Valentine's treat:

Tomahawk steak with rocket pesto pasta

Valentine’s day means so many different things to different people. For some, it’s a time to revel in romance, red roses by the dozen and enough heart-shaped balloons to physically lift you off the ground. For others that may be perhaps a bit more cynical, it’s a made-up day to sell stuff.

For my wife and me, it’s more about a gentle reminder to make time for each other, and of course to treat ourselves to a lovely dinner; something special to stand apart from the daily grind, particularly during lockdown.

Nothing says ‘special’ quite like a Tomahawk steak; a rib steak cut from the fore-rib with the entire rib bone left in. It’s got that ‘wow’ factor, especially when you get outside and grill it over the fire, like any steak should be. This thing was born for the bbq and is perfect for two to share. Steaks like this can be a bit intimidating to some, but I’m going to show you a straightforward way to cook it.

Now, some people think steak and pasta is a weird combination. Don’t allow these people in your life! They don’t care about you. A beautiful pasta is a wonderful accompaniment to a fine cut of steak, and my wife’s rocket pesto pasta is my personal favourite. This is a special dinner that is about treating yourself. Consequently, I urge you to ditch the regular go-to penne and fusilli, and reach instead to the higher supermarket shelf and find the Mafalda Corta or Campenelle.

This dish is incredibly simple to cook and is perfect for two to do together whilst drinking lots of wine.


For the steak:
Butcher’s cut tomahawk steak. Mine was around 500g.
Good quality salt. I’ve used *Cornish* Sea Salt (obvs.)
Garlic infused olive oil for the sear.

For the pesto pasta:
2-3 standard size bags of fresh wild rocket.
1 garlic clove (and I do mean just one – it’s Valentine’s day, don’t forget).
1 standard size bag of pine nuts (though mixed nuts of almonds, walnuts and peanuts will do fine)
Half a standard size block of Italian hard cheese.
About 100ml or so of really good quality extra virgin olive oil. (Seriously, the better the olive oil you use, the nicer the pesto will be.)
Good quality pasta of your choice. I used Mafalda Corta.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Cherry tomatoes on the vine to garnish.


This is more my list of BBQ essentials that anyone who wants to cook regularly on the BBQ should have.

– Any BBQ with a lid, set up for two-zone cooking, with the lit coals in one half of the BBQ offering a ‘direct’ searing hot zone and a cooler indirect zone. The better the BBQ, the better it will be at holding heat and the longer it will last you. Here I used the PK Grills PKTX.
– Good quality lumpwood charcoal. I love the Marabu charcoal from The Oxford Charcoal Company.
– Digital BBQ thermometer with two probes; one to tell you how hot it is at grate level where the food will be and one to insert into whatever it is you’re cooking. I use the Weber Connect.
– Instant read digital food thermometer. I use a Thermapen Pro.
– BBQ gloves
– Chimney starter
– Ash tool/poker
– Food processor or mini-blitzer for the pesto


We’re gonna start the night before with a dry-brine. You can also do the pesto the night before to save time.

Methods to cook steak are like…err…noses. Everyone has got one. I use this method for cooking all my steaks, as it’s a great way of getting the perfect crust.

We’re going to place our steak directly onto a cooling rack and place that onto a baking tray. This allows the surface area of the meat to breathe.

Take some kitchen roll and dab the whole steak dry. We want to rid the meat of any and all moisture on the surface.

Tomahawk’s don’t usually need any trimming, as the butcher should have done all that; but if you do see any gnarly bits that are going to burn, go ahead and cut them off with a sharp knife. If the steak has been dry-aged for a lengthy period of time, there may be some darker mouldy patches round the edges. Take them off too.

We’re then going to sprinkle each side of the steak with 2-3 healthy pinches of our good quality sea salt. We’re not looking to cover the meat in salt; just a nice sprinkling right across the surface to draw out the moisture. Overnight that moisture dissolves the salt into a brine, which is then reabsorbed into the meat.

Stick the steak into the fridge, on it’s rack and tray, uncovered and leave for 24hrs.
For the pesto.
Grate the cheese down first. I use the grater attachment on the food processor, then unload that into a separate bowl.

Squash down two bags of rocket into the food processor or chopper, then add the garlic clove, nuts and your grated cheese. Feel free to lightly toast your nuts beforehand. I find with rocket pesto it changes the flavour profile and I actually prefer them un-toasted. I like my nuts just the way they are…

Drizzle in a healthy glug of extra virgin olive oil and season with a pinch of your sea salt and pepper. Blitz together until all the ingredients have been chopped down to form a course oily paste. Give it a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it’s looking dry add some more olive oil and give it a whizz.

Store in the fridge in a covered container for no more than 1-2 days.

Tomahawk time…

You’re gonna want to take the steak out of the fridge an hour or so before it goes on. Which gives you a perfect amount of time to fire up the pit, open the wine and splash yourself with the Paco Rabanne. Make sure you give the steak another pat down with kitchen roll on both sides. Get it as dry as you possibly can.

We’re going to be cooking the Tomahawk using the ‘reverse sear’ method, which is my preferred way of cooking any thick cut of steak. It’s exactly what it says: we’re going to gently slow cook it, then sear at the end of cooking, rather than at the start.

Light your BBQ using the two-zone method, with a hot zone over the coals and a cooler zone the other side. Get the temperature of the indirect zone to a range of 120-135C/250-275F. Put your meat probe and cook the steak indirectly until the internal temp hits around 20-25C. then turn it over and continue cooking until it hits 40-45C.

We’re now going to take it off and let it rest, whilst you get the pit up to searing temp; remove the steak from the BBQ, cover and rest in an aluminium tray.

Open up all the vents on the BBQ and get the pit as hot as you can. Refuel if you have to.

Whilst you’re waiting, give the steak a light coat of garlic-infused olive oil on both sides, using a basting brush. Also, go stick the kettle on for the pasta and pour yourselves another glass of wine while you’re at it.

Once the grate is searing hot, place the steak on the direct side, over the hot coals. Flip the steak every 20 seconds. If you get a flare-up, increase the frequency of flips or simply move across to the cool zone until it dies down. The steak is done medium rare when it reaches a temp of 51C in the thickest part. Use an instant-read digital thermometer, like a Thermapen to get this bang on.

Take the steak off, cover with aluminium foil (shiny side down) and rest. Now’s time to cook your pasta and stir in your beautiful rocket pesto.

Hold the steak bone-up and slice the steak down along the bone, all the way until it comes off. Then slice into thin strips across the steak, against the grain of the muscle fibres. Season with a sprinkle of sea salt.

Serve with your pesto pasta, a few pinches of rocket and some cherry tomatoes on the vine kissed with some extra virgin olive oil.

Have a great Valentine’s.

Dom, the Cornish Carnivore.