I’m a big fan of Vanessa Cooper – I love the colour, the pattern, the naïvity, the fun of it all. Looking at her paintings just makes me feel joyous.

For anyone interested in food, and in enjoyable meals her pictures offer additional treats.

And there’s an eccentricity about them which resonates with a blog styling itself as ‘The Eccentric Guide to Stylish Cooking’, so when I read that there will be an exhibition of her paintings at The Brian Sinfield Gallery in Burford, Oxfordshire (a lovely Cotswold town – great day trip). The exhibition runs 20 November – 3 December 2016. A Simple Blessing, and Snail on my Still Life, are two that I covet.

But with my food hat on I have to go for The Steak Out – as much for the wine (try the Trapezio ++ for a good wine to drink with steak) as for the steak….or the Belgian frites…or the peas.

One day when I retire (I wish) I would love to write a story about these characters – the leads would be the terrier on the left and the dashund on the right.

So here is a recipe for steak – not with peas, but instead, attempting to be as creative as Vanessa Cooper (I wish again), with baby gem.

This is also good hearty salad for summer… you could serve with Jersey Royal potatoes or some herby, garlicky croûtons for a bit of extra bulk, or even Police Dog Hogan-inspired magnificent mustard morsels.


Recipe for hot steak salad with hot baby gem


For two


  • 400g/14 oz lean steak fillet – ask your butcher to slice this thinly on the grain
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red vermouth
  • 3 baby gem lettuces
  • Nut oil and butter for frying
  • Parmesan – not grated, but thin slivers
  • 2 tbsps pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbsp capers (not the type in brine – or if you must, drain, soak in milk, rinse and leave to dry)
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 2 spring onions, sliced finely including about an inch (2 cm) of the green
  • 2 generous tbsps. of mayonnaise
  • Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
  1. Marinate the steak in a marinade made with the olive oil and red vermouth, and some seasoning for as long as you can – couple of hours, or overnight. You can also freeze it at this stage.
  2. Warm your plates and a big serving platter.
  3. Bring the steak to room temperature, and fry briefly – it should still be red in the middle. For more about frying steak go here. Cover with foil and leave to rest.
  4. Add the marinade and reduce briefly. Put into a smallish, pretty bowl.
  5. Cut your baby gem in half and fry in a mixture of nut oil (I use walnut) and butter (for more about cooking baby gem in the useful way, follow this link). Use the same frying pan as for the steak and marinade.
  6. Meanwhile cut your steak with a sharp knife, on the diagonal, into thin strips
  7. Add the mayonnaise and pomegranate molasses to the marinade and mix well. Season.
  8. Lay the baby gem on a warmed serving platter, and arrange the steak strips on top.
  9. Sprinkle over the lemon zest, spring onions,
  10. Serve with the dressing


Hot steak and baby gem salad recipe

Hot steak and baby gem salad recipe