Steak Au Poivre

The simple perfect pleasure of steak au poivre, spinach and a baked potato, or some frites and a tomato salad is just sublime.

It’s another bistro classic that we all take for granted and which, because it’s so simple, is all too frequently done badly.

This has become something of a Friday night ritual at our place: a good steak, simply cooked, washed down with a dry martini. A weekly homage to LA favourite, Musso & Frank’s.

In these gloomy economic times, a steak and a glass of wine in front of the telly is sometimes as good as it gets.


Serves 2


2 steaks of your choice

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tablespoon whole white peppercorns

1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

2 tablespoons double cream (optional)

1 tablespoon whisky (optional)


1. Massage the steaks with olive oil. Rub the halved garlic cloves over them.

2. Pound the peppercorns coarsely in a mortar and pestle.

3. Pat the ground pepper onto the steaks and leave to macerate for an hour or so — if you have time and patience. If not, they’ll be fine, just not as peppery.

4. Heat a wide pan as hot as you dare and slap them in. Now: here’s the thing — every steak has its own time scale! Truly. I have tried timing things according to the great and the good of the food world to no avail, so now I swear by the following method:—

Hold out your left hand. Now with your right hand feel that fleshy bit of palm under your thumb, where it mounds. You’ll see it goes from soft and squishy to hard by your wrist. Keep touching the steaks with your finger. Soft and squishy — your steak is rare: medium — it’s medium; hard — it’s well done. This really is the best ‘done-ness’ test going.

5. When the steaks are cooked just how you like them, set them aside on a warm plate to rest for at least five minutes. This is very important. It lets the fibres of the meat relax and the flavours develop.

6. While the steaks are resting, you could deglaze the pan with a little whisky and bubble up some cream. Then pour this over the steak for a yummy creamy sauce.