Certain Table Manners No Crime

Table manners can be a divisive subject, not to the same degree as religion perhaps, but people can be particular. I’ve felt the same about grammar, but it can be a pointless pursuit. Evolution of language (and everything else) is unavoidable; those mutations of speech we love to hate will soon be in the Oxford Dictionary with the excuse of common usage, so I guess we should all just chill, right? It’s how we managed to advance our cro-magnon grunts into words in the first place.

I try not to be too particular about archaic restrictions at meal times either. I understand why they exist, I just can’t bring myself to care. Elbows on the table, cut one piece of food at a time, put your cutlery down before you have a sip of wine, forcing kids to finish everything on their plate – as far as I’m aware, these crimes never caused any particular harm.

Don’t we have enough to worry about? Conduct should be based on good intention, common sense and relevance, not  “that’s the way we’ve always done it” (the single most absurd justification in the history of man). If you’re going to have a battle with your children over dinner every night, have it over something which might make them a better person. Rules like ‘no interrupting’, ‘no electrical devices at the table’, and ‘serve your guests first’, may at least teach them how to socialise and help to eliminate the ‘me, me, me’ syndrome. Of course there are some indisputable no-nos, usually habits which distinguish man from beast, like chewing with your mouth open and talking with your mouth full. Basic stuff… no one wants to see what’s in there.

The following recipe will test the table manners of anyone under ten. A steak is probably one of the hardest things for a child to manage, hence cutting it up into more than one piece at a time is absolutely acceptable. However, a beautiful scotch fillet is almost a waste on someone so young. Maybe save it for when the kids are in bed, with the heady freedom of peppercorn sauce, all completely whinge free.

Scotch Fillet with Peppercorn Sauce

5 thick-cut (4cm) Black Rock scotch fillets

salt and ground black pepper

4 tsp butter

¼ cup port

2 tbsp green peppercorns

1 cup beef jus or stock

Tie a piece of string around the circumference of each steak to hold them tight. Season steaks with salt and pepper and place a teaspoon of butter on each steak. Preheat a heavy frypan over high heat. Place steaks in pan, butter side down and brown well for a minute on each side. Remove from pan and transfer to a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper.

Return the pan used for browning the steaks to the heat without cleaning. Add the port and stir to deglaze the pan brownings. Add the green peppercorns and beef jus. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes to reduce if using stock. Taste and adjust seasonings.

When ready to serve, preheat oven to 220˚C fan bake and roast steaks for 7 minutes, or until done to your liking. Stand for 3-5 minutes before serving. Accompany with hot green peppercorn sauce and serve with mashed potato and lightly cooked green vegetables.

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