Demystifying the Tomahawk Steak – bringing the Caveman and Cavewoman into the modern era

The world of social media is an interesting place. If you told me that I would be a regular on Instagram when I started this blog, I would have thought you were insane! Fast forward over a year and a half, here I am, posting daily, engaging with followers, and finding inspiration in the digital world out there.

Creativity really has no boundaries.

What I find mind boggling about this world are the human connections that can take place over the sharing of a simple photograph. A like, a comment, and a simple exchange of encouraging words make this an extremely engaging platform, and one where you can let your imagination run wild and free. It’s the perfect online haven for you to share what you find meaningful, whether it’s a talent, a passion, a product, or a tiny piece of your life.

It was through Instagram that I met the people behind Les Gastronomes, a start-up online meat supplier based in Dubai (this is not a sponsored post). Michel, the owner, reached out after spotting my account and invited me to select any cuts I found inspiring.

The first thing that struck me was their black angus Tomahawk steak. Big, bold, and on a bone that’s the size of my arm (I’m not kidding), this epic piece of meat is a force to be reckoned with, and a culinary challenge worth taking on. I found it a little imposing at first, but in all honesty, it’s relatively simple to prepare if you follow a few basic rules. All you need is some coarse salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a hot grill (or griddle pan), and you’re set for a carnivorous feast.

Massive Tomahawk steak

Trust me, you’ll never look at steak the same way again.

I served this baby with a white bean and roasted garlic purée, and a side of slow cooked baby onions. Add some roasted potatoes, along with whatever greens you fancy, and get ready to wow your guests, and seriously impress yourself in the process.

Cutting through a Tomahawk steak

Bon appétit!

Grilled Black Onyx Tomahawk steak with white bean and roasted garlic purée

Serves 4, or 2 very hungry cavemen/cavewomen

Ingredients for the Tomahawk:

  • One 1.4 kg to 1.6 kg Tomahawk – rib-eye steak on the bone
  • Coarse sea salt, enough to cover both sides of the meat (Maldon is always my favourite)
  • Cracked black pepper – place a small handful of peppercorns in a small plastic bag and give it a few whacks until the pepper is aromatic and breaks into coarse pieces

Directions:

Remove the meat from the refrigerator 1.5 to 2 hours prior to cooking in order to bring it to room temperature. (Note – If your Tomahawk comes frozen, you’ll need to thaw it in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours before you want to cook it)

Preheat grill or griddle pan over medium high heat.

Season both sides of the meat generously with salt and pepper, gently patting it on the flesh so it sticks to each side

Place the Tomahawk on the grill, and let it cook, undisturbed, for five minutes. You can close the grill, but you will need to monitor the meat so it does not flame up (keep the grill at medium to medium high heat).

tomahawk on the gril step 1

After five minutes, rotate the meat 45 degrees, and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes longer, until the meat is beautifully grilled on the exterior (you want that characteristic grill mark pattern on the meat if possible).

Carefully lift the meat, as it is getting soft off the bone, and repeat on the other side for a total of 9 to 10 minutes.

tomahawk on the grill step 2

Note that the timings I’m giving you will result in a rare Tomahawk with a seared and crusted exterior. Add approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side if you would like a medium rare steak. I won’t go beyond a medium rare. Below is an internal temperature guide for your reference (you will need a meat thermometer to gauge the temperature).

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Let the meat rest for 8 to 10 minutes to seal in the juices (cutting into it prematurely can result in dry meat).

how to grill a tomahawk steak

Ingredients for the white bean and roasted garlic purée:

  • 1 head garlic – bulb intact, with the top ¼ inch removed to expose the raw garlic
  • 400 grams of cooked white cannellini beans (you can use the equivalent in canned)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • ¾ teaspoon salt (taste to see if you need more)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)

Wrap the garlic bulb in foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the garlic is cooked through and reaches a consistency that’s as soft as butter.

 

Release the garlic from its bulb by gently squeezing through its bottom (the garlic will ooze out of each clove like toothpaste from a tube).

With a hand blender, purée the white beans, roasted garlic, olive oil, chicken stock, and salt. Blend until smooth and silky. Give it a quick taste and add more salt if needed.

 

grilled tomahawk steak with white bean mash

To serve: Carve into the meat, serve with the white bean purée, and savor every single juicy bite!

Carving a Tomahawk steak

grilled tomahawk with white bean puree and baby onions in wine

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In my kitchen: roasted eggplant with garlic yogurt & pomegranate

Cook with your hands. I’m convinced that there’s an invisible pipe that goes straight from your heart directly into your fingers, and there’s nothing better than eating a dish that has a little love running through it.

Using your hands teaches you about your ingredients – how things should feel when they’re raw, cooked, and combined. Having said that, there’s probably no food that I manhandle more than the eggplant, or aubergine as many refer to it. No matter what you call it, eggplant is something that I love, and has become somewhat of a staple in my kitchen. Grilled, roasted, baked, or all sauced up – there’s so much you can do with this plump, purple-skinned fruit, yes, its actually a fruit. I am talking about the dark shaded eggplant here as I have yet to try the white variety.

With a bitter taste and flesh that absorbs oil faster than moisturizer on cracked dry skin, cooking with eggplant can be tricky. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent its challenges by learning how to choose your fruit wisely.

Look for eggplant that is light in weight, with shiny, smooth skin free of bruises and blemishes. It should be firm but not hard with a round brown mark on the fat, bottom end – a brown slit on the bottom might mean more seeds.

Some say that you have to salt the eggplant to remove bitterness. If I have the extra time, I’ll add this step, but more often than not, I skip it. I don’t find salting it makes that much of a difference. If you want to try it, cut your eggplant into slices, salt it generously and let it hang out in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse it and pat it dry before cooking.

Add your oil right before cooking so that that it coats the surface of the flesh – that will help give your eggplant that beautiful brown finish.

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic Yogurt and Pomegranate

Serves 4 to 6

For the eggplant:

  • 2 to 3 medium eggplant, washed, dried, and cut into 1 ½ inch slices (salted, drained, and rinsed if desired)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the garlic yogurt:

  • 400 grams plain yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

To garnish:

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional), lightly toasted

Preheat your oven to 210 Celcius, 410 Farenheit. Position your rack in the lower third of your oven.

Cut eggplant into slices and toss generously with olive oil.

slicing eggplant

Add salt, pepper, lemon, and oregano.

Place on a large baking tray, and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes or until the bottom of the eggplant has started to turn brown.

eggplant on sheetpan

Turn the eggplant over and cook for another 15 minutes or until brown and soft. At this stage, you can eat the eggplant as they are (great as a vegetarian side dish). If you want to add the garlic yogurt, keep reading.

oven roasted eggplant slices

For the garlic yogurt:

Combine yogurt with garlic and salt. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Place eggplant on a large dish or platter. Spoon and scatter the garlic yogurt over the eggplant and garnish with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts (if using).

roasted eggplant with garlic yogurt sauce and fresh pomegranite

Serve warm or cold.

eggplant with yogurt sauce and pomegranite with pine nuts

Bon appétit!

Photos by: Tara Atkinson Photography

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I got it from my mama! A Mother’s Day post & a currant scone recipe

There’s a comfort in baking that I find difficult to put into words. Maybe it’s the memory I have of my mother immersed in her dough-making process in our flour-dusted kitchen. Or maybe it’s because as a young girl, my eager little hands would wait in anticipation to indulge in the fruits of her labor. Running to the kitchen at the first whiff of freshly baked bread, I can still remember how happy she was when she baked – singing and smiling like she was in her own secret world. For my mother, baking was an outlet that went far beyond cakes, cookies, and pies. Less about the end result, baking was a creative, soul-quenching time that gave her the chance to disconnect and let her imagination run wild and free.

Now fully immersed in the throes of motherhood, I find the same comfort in the kitchen that my mother did (although my singing voice isn’t nearly as good as hers). When I bake, time could literally stop and I probably wouldn’t notice. Yes, I really do find it that therapeutic! Whether it’s something as simple as whipping up a batch up fresh scones, or a bit more elaborate like a four-layered cake dripping in puddles of chocolate ganache, I find solace in folding fresh cream, melting chocolate, and swirling my whisk through ribbons of sugar and softly whipped egg yolks.

in the kitchen making scone dough

lidija and scones

A tiny part of me hopes my children will have the same memories that I have of my mother – with our flour-dusted kitchen table and my mama-bear-hands covered in dough.

I got it from my mama, and I know she would be proud.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Classic Currant scones

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 & ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 140 grams unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch cubes and chilled
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup buttermilk (alternatively you can use ¼ cup full fat plain yogurt or cream mixed with ¼ cup milk with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • ½ cup dried currants
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* note that this recipe can be easily doubled if needed

Directions:

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.

Put the flour mixture in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (you can also do this with an electric mixer or by hand). Pulse a couple of times to distribute the ingredients.

Add the butter to the flour, pulsing several times (as many as 40 times if your butter is super cold!). Remember not to run your food processor or mixer continuously at this point. You need to see little lumps of butter in the mixture.

Combine the milk, cream, egg, and vanilla in a bowl and mix until all the ingredients have been incorporated well.

Add the wet milk/egg mixture and the currants to the flour mixture.

With your hands, combine all the ingredients together without over-mixing.

Put the dough onto a large, lightly floured surface and form into a rough shaped disk, measuring approximately 2 to 3 inches high.

Cut rounds out of your dough using a fluted cookie cutter (alternatively, make free-form balls).

The amount of scones your dough will yield depends on the height of the dough and size of your scone cutter. This batch makes roughly 8 large to 14 small scones.

Place your shaped scones you’ve made on a parchment lined baking tray, and freeze for AT LEAST 30 minutes or longer (I usually make my scones the night before I serve them, and keep them in the freezer until ready to bake. You can also freeze the dough shapes for up to a month and use as needed. Remember to store them in airtight freezer bags if storing for a long period of time. you can bake the scones directly from the freezer).

scone dough shaped on a baking tray

Preheat your oven to 200 C (400 F) and position your baking rack in the center of the oven.

Bake the scones for 25 to 30 minutes (time varies depending on size), until tops are golden brown and the smell emanating from your oven is insanely delicious.

currant scones on cooling rack

hot scones ready to eat

Serve hot, cold, or in between.

scone tower part two

Bon appétit!

Photos by Tara Atkinson Photography 

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A tuna niçoise salad recipe

My culinary management skills were put to the test last month when I was invited to an early-evening cocktail party across town. I happily accepted, made a mental note, and filed it away in my memory until the date of the event. The morning of the party, I realized I had already extended a dinner invitation to friends for that same evening. Note to self, next time use google calendar and avoid double booking!

With no time left to bow out gracefully, the only choice was to rise to the occasion and honour both commitments. I carefully mapped out my dinner menu as well as my route to the first party. I also added a pit stop to grab a ball of buratta on my way across town (what can I say – I like living on the edge!). Timing is critical, especially when you don’t have much to spare, so I put my party clothes on and set off on a mission to prove that the time gods were on my side. It turned out that they were! I got to the party, mingled with guests, and enjoyed a lovely cocktail with our hosts before heading back.

Making it home by the skin of my teeth, I slipped into the kitchen to finish off what I started. Prepping my dishes in advance turned out to be a very wise move. Salads were pre-assembled and tartares were left un-tossed and ready to serve at the last minute. In the end, my slow-cooked beef short ribs saved the day, as I left them to cool in their braising liquid while I attended event number one.

I would be lying if I said that rushing back home from the other end of the city and putting my hostess hat back on was a breeze, but I must admit that it was much easier than I thought it would be. The finishing touches took only a few minutes, and it looked like I had been in the kitchen for hours.

Taking a few minutes to step back, plan, and prepare really does make life easier, whether it be in cooking or just in life in general. I love advanced preparation in the kitchen, especially when hosting a party. Not only does it save a lot of last minute stress, but, more importantly, it gives you the freedom to enjoy the company of your guests.

My rendition of a classic Tuna Niçoise Salad is the perfect make-ahead dish that works beautifully for lunch, dinner, or even as part of a weekend brunch. The tuna can be seasoned and seared several hours before serving. I usually leave it in the freezer to let the fish firm up. This makes it easy to cut into even and uniform slices. I plate everything ahead of time, which means I only need to dress the salad at the last minute. Use the biggest platter you can find to showcase the beauty of this dish – the “oohs and ahhhs” from your guests make it all worth it.

ingredients for tuna ncoise

Tuna Niçoise Salad – serves 4

Ingredients:

For the tuna:

  • 500 grams fresh, sashimi quality tuna (2 ½ to 3 inches thick)
  • Maldon or Sea Salt
  • I tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra olive oil for searing the tuna

For the salad:

  • 200 grams baby gems lettuce (or any other lettuce of your choice)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard (a l’ancienne)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 2 teaspoons canola or grapeseed oil (or any neutral flavored oil)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Dressing – whisk together both mustards with the oil. Add honey and the lemon juice to combine. Set aside until ready to drizzle over the lettuce.

For the eggs and vegetables:

  • 4 organic eggs
  • 200 grams fine green beans, stems removed
  • 300 grams baby new potatoes
  • Dijon mustard
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10 caper berries (optional)
  • A handful of black olives (optional)

Directions for each ingredient:

Preparing your fresh tuna – Let the tuna loin sit for 15 minutes at room temperature before cooking. If you’re wondering why the tuna in the photos has squared off edges, it’s because I trim it to ensure that all sides cook evenly. I save the “scraps” for another use like tuna tartare or fish cakes. You can disregard this step, but it does make for a visually appealing presentation.

Lightly coat with olive oil and sesame oil all over the tuna, season with salt on all sides.

Add the green onion, making sure it sticks onto the tuna’s surface. Then pat on the cumin powder and season with black pepper. Make sure all the sides have been coated and seasoned well.

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the tuna, and cook for forty-five seconds to one minute per side.

Do not fidget with the tuna until it is ready to turn – what you’re looking for is a nice, brown sear on the outside with a beautiful, rare pink interior. The whole process takes 2-3 minutes, so don’t step away from the stove.

Remove from the pan, let cool, and cut into slices. For perfectly even slices, freeze the tuna for a couple of hours, then slice through with a sharp knife. If you’ve frozen it for too long (it can happen!), let it thaw slightly before cutting into it.

slicing seared tuna 2

slicing seared tuna 1

sliced cumin crusted tuna

For the perfect runny eggs… Fill a pot with water, bring to a rolling boil (just make sure there is enough water to just cover your eggs). Carefully add the eggs, one at a time. Allow eggs to boil in the water for exactly 1 minute. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let the eggs hang out in the water for exactly 6 ½ to 7 minutes. You’ll need a timer for this. Once the time is up, immediately plunge the eggs into a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking process. Peel, split in half, and add a pinch of salt over the yolks when ready to serve.

For the green beans, blanch in boiling salted water for 3 to 4 minutes, then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Drain, and toss the green beans in a bit of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

For the potatoes, clean off any debris. Boil or steam the potatoes until cooked through. For the dressing, whisk together 1½ tablespoons olive oil with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice and a fat pinch of salt. Cut the potatoes in half, and while still warm, toss the potatoes with the dressing. This will make sure all the liquids soak into the potatoes.

For the salad dressing, whisk together both mustards with the oil. Add honey and the lemon juice to combine. Set aside until ready to drizzle over the lettuce.

To assemble:

On a large plate or platter, arrange the tuna slices in a domino fashion exposing the rare, interior part of the tuna as well as the seared crust.

the making of a tuna nicoise recipe.jpg

Group each ingredient individually around the plate. Drizzle the vinaigrette on the salad, and you’re ready to go.

tuna nicoise with organic eggs, green beans, and lettuce

tuna nicoise platter with capers, potatoes, beans and eggs

Bon Appétit!

Photos by Tara Atkinson Photography

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In the cheese room with jones the grocer

My love affair with cheese started years ago as a little girl. I could easily gulp down full-fat milk by the gallon, put extra cheddar on my burgers, and sprinkle grated cheese on just about anything I could get my hands on – obviously, dairy was my food group of choice.

As I got older, and for reasons I can’t even remember, I shunned cheese from my diet for a brief period of time. Thankfully, I came to my senses on our honeymoon in Italy where parmigiano reggiano, fresh mozzarella and soft, silky burrata made for a drool-worthy jaunt across the Italian countryside. After a few trips to France, as well as discovering London’s acclaimed La Fromagerie, my cheese buds were rekindled and I haven’t looked back since.

I was very excited when Jones the Grocer first opened their doors in Dubai, and I was even more excited when they opened a new location just steps away from my home. A casual gourmet eatery where service is warm and the space is comfortable, Jones is a place where I often sit down for a bite in a relaxed atmosphere.

While there’s no denying that the food and coffee are both great at Jones, it’s the cheese room that adds a unique dimension and really sets it apart from other restaurants in the city. Lucky for me, their location at the Dusit Thani is fully licensed, which makes an evening of wine and cheese pairings easy, fun, and accessible.

Reminiscent of La Fromagerie, the Cheese Room at Jones has a great selection of artisanal products, which can sometimes be challenging to find in the UAE. I was fortunate to have resident cheese expert Leony guide me through a visit before building one of Jones’ mouthwatering cheese platters. A cheese platter is always à propos, especially during the festive season.

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A pair of sliding glass doors led me (and my holiday ready shoes – wings and all) into the cool, climate-controlled room, which was stocked with some great varieties of cheese that ranged from soft to hard – each with a clear description of origin, unique characteristics, and suggested wine pairings. The smells are intense, and they should be, it’s a cheese room after all.

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Within the cheese room, fresh Italian Buratta, bowls of antipasti, as well as wine, spirits and cookbooks were peppered between logs of chèvre, brie, pecorino, blue, comté, raclette, and the list goes on… Leony was quick to point out December’s cheese of the month – a soft, triple cream Brillat Affiné (in other words, a truffled brie) from France made with cows milk and stuffed with a layer of shaved Italian truffle. As a self-proclaimed truffle lover, I could have stopped right there and walked out with my arms loaded with luscious, truffled goodness, but resisted the urge. We started talking about wine pairings, and I discovered that this cheese goes beautifully with Champagne and Chardonnay.

lidija-and-leoni-valbrie

While I worked my way through all the cheese in the room, Leony selected what would work well on our platter.

Keeping in line with my truffle obsession, we started off with a Pecorino Moliterno al Tartufo – a raw, sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia. This is a hard cheese with thick “veins” of truffle woven throughout, perfectly paired with wines such as red Barolo, Barbaresco and Amazon.

Leony pulled out a massive double-handed blade, and with the skill of a seasoned samurai, she cut evenly through an enormous wedge of pecorino. When it was my turn to cut into the cheese, I thrust my entire upper body strength into the knife – not as easy as it looks – and while my samurai skills didn’t come close to Leony’s, I managed to carve out an even wedge that would make it onto our platter.

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Our next cheese was a soft Valbrie from France. Made from cow’s milk and perfectly paired with dry white wine and Riesling, this double cream cheese has a black-peppered rind with a light and subtle taste, creating a nice contrast to the truffled pecorino.

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cutting-valbrie-with-sharp-knife

A Bûche de Chèvre Blanche – also from France – is a soft goat’s cheese with an edible rind. It is one of my favorite cheeses and I often eat it in its natural state, or lightly oven-baked with salad and fruit. The taste is strong without being overpowering, and works beautifully when paired with wines such as Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, as well as champagne. We cut through the chèvre delicately with a wire (cutter) that was nearly as thin as string, careful not to break up the cheese. Since its quite soft, the chèvre would have stuck to a regular knife. By using the wire, we were left with beautiful rounds that were completely intact.

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Last, but definitely not least, a Cropwell Stilton rounded out our cheese platter. A semi-hard cheese from Nottingham in the UK, I thought that this blue-veined Stilton would be on the side of pungent. On the contrary, it was smooth, mild with only a subtle hint of sharpness. Pair it with Shiraz, Pinot Noir, or port wine and you’ll have some very happy taste buds!

lidija-cutting-blue-cheese-with-wire

We assembled our four selections on one of the big, beautiful, wooden serving platters that Jones is known for. After adding dried apricots, roasted nuts, sweet grapes and salted biscuits, we tossed in a handful of dried cranberries for a festive touch. The contrast between the cheese, fruit, and nuts makes for a great balance between sweet and savory.

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A perfect cheese platter that’s fit for entertaining over Christmas and beyond – easy to put together and even easier to eat. From novice to seasoned foodie, there is enough variety to satisfy everyone’s palate. Pair some great wines and let the flavors speak for themselves.

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Shot on Location at jones the Grocer in the Dusit Thani

Photos by Murrindiefrew.com

Dress by Temperley London in the Dubai Mall

Shoes by Sophia Webster at Level Shoes

Hair by Mohammed Al Sagheer in the DIFC

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