I get the fair pricing on wine people are talking about; it can seem as though wine is hugely overpriced sometimes, but hacking the price of wine up purely enables restaurants to make some profit. There is almost no profit on food in restaurants, this is a well-known fact. All restaurants will do if forced to reduce their wine costs, is put the mark up on their food, then people will be complaining that they’re paying over the odds for prawn cocktail!
What you are indeed paying for is ambience, atmosphere, quality of produce, skill, talent, convenience and for a bloody good excuse to go out with friends and loved-ones. Don’t get me wrong, not all restaurants are good but at the end of the day it’s about choice. If you can’t afford the Chateaubriand, don’t order it – can’t afford the wine, ask for table water!
1 loaf of white bread (unsliced)
4 rib-eye or fillet steaks, a bit shorter than the loaf
6 Portobello mushrooms
200-300g exotic mushrooms (I used oyster and Shitake)
4 cloves garlic
1 handful fresh herbs (I used marjoram, parsley, thyme)
Salt and pepper
Slice one end off the loaf and hollow out the middle, setting the soft crumb to one side.
Saute the steaks, seasoned with pepper but without salt, for two minutes per side in the olive oil. Remove to a plate. It is important that your steaks are rare so that they give up their moisture to the sandwich when pressed.
Reduce the heat and melt one knob of butter in the pan with the olive oil from the steaks. Saute the Portobello mushrooms with the smashed cloves of garlic until the mushrooms are soft and starting to release their juices. Transfer to the plate with the steaks.
Season the steaks and mushrooms with plenty of salt and some more pepper. Build layers of steak, Portobello mushrooms, wild mushrooms and herbs inside the loaf until you have used everything up – if any cracks appear in the loaf, patch with the crumb you reserved. Pour any juices from the plate into the sandwich with the liquid from the pan. Wipe the cut end of the loaf in any remaining pan juices and put it back on the loaf. Wrap the whole thing in three layers of greaseproof paper and tie up tightly with string.
Place the loaf on a chopping board so the steaks are lying horizontally. Place another chopping board on top of the loaf and weight it down – a plate with 3-4 food cans on top did the trick. Leave the sandwich (no need to refrigerate) for five hours.
Serve the sandwich by simply slicing through the whole stuffed loaf with a breadknife. The steaks will be juicy, the pressed mushrooms silky, and the whole thing full of concentrated flavour.
I don’t have much of a social life. I pretty much gave all that up when I embarked on my business venture; time spent eating and drinking has been replaced with time spent designing, marketing, book keeping and website developing – not that I would change any of it – I totally love what I do.
So, it’s a very rare occasion that I get asked out for dinner and even rarer that it’s at one of my favorite restaurants – Azzari Too – a hidden gem not 2 miles from home. I was out with the girls (Max and Nicky) from The Cherry Tree and they picked up the tab (a little thank you for helping them get their new shop up and running).
The food as always was fab – baked camembert with red onion relish, tomato and red onion salad, bread and olives to start – the girls had sea bass on coconut rice with pak choi and I had the asian lamb on bombay potatoes with spinach; dessert was a shared chocolate and Baileys cheesecake with berries (you should have seen the size of it!) – all washed down with a couple of bottles of Veuve – and very nice it all was too.
As always we gossiped endlessly, put the world to right, belly laughed at our own misfortune and misadventures and distracted the staff – who are always up for a gossip (turns out a couple of them knew restaurant managers we had worked with over 18 years ago). Barry (the owner) managed to escape the kitchen and join us for a while – we discussed the food, surviving the credit crunch and the photographs he had on the walls -
there was even talk of me photographing his food for his website.
All in all a darn good evening!