It’s more than likely that a savvy TV producer has already got their eye on Nina Parker. The chef’s just-published debut, Nina St Tropez, is not only packed with the most lip-smackingly delicious recipes, inspired by the Provençal town in which she has spent every summer since she was born; it’s also a luscious telly series waiting to happen.
In her very personal cookbook, lovely pictures of cafés and restaurants, beaches and coves, sit side by side with equally picturesque photos of Parker, often in denim shorts and a golden tan, browsing markets, catching fish, whipping up towering pavlovas crammed with summer fruits and Marsala cream. It all makes you wish that you were Nina – or, at the very least, that you could hop on a flight to Nice pronto. But the best thing about this book is that you’ll just want to cook it all. The fabulously aromatic Bun Man Chicken would convert even the most strident roast chicken purist; the moreish steak with Parker’s piquant version of a salsa verde is just so good. And even better, it turns out, crammed into a crusty warm baguette the next day. There are lots of local classics – pissaladiere, salade Niçoise, soupe au pistou – as well as a section devoted to tarts and pizzas and salads and snacks perfect for a beachy picnic. And there are so many more things we want to try out – the slow cooked pork shoulder with peach, the butternut squash roasted with fennel seeds, not to mention every single one of her gorgeous, glossy rich cakes. It’s a love letter to the south of France as much as anything; as Parker, who has worked at Locanda Locatelli and Bocca di Lupo before setting up her own catering firm, says in her introduction: “This is not the new St Tropez, it’s the real St Tropez.”
STEAK À LA NINA
I once worked as a waitress at a restaurant called Le Relais de Venise, or L’Entrecôte, and I was immediately drawn to its menu, The Formula: a simple walnut salad with mustard dressing followed by steak and chips smothered in a sauce with 26 different ingredients. The sauce has stuck with me since I was 18, and after trying – unsuccessfully – to prise the secret ingredients out of one of the chefs, I have devised my own, less complicated recipe. Chips are probably this dish’s best friend, but to keep it light you could serve it with grilled or roasted vegetables.
2 rump steaks, about 200g each
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
FOR THE SAUCE
1 anchovy fillet, chopped
60ml olive oil
bunch fresh tarragon leaves
(about 50g), finely chopped
handful fresh flat-leaf parsley,
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Muscat vinegar or white
20g unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, diced
sea salt and black pepper
Remove the steaks from the fridge to allow them to come to room temperature. First, make the sauce. Put the anchovy in a bowl with all the olive oil except 1 tablespoon. Add the herbs, lemon juice, sugar and vinegar. Heat the remaining olive oil and butter in a large saucepan until melted and hot.
Add the garlic and cook for a moment before adding it to the bowl, stirring everything together and seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside to keep warm. Wipe out the frying pan, place it over a high heat and add half of the groundnut oil. Season the steaks generously with salt, pepper and groundnut oil. Make a few slices into the fat
of each steak – this will help render the fat while frying. Once the pan is hot, use tongs to put the meat in the pan and cook for 2 minutes for rare, before turning over and cooking for 1 minute. Quickly brown the sides, then remove and set aside to rest in a warm place for at least 10 minutes.
Pour all the meat juices that have seeped out from the meat into the sauce bowl and use a sharp knife to slice the steaks. Heat the sauce in the frying pan. Mix the meat slices in with the sauce and serve with a pinch of salt sprinkled over.
© Nina St Tropez by Nina Parker (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)