Steak salad, and a rhubarb and cardamom tart

I'm not really much of a carnivore, and I would never order steak in a restaurant - I find it far too predictable. Satisfying primal, yes, tearing at a slab of steaming flesh with my teeth, but this doesn't really do that much for me. I think it has something to do with being female; my instinct is perhaps more for gathering than for hunting. I always think, whenever customers order steak and chips at the restaurant where I work, why didn't you choose the swordfish with guacamole or the truffle risotto? Obviously, this is just a personal thing, because I have a desire to try anything and everything, and there's only so many variations one can find on a good steak. 

So when I find myself buying steak for dinner, it feels novel. In fact, I don't think I've ever cooked steak for myself. However, there was an exciting-sounding recipe in the Guardian magazine a few weeks ago that I wanted to try: a steak, mango and avocado salad. Seeing as there was a mango languishing in the fruit bowl and two avocados in the fridge, it seemed sensible. I am glad that said mango went into the salad: when I nibbled a piece (for quality control purposes, obviously), I came away with a mouth full of string. Not a fine specimen. It was literally like having pieces of dental floss stuck between my teeth, which I then had to get actual dental floss to remove. Unpleasant. 

Fruit-related dental hygiene issues aside, the salad was delicious. It sounds like an odd combination of ingredients, but they work together beautifully, and the dressing makes all the difference. Plus, I got to perform one of my absolute favourite cooking tasks of all time: heating up a griddle pan until smoking and slapping down a lovely piece of marinated steak on it (normally I would choose tuna, but beef is still good). The sizzling sound it makes has to be one of the best you will ever hear in the kitchen. I seem to have an odd knack for timing steaks exactly: I don't use a timer, but somehow instinctively always know when it is done to my liking. I like my steak (be it tuna or beef) seared on the outside and beautifully soft and pink in the middle (or blue, in the case of tuna). There's something beautiful about slicing it and laying it out in vibrant pink stripes atop a luscious verdant salad. Then, of course, eating it; the juices from the meat mix with the dressing and soften the salad leaves, and the whole thing becomes a mass of vibrant flavours. 

Another attempt to use up various ingredients lying around the house: a rhubarb tart. There are a couple of kilos of the stuff in the freezer from when my mum's colleague gave her a glut of rhubarb from his allotment. There is also a packet of feuilles de brik pastry in the fridge - a Middle Eastern fine pastry similar to filo but slightly more porous and less brittle. The sheets come in circles, so it was easy to just layer them, brushed with melted butter, into a tart tin and bake it blind for 10 minutes or so until crispy. I made a creme patisserie (the same recipe I used for the rhubarb millefeuille in the Masterchef cookbook, but infused with cardamom rather than vanilla), layered it on top of the pastry, and topped the whole thing with poached rhubarb flavoured with ginger (I wanted to use orange zest and juice, but lacked an orange). I suppose this is basically rhubarb and custard, on pastry. It was tasty. Next time I am going to use poached apricots instead of rhubarb, and maybe make individual mini tartlets, because they look prettier.