It was 14 years ago today that we first met, in the small hours of a cold February morning. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight if I’m honest. It had been a long night and we were both a bit worse for wear. You looked like you’d done a few rounds with Lennox Lewis, with your puffy eyes and oddly misshapen head, while I looked like I’d just walked off the set of The Returned – part human, part zombie.
But once we found ourselves alone, the maelstrom of lights and people and noise behind us, I looked into your barely-focusing eyes and that’s when it hit me – a feeling of love so profound and intense it actually hurt. As I held you tight, feeling your warm breath against my neck, I knew that life would never be the same again.
Then you weed on me and the duty midwife popped in to check our vitals.
Yes, today you, my first born son, celebrate your 14th birthday. It’s hard to believe looking at you now – giant, hairy, foghorn-voiced – that you were once the wee six pounder who would fit snugly in the crook of my arm. That you, as a Boris-haired toddler, consumed episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine with the same voracity as you now devour box sets on Netflix. That you could reel off the names of all the dinosaurs with the same aplomb as you now can the names of every player in the Premiership. That once only plain pasta would do, but now you’re as happy with a plate of scallops as you are spaghetti. That you are now more man than boy and *whispers* still rather lovely in spite of or maybe because of it.
Happy Birthday beautiful. I love you more than you can imagine (and yes, it still hurts a bit).
The Eagle’s Steak Sandwich (Bife Ana)
The Eagle Public House on the Farringdon Road in London’s Clerkenwell also celebrated a birthday last month. It’s 25 years since what is widely recognised as the original gastropub first opened its doors. When I was a fledgling journalist working round the corner, it was a bit like our work canteen, particularly around pay day when half the office would pop in for one its famous steak sandwiches (and probably one too many glasses of chardonnay). They still serve the same sandwich today – indeed it is the only constant on its daily changing menu – and it is my teen’s absolute favourite thing to eat (the 9yo is rapidly coming round to its charms too).
So this is what I am going to try and replicate for his birthday tea tonight (this recipe is adapted from the one in The Eagle Cookbook by David Eyre).
- 500g rump steak, thinly sliced. (I use Waitrose frying steak bashed out a bit and it works just fine)
- 2 large crusty rolls (I use those ciabatta rolls you bake at home)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Cos lettuce leaves
For the marinade
- 1 onion thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 small dried chilli, crushed (I use a good pinch of chilli flakes)
- 1 bay leaf broken up
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp red wine
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- black pepper
- Put the slices of steak in between some greaseproof paper and bash with a rolling pin or other heavy implement until about 0.5cm thick. Whisk all the marinade ingredients in a bowl, add the steak, cover and leave for at least an hour but no more than 8.
- Warm your rolls in the oven and heat a large frying pan until smoking hot. Remove steaks from marinade, add oil to the pan, then fry the steaks for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side (you may need to do this in batches, otherwise the steaks will boil rather than fry). Remove the steaks from the pan and keep warm, turn down the heat a bit, then add the marinade to the pan. Let it cook down for a couple of minutes, adding a pinch of salt towards the end.
- Cut the rolls in half, add a few slices of steak, then drizzle over some of the hot oniony marinade. Top with a leaf or two of Cos lettuce. And FOURTEEN birthday candles.