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    Szechuan Pepper-Crusted Steak Smothered with Onions

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    Szechuan Pepper-Crusted Steak Smothered with Onions

    A seared steak, smothered with fried onions is a simple, satisfying combination. Rubbing the steak with a mix of finely ground peppercorns imparts an aromatic, slightly floral flavour which goes wonderfully with the onions. This combination sings when drizzled with a rich balsamic glaze. You can use any cut of beef that's tender enough to be served rare. Try sirloin or fillet.

    • Preparation time: 15 minutes
    • Cooking time: 45 minutes
    • Total time: 1 hour 60 minutes

    Serves: 4


    • Balsamic glaze
    • 200ml balsamic vinegar
    • Onions
    • 1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
    • 10g unsalted butter
    • 650g onions, thinly sliced
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • 2-3 tsp sugar
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • Steak
    • Sea salt
    • 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
    • ½ tsp white peppercorns
    • ½ tsp black peppercorns
    • ¼ tsp allspice berries
    • 4 fillet or sirloin steaks (160-180g each), trimmed of all fat 1-2 tsp vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger


    1. To make the balsamic glaze, pour the vinegar into a small pan. Bring to the boil and boil until it has reduced to a quarter of its volume (about 20 minutes). It will be very syrupy. Watch it carefully as it thickens, as it can burn. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little while you prepare the steak and onions.
    2. In a large, non-stick frying pan, melt the butter over a moderately low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt, and stir to coat. Cover and cook until the onions release their liquid; about 13 minutes.
    3. Uncover the pan, increase the heat to moderate, and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated; about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the onions with the sugar and continue cooking, stirring, until they are golden brown and caramelised; about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the vinegar and toss until the vinegar has evaporated. Season well with pepper. Remove from the heat and keep warm.
    4. Meanwhile, prepare the pepper rub. In a small, heavy pan, toast the peppercorns and allspice over moderate heat, shaking occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Sieve the spices into a bowl and return any coarse bits to the grinder. Grind again and sieve.
    5. Pat the steaks dry with paper towel. Rub lightly with the oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and massage the ginger into the steak, then rub the ground pepper over them.
    6. Heat a grill pan or heavy non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add the steaks to the pan and cook until little droplets of blood form on the surface - 3-4 minutes. Turn the steaks over and continue cooking until droplets of blood form on top again, another 3-4 minutes, for rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and leave them to rest for 5-10 minutes.
    7. Slice the steaks on a slight angle against the grain. Sprinkle with a little salt and arrange on four warm plates. Nestle a mound of onions next to the steak, drizzle a little of the warm balsamic glaze around the meat, and serve. This is good with the celeriac and apple purée.

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