James Martin creates his ‘best’ peppercorn steak sauce

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Steak and chips is a popular dish for couples to cook one another on Valentine’s Day, but TV chef James Martin has a strict rule when it comes to the ingredients used for a peppercorn sauce. During a previous instalment of his Saturday Morning cookery show, a viewer asked if she could substitute black peppercorns for pink and the chef explained how pink peppercorns are “too floral” and “not strong” enough to make a punchy peppercorn sauce.

James said you can cook a steak and make a peppercorn sauce in less than 10 minutes.

He began by taking a large pinch of black peppercorns and using the back of a knife, crushed them. You can also use a pestle and mortar for this process.

A viewer asked: “Can I use pink peppercorns as well?” James replied: “Black peppercorns. Black peppercorns alright? Not pink peppercorns, black peppercorns.”

He then scattered the smashed peppercorns onto the raw steak to season it, then explained why pink peppercorns can’t be used for this dish.

“Pink peppercorns are too floral, they’re not as strong. So, you want to use black peppercorns,” James noted.

“Now the sauce for this is really straightforward. What we’ve got here is a little bit of shallot – the reason why we use shallot is that it’s milder than onion, so we can do this quite quickly.

“So we take a little bit of diced shallot, then then the other ingredients for our sauce are; a little bit of veal stock – you can buy veal stock in pouches in supermarkets. You want some double cream, green peppercorns – not pink ones, green ones, green ones!” The chef joked teasing the viewer.

He had placed his steak onto a griddle to start cooking and then added oil or butter to a hot pan to make his sauce.

The ingredients were then added to the pan and the chef said brandy or white wine could also be added to the sauce.

James Martin’s Recipe for Sirloin Steak with Peppercorn Sauce 


Two 200g sirloin steak
25ml veg oil

For the sauce:

Haf a shallot, peeled and diced
50ml brandy
25ml white wine
200ml beef or veal stock
One tsp crushed black peppercorns
One tsp green peppercorns in brine washed
100ml double cream

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1. Heat a non-stick frying pan to hot, season the steaks, drizzle in oil, pop into the pan and cook for two minutes, then flip over and cook for a further two minutes.

2. Add the butter, when foaming spoon over the steaks then pop them onto a plate to rest. Tip the excess oil and butter away.

3. For the sauce, fry the shallot in butter for a minute, add the brandy and flame.

4. Add the stock and wine and reduce by half. Add peppercorns and cream reduce by half then finish with butter.

5. Serve the steaks with watercress on the side (optional), and spoon over sauce.

If you don’t fancy a peppercorn sauce for your steak, consider making a chimichurri.

Chimichurri is a South American steak sauce similar to salsa verde – but with a little spicy kick. It’s the perfect balance for a rich steak.

BBC Good Food suggests “putting two garlic cloves, one green chilli (no seeds), a small bunch each of coriander and parsley, one small sweet onion and two tbsp white wine vinegar in a small food processor”. Blitz until finely chopped, then add five tbsp olive oil and blitz again. Season and refrigerate until serving.

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