso-glazed hot wings

The next dishes followed in quick succession: yellowtail sashimi with kizami wasabi salsa and yuzu soy, miso grilled hot wings, wagyu beef sliders and a spicy tuna maki rolled in tempura crunchies. The yellowtail was seasoned nicely, although the slivers of sashimi weren’t particularly generous, nor was it the best quality yellowtail I’ve ever had, but was artfully presented and pleasantly piquant.

Spicy Tuna Maki Kurobuta

The flavours and texture of the spicy tuna maki was really pleasing, although I couldn’t help but wish the spicy sauce (sriracha, I’m assuming) was integrated within the roll instead of spread liberally on top. That being said, I really enjoy this fusion trend of coating the outside of the maki in tempura batter – I love the flavour and texture combination of the buttery batter next to the cool flesh.

Kurobuta Miso-glazed hot wings

The wagyu beef sliders and the miso grilled hot wings were clearly the more masculine choices, and while tasty I couldn’t say I’d order them again. The wings were the perfect balance of smoky and spicy, while the miso glaze gave the dish a bit more depth – but it wasn’t anything particularly spectacular.

Kurobuta Wagyu Beef Sliders

The Wagyu beef sliders had been the source of much excitement all week. The mister was unbelievably excited about what the menu promised as a steamed bun, served with crunchy onion, pickled cucumber and umami mayo. What arrived fell far short of spectacular, and if we go again we’d spend the £20 on some of the more Japanese offerings instead.

For dessert, we both went for the yuzu and coconut mochi ice cream, which is always a winner.

Kurobuta Mochi Ice Cream

Kurobuta was a fun dining experience. In my opinion, the Western twist on Japanese dishes outdid the Japanese twists on Western classics, but I would definitely go again with close friends and family.

Including a side of rice and drinks, Kurobuta set us back £120 including service.

Kurobuta is located at 17-20 Kendal Street, Marble Arch, London W2 2AW, with another branch in Chelsea.

3.75 Stars (3.75 / 5)

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Gluten Free Entertaining at Leiths

Anyone with even a vague interest in the subject of food has heard of Leiths, the West London institution famous for training some of the worlds best chefs.

Leiths school of food and wine

I was lucky enough to get two of their weekend courses for Christmas, the first of which was Gluten Free Entertaining with Tom Thexton, founder of the Wild Thexton Bakery.

Gluten-free baking is still something I hadn’t quite yet mastered – my attempts have always been a bit too crumbly, or a bit too dry – never quite like the real deal. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when I saw the plan for the day – all mouthwatering, and gloriously gluten free. Wild Thexton supplies some of London’s best hotels with gluten free pastries, so I was feeling pretty optimistic about picking up a gluten free baking tip or two.

We started off the day by preparing the main – a dish of spiced duck served with a side of cauliflower cous cous. I’ve been cooking with ras el hanout more recently, and really enjoying it, and this duck dish was no exception.

Gluten free spiced duck with cauliflower couscousgluten free cauliflower couscous

The side dish of cauliflower cous cous was so simple to make. I’ve been really missing cous cous, and this is a great alternative – healthier, too. You achieve the same texture by blitzing the head of cauliflower in a food processor, and heating it through with olive oil, chopped celery, vinegar and maple syrup. This was served with chopped parsley, spring onions, almonds and pomegranate seeds, and tasted fresh and filling.

pomegranate and spring onion

The next course on the agenda was the dessert – a chocolate whiskey pot, which was so simple to make, and really delicious, although incredibly rich.

Gluten free chocolate whiskey pot with orange biscotti

These were served alongside orange biscotti. The baking portion of the afternoon was the most useful – and I’ll be taking a lot of the tips to my baking at home.

Tom ThextonGluten free cheddar and goats cheese gougeresGluten free cheddar and goats cheese gougeres

Most of the baking was demonstrated to us, and we came away learning how to make sublime light black pepper, cheddar and goat’s cheese gougeres and mustard seed flatbreads. The key takeaway I got from the day was how crucial the use of psyllium husks and xanthan gum is in gluten free baking – it gives more of a texture, as well as adding colour, as gluten free flour and products can often produce pale and anemic-looking results (not particularly appetising).

Gluten free mustard seed flatbreadsGluten free mustard seed flatbreads

I thoroughly enjoyed my gluten free entertaining experience at Leiths, and would definitely recommend it for those who want to improve their baking skills. It was also a great way to get food recommendations and tips from other coeliacs and chat to others over a dinner that know exactly where you’re coming from! Most of the students had either been recently diagnosed, or had received the class as a gift. Tom Thexton was also really forthcoming with recommendations and advice and it was a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Kampot Pepper Popcorn

Kampot pepper is quite possibly my favourite spice. There’s something aromatic, and distinctly floral about these peppercorns, making it lighter and less likely to overwhelm than its European counterparts. Kampot pepper has a protected geographical indication status, meaning if it hasn’t been cultivated between the Damrei Mountains and the Cambodian Coastline, then it isn’t the real thing.

Kampot pepper is popular among French chefs, who brought the spice back with them during the Colonial period. These peppercorns are often sun dried – when fresh, these peppercorns are an essential part of dishes like beef lok lak. During my visit to the crab markets in Kep, I tasted this in its most exquisite form – to dip fresh crab into a divine citrus and peppercorn sauce made of salt, lime juice and ground pepper.

Kampot pepper, popcorn kernels, butter, lime

Unfortunately I don’t seem to have found a reliable provider of dirt cheap, succulent and mouthwateringly delicious crab in London, but I did bring back some pepper from my trip to Kampot. It’s not quite as easy to get your hands on the stuff in London, but I managed to find some on Souschef. At £7 per 100g it’s not quite as affordable as it is in Cambodia, but once ground, the peppercorns should last you a good long while.

The following recipe is barely a recipe – more like a seasoning of home popped popcorn. In terms of comfort food, or an ideal snack, you’d be hard pressed to find a better alternative. Making it yourself in a pot is not only cheaper, but you won’t get that greasy film that often emerges once its out of the microwave.

Popcorn kernels

For Kampot pepper popcorn, you will need:

Tablespoon of olive oil

25g popcorn kernels

5g finely ground Kampot pepper



Nib of butter (optional)

Popped corn

The first step couldn’t be simpler – all you need is a stove and a pan with a lid. Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in the pan before adding the kernels. Be sure to use a lid or you will have hot corn flying everywhere! The heat should be quite high, and after a minute or so you should hear the familiar popping of the corn. Take the pan off of the heat as soon as you hear the popping die down – it should be done.

As tempting as it is, it’s vital to take the pan off of the heat as soon as its done – I’m always determined to get those last few kernels to pop, which burns the rest. Make peace with the fact that some kernels will never pop and move on to the next step – decanting the popcorn into a suitable bowl, preferably a lacquered coconut one.

Kampot Pepper Popcorn with Lime4

For butter fiends, I recommend adding a dollop while the corn is still hot, so it can begin to melt. I personally prefer it without – it feels cleaner this way, and I’m not the biggest fan of butter on popcorn.

Kampot Pepper Popcorn with Lime

Top the popped corn with the ground pepper, salt, lime zest and a squeeze of lime. The intense aroma and delicate yet complex flavours of the Kampot pepper makes this simple, gluten-free snack a little more unusual.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch

I’ve got a bit of a love-hate relationship with Shoreditch. It’s home to so many hidden gems, but my patience is often worn thin by the abundance of the nauseatingly kitsch, and establishments that seem to be trying a little too hard (the new porridge cafe, anyone?)

So I was more than a little sceptical when I was invited down to Forge & Co, a new restaurant on Shoreditch High Street that markets itself as ‘a unique social establishment in the heart of Shoreditch’, with a ‘canteen’ and a ‘lounge’ focusing on the ‘artisan’ and ‘urbane’.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchNever one to judge an establishment by it’s neighbourhood (or, in fact, its website – the best places should focus on what goes on the plate), we went down on a Tuesday evening to see what all the fuss was about.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchWe were invited down, and had booked our table ahead of time. Forge & Co usually operates a membership policy that’s more than a little perplexing – it can be arranged on your first visit, and is free and available to all. Whether that’s just to create interest and buzz is unsure, but it’s worth popping down just in case the current policy changes to become more exclusive.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchWe arrived for 7pm, and there were plenty of tables available in the canteen section, though the bar/lounge area was beginning to fill up considerably. The clientele was varied – the usual artsy media types you tend to find around Shoreditch were laughing and drinking away, while on the next table a rather grumpy looking student on her fourth latte seemed increasingly agitated by the growing noise around her.

The atmosphere at Forge & Co is relaxed, and they seem to be getting it pretty spot on in terms of creating a social space for those to work, bring their laptops and plug in, while still being an open environment great for a light dinner or brunch.

Forge & Co, ShoreditchThe canteen area reminded me of a trendy, modern ski lodge – the copper and clean lines combined with rustic accents like the log piles and exposed brick created an atmosphere conducive to relaxation, a great way to unwind after a long day at the office.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch

I trusted our friendly and attentive waiter with the wine choice for the evening, and he chose well – I really enjoyed the Australian Malbec (The Listening Station, 2010).

So far, so good – we enjoyed the wine as we turned our attentions to the most important part of the evening – the menu.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Prawn and Avocado SaladForge & Co, Shoreditch: Prawn and Avocado Salad

The All-Day Menu at Forge & Co is short, sweet and simple, serving locally-sourced produce where possible. It’s an eclectic mix of usual British fare – steaks, rump of lamb, chicken, as well as several dishes where they’ve taken a more exotic or unusual twist on the classics, like their signature ox heart burger, or tandoori tofu salad.

Forge & Co would be a great place to go with a mixed group, as there’s something to please almost everyone – the safe, staple choices for those who are particular about food, while some of the more eccentric dishes are sure to please adventurous foodies.

For my starter, I went for the Dublin Bay prawns with caper butter. I absolutely adore capers, and I’ve never thought of having them with prawns – I usually throw them in with salads, or as part of a puttanesca sauce. My boyfriend went for the roasted beetroot, walnut and Ragstone goats cheese salad.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Prawn and Avocado Sal

I thoroughly enjoyed my starter, although not for the reasons I’d originally expected. As informed by my waiter as I ordered, the Dubliners arrived with heads and shells intact, beautifully arranged on sea of sauteed spinach, purple sprouting broccoli and delicately placed avocado slivers which were carefully fanned out on my plate.

Having been brought up by a Japanese mother, I’m most definitely not squeamish when it comes to my seafood, or any type of food for that matter – I’d happily look my food in the face before I eat it (which is probably something that would come up in a Psychopath Test).

The Dublin Bay prawns were somewhat stringy, and not big enough to make it worth fiddling around with the crab cracker for the amount of flesh I was able to retrieve using the utensils I had. This might be because I’ve been completely spoiled from my recent trip to the crab markets in Kep, and I couldn’t help but wish that they’d substituted the prawns for a larger variety.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Beetroot and Goats Cheese SaladForge & Co, Shoreditch: Beetroot and Goats Cheese SaladThe caper butter, however, was devastatingly good. The salty tartness of the caper butter, combined with the buttery texture of the avocado and the flavour of the garlic used to saute the greens completely saved the dish for me. I would eat the greens with the caper butter as a starter alone, it was that good – and completely made up for any disappointment I’d felt after grappling with the prawns.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Beetroot and Goats Cheese SaladThe roasted beetroot and goats cheese salad was visually stunning – the warm golden beetroot was served with toasted walnuts and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. The heat from the roasted beetroot warmed the goats cheese through, making this a perfect winter starter ideal for recreating at home.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Seared Tuna with Okra, Ponzu

For my main course I opted for one of the more unusual dishes on the menu – the seared tuna with charred rocket and okra, served with a ponzu sauce. Ponzu is one of my favourite condiments – a Japanese combination of soy sauce and citrus juice, such as lemon or yuzu which is perfect with meat, fish and tofu.

Still riding high on my New Years Resolution (to eat more vegetables), I ordered the main with a side of brussels sprouts with Camarthen lardons.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Oxheart BurgerThe tuna was seared perfectly for my tastes – rare enough in the middle to remind me of aburi (broiled) sashimi, which is one of my favourite ways to eat tuna. This dish also rekindled my love of okra, the almost nutty and sticky texture was excellent charred, particularly with the lemony ponzu.

The brussels sprouts were also delicious – I only wish these had been around during the dreaded Christmas dinners of my childhood. The combination of my main dish and side, however, was rather odd – although lovely on their own, I wouldn’t go for this bizarre combination again, and should’ve opted for the winter greens (or the chips, if I’m being honest).

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Oxheart Burger

Andrew went for the Forge Ox heart burger – as Forge & Co’s signature dish, he didn’t really have a choice in the matter. The Forge Ox heart burger patty consists of the spey side of beef and the ox heart, garnished with spinach, mature cheddar, streaky bacon aioli and chips. Optional extras included avocado, egg or bacon. Andrew got his with extra bacon, and the Forge Ox burger was served on a brioche bun topped with a tiny gherkin.

I sampled the patty, which was moist, and liberally seasoned – a little on the salty side, which I adore, but could divide opinion.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Chocolate Fondant and Ice Cream

For pudding, we were brought an adorable looking chocolate fondant. It tried making eyes at me, but I managed to resist its charms.

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Chocolate Fondant

Once it was ripped into, the chocolate filling started bleeding everywhere, sparking off gleeful quotes of “it’s fucking molten” (apologies for the language, but we’ve only just managed to watch Chef.)

Due to its lack of platelets the fondant managed to make a mess of the table, which only served to revive Andrew’s one man crusade against food being served on slate slabs (which, to be fair, isn’t the wisest choice for a melty, runny, chocolatey dessert).

Forge & Co, Shoreditch: Chocolate FondantForge & Co, Shoreditch: Cocktail BarForge & Co, Shoreditch: Clover Club Cocktail

After our delicious meal we made a beeline for the bar – an aesthetically pleasing and gorgeously lit set with copper accents. The Clover Club cocktail, a delicious blend of tart raspberry with Tanqueray, lemon and made foamy and almost creamy by the addition of egg white was the perfect ending to a pleasing sensory dining experience on so many levels – both visually and orally.

The Forge & Co exceeded all my expectations, and is a wonderful space for dining, working, socialising and relaxing in general. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, and will definitely be popping down with my laptop in the future. They also have the most beautiful bathroom sinks I’ve ever seen – not one for taking bathroom pictures, I had to make an exception in this case.

Forge & Co - Blue Sink

Forge&Co is located at 154-158 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6HU.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

Although I was invited to Forge & Co for a complimentary meal, all opinions are fully my own.

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