I love a good steak from time to time, not a huge one, but a juicy piece of thick sirloin with crisp yellow fat, cooked medium rare for perfection….I love it when each mouthful tastes really beefy and memorable so I feel like repeating over and over again “this is such a delicious steak”…
Irish farmers and family butchers have been reeling for the past few weeks from a ‘triple whammy’ of challenges. The continuing uncertainty around Brexit, the increasingly vocal and visible vegan movement and last but certainly not least, the dramatic findings and recommendations of the EAT Lancet Report.
We’re in the midst of a climate change crisis…… Business as usual is no longer an option….
The landmark Lancet Report concludes that “a great food transformation” is urgently needed by 2050 when the world’s population is expected to have grown to 10 billion…..
Professor Tim Lang of the City University in London, one of the 36 researchers involved, stressed that without radical change in our eating habits, current trends will lead to further loss of biodiversity, increased pollution, deforestation and irreversible climate change….
Professor Johan Rockstrom from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany who co-led the commission said “nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution is needed to deliver healthy diets for a growing and wealthier world population”
Our current diet is causing an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes….
So to save the planet for future generations, production and consumption of red meat, dairy, eggs and sugar must half over the next three decades. Instead, we are encouraged to eat twice as many vegetables, grains, pulses, fruit and nuts…..
Sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a really good piece of beef and really good it needs to be….and certainly can be, but sadly not always is…
Ireland, favoured by nature, can grow grass like virtually nowhere else in the world so the quality of our beef, lamb and dairy products is exceptional.
We boast about our ‘grass fed’, pasture raised beef but what exactly is the definition of grass fed….?
A growing number of sceptics are quick to point out that much of our beef is finished indoors on genetically modified grain imported from South America. Even more surprising are the increasing number of intensive units where animals are confined indoors for virtually all their lives in situations similar to the American feed lots. Critics emphasise that intensive food production systems contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and significant animal welfare issues.
There would appear to be an urgent need for clarity around the term ‘grass fed’.
Farmers who produce exceptional beef cattle on small family farms ought to be identified and paid more for their produce.
Beleaguered farmers may be reluctant to accept that for a variety of health and environmental reasons, significant numbers are already choosing to eat less meat.
When they do decide to treat themselves, they are searching for the ‘wow’ factor. Meat from heritage breeds, humanely reared, well hung and nutrient dense. It’s a fast growing movement that’s not going away any time soon. Neither is the rise and intensity of veganism and concerned though I am on health grounds, at a time when so much of our mass produced food is nutritionally deficient, its difficult to argue with some of the reasoning in terms of animal welfare and climate change.
Now that there has been time to mull over the EAT Lancet Report, a number of imminent scientists are urging caution before making widespread dietary recommendations. Remember the scientific advice we were given on low fat and eggs which four decades later turned out to be completely erroneous….
Meat and dairy products are an important source of nutrients and animals are a very important part of many farming systems.
Less is fine but “let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater” or bash Leo Varadkar for “admitting” that he is a flexitarian. We are all flexitarians now and in my book it’s a brilliantly healthy way to eat, provided it’s REAL FOOD – not the ultra-processed edible food like substances that 46.9% of Irish people are eating at present according to a study in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition.
Politicians too, realise that public opinion is shifting rapidly, a grassroots revolution is underway, we want to see change – more sustainable food production systems where humans can co-exist with nature without causing potentially catastrophic damage to our planet.
The farming community too realise that the advice they’ve been given to maximise yields at all costs no longer stands up to scrutiny and is ‘costing the earth’ They are eager to play their part but need sage guidance and financial support to transition to climate friendly farming.
So this week, some of my favourite beef recipes to enjoy occasionally.
Kheema …..Indian Mince
This is a riff on Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe in An Introduction to Indian Cooking. According to Madhur this is the first Indian dish all Indian students abroad learn to make. It can be cooked plain or with potatoes, peas or mushrooms and is super tasty.
1lb onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 stick cinnamon, about 2 inches long
4 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1-2 hot red peppers to taste (optional)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1x 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes or 4-5 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2lbs finely minced lamb or minced beef
¼ pint plus 4 tablespoons beef stock
2 teaspoons salt
Place chopped onions, garlic, and ginger in blender with 3 tbsps water and blend to a really smooth paste (this will take about a minute). Set aside.
Heat oil in a 10-12 inch frying-pan over medium heat. When hot, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and then the chilli peppers.
In about 10 seconds, when the peppers turn dark, add the paste from the blender, careful it may splutter. Fry for about 10 minutes, adding a sprinkling of beef stock or water (3-4 tablespoons) if it begins to stick.
Add the dry roasted and ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and fry another 2-3 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes, increase the heat and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the minced meat and the salt. Fry on high heat about 5 minutes. Breaking up any lumps in the mince, and brown it as much as you can. Add ¼ pint beef stock and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Bring to the boil and let it simmer gently for approximately an hour.
To serve: Degrease if necessary. Serve the Kheema with rice or Indian flat bread like chapatis, or parathas, and any vegetables you fancy.
Pan Grilled Steak with Chipotle Butter
Sirloin is more textural than fillet, with lots of flavour, but you can use either here.
We find a heavy-ridged cast-iron grill pan best for cooking steaks when you don’t need to make a sauce in the pan. If the weight of these steaks sounds small by your standards, the portion size can be increased and the cooking times adjusted accordingly.
8 Sirloin or fillet steaks
1 clove of garlic
freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
75g (3ozs) butter
2 tablespoons chipotle chilli in adobo
8 x 8oz (225g) sirloin or fillet steaks
1 clove of garlic
a little olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh watercress or rocket leaves
First make the Chipotle Butter. Cream the butter in a bowl, beat in the chipotle and chopped parsley, roll into a ball in greaseproof paper, twist the ends like a Christmas cracker and refrigerate.
Prepare the steaks about 1 hour before cooking. Cut a clove of garlic in half, rub both sides of each steak with the cut clove, grind some black pepper over the steaks and sprinkle on a few drops of olive oil. Turn the steaks in the oil and leave aside. If using sirloin steaks, score the fat at 2.5cm (1 inch) intervals.
Heat the grill pan, season the steaks with a little salt and put them down onto the pan.
The approximate cooking times for each side of the steaks are:
Rare 2 minutes 5 minutes
Medium rare 3 minutes 6 minutes
Medium 4 minutes 7 minutes
Well done 5 minutes 8-9 minutes
If using sirloin steak turn it over onto the fat and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the fat becomes crisp. Put the steaks onto a plate and leave them rest for a few minutes in a warm place. Serve the steaks on individual serving plates with a slice of Chipotle butter melting on top and some rocket leaves on the side. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley.
French Fried Onions
A delicious accompaniment to your pan grilled steak.
1 egg white
300ml (10fl oz) milk
2 large onions, peeled
225g (8oz) seasoned flour
good-quality oil or beef dripping for deep-frying
Whisk the egg white lightly and add it to the milk. Slice the onion into 5mm (1/4 inch) rings around the middle.
Separate the rings and cover with the milk mixture until needed. (The leftover milk may be boiled up, thickened with roux and used for a white or parsley sauce).
Just before serving, heat the oil or beef dripping to 180°C (350°F).
Toss the rings a few at a time in well-seasoned flour. Deep-fry for 2–3 minutes or until golden in the hot oil.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with your pan grilled steak.
Roast Fillet of Beef with Three Sauces
A fillet of beef is always a special treat. It can be served hot or cold, but either way it’s easy to carve and serve. Don’t refrigerate or you will spoil the texture and flavour of the meat.
Serves 8 – 10
1 whole fillet of well hung dried aged beef 2.6kg (6lb) approximately
a few cloves garlic
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Béarnaise Sauce (see recipe)
Horseradish Sauce (see recipe)
Aoili (see recipe)
Trim away the chain if it is still attached, use the meat for Beef Stroganoff. Double over the meat at the tapered end and tie the fillet securely with fine butcher’s cotton twine. Alternatively ask your butcher to do the ‘butchering’ for you.
Rub the fillet all over with a cut clove of garlic, season well with lots of freshly cracked pepper. Season well with sea salt.
Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. This will baste the meat while cooking.
Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.
Heat a cast iron pan grill to very hot. Sear the beef until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer it to a roasting tin and tuck a couple of sprigs of thyme underneath.
Roast for 20-25 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should read 118°C/235°F. The meat should feel springy to the touch and the juice should be a pale pink when the meat is pierced with a skewer. Remove from the oven to a carving dish. Cover and allow to rest in a plate warming oven for 15-20 minutes by which time the juices will have redistributed themselves and the beef will be uniformly medium rare.
Serve cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) slices and serve with Béarnaise sauce, Horseradish Sauce and Aoili.
The consistency of Béarnaise sauce should be considerably thicker than that of Hollandaise or Beurre Blanc, both of which ought to be a light coating consistency.
4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
4 tablespoons dry white wine
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
A pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped French tarragon leaves
2 egg yolks (preferably free-range)
115-175g (4-6 oz) butter approx., salted or unsalted depending on what it is being served with
If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped tarragon.
Boil the first four ingredients together in a low heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water immediately. Pull the pan off the heat and allow to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.
Whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly ‘scrambling’, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning.
If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until all the butter is added and the sauce is a thick coating consistency. It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Béarnaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!
Another good tip if you are making Béarnaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.
Keep the sauce warm in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it.
This is a fairly mild sauce. If you want to really clear the sinuses, increase the amount of horseradish! Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.
Serves 8 – 10
3 – 6 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
225ml (8 fl ozs) softly whipped cream
Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle. The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours.
Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)
2 egg yolks, preferably free range
1-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
225ml (8fl.oz) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl.oz) arachide oil and 50ml (2fl.oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1
2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)
Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.
If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies.
David Tanis’s Vietnamese Pot Roast Beef Stew (Bo kho)
Bo kho is a delicious Vietnamese pot-roasted beef stew. It is not so different from a traditional French pot-au-feu, but it is spiced in a traditional Vietnamese manner, fragrant with lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon. When the meat is fork tender, carrots are added to complete the dish. If you wish, include turnips or daikon radish or potatoes. Serve it with rice, rice noodles or a freshly baked baguette.
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, such as Red Boat
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
For the braise
1.4Kg (3lbs) beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 large shallots or 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
130g (4.5oz) chopped tomato, fresh or canned
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (from a 2-inch piece)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, tender centre only
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon annatto powder (optional)
4 star anise pods
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick, or substitute cassia bark
1 or 2 Serrano or Thai chillies, stem on, split lengthwise
680g (1.5lbs) pounds medium carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks
4-6 thinly sliced scallions
coriander sprigs, for garnish
mint leaves, for garnish
basil leaves, preferably Thai, for garnish
First make the marinade. Stir together fish sauce, sugar, ginger, 5-spice powder and pepper.
Place the beef in a large bowl, add the marinade and massage into the meat. Let the meat sit in the marinade for at least 15 minutes, or longer if time permits (may be wrapped and refrigerated overnight if desired).
Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough, fry the beef cubes in small batches, taking care not to crowd them, until nicely browned. When all the beef is browned, return it all to the pot.
Add the shallots, stir to combine and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened.
Add the tomato, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, salt and annatto, if using, and stir well to coat, then add the star anise, cinnamon and chilli. Cover with 4 cups water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with lid ajar and cook for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until fork-tender.
Add carrots to the pot and cook 15 minutes more. Skim any fat from surface of broth as necessary (or refrigerate overnight and remove congealed fat before reheating).
To serve, ladle into individual bowls. Garnish with scallions, coriander, mint and basil.
Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps
If you want to perk the lettuce leaves up a little, making sure they curve into appropriate repositories for later, leave them in a sinkful of very cold water while you cook the minced beef, then make sure you drain them well before piling them up on their plate.
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
375g (12ozs) beef mince
scant tablespoon Thai fish sauce
4 spring onions, dark green bits removed, finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
1-2 iceberg lettuces
Put the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat and when warm add the finely chopped chillies and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s wiser not to leave the pan, as you don’t want them to burn. Add the beef, turn up the heat and, breaking up the mince with wooden spoon or fork, cook for 3 or 4 minutes till no trace of pink remains. Add the fish sauce and, still stirring, cook till the liquid’s evaporated. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the spring onions, zest and juice of the lime and most of the coriander. Turn into a bowl, and sprinkle over the remaining coriander just before serving.
Arrange the iceberg lettuce leaves on another plate – they should sit one on top of another easily enough- and let people indulge in a little DIY at the table, filling cold crisp leaves with spoonfuls of sharp, spicy, hot, crumbled meat.
Taken from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson published by Chatto & Windus
Carpaccio of Beef with Horseradish, Lambs Tongue Sorrel
450g (1lb) well hung fillet of beef, chilled
6 tablespoons of Caesar dressing
Lambs Tongue Sorrel
horseradish, freshly grated
flaky sea salt
2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
50g (1x2oz) tin anchovies
1 clove garlic, crushed
a generous pinch of English mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
175mls (6flozs) sunflower oil
50mls (2flozs) extra virgin olive oil
50mils (2flozs) cold water
To make the dressing.
I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together. As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.
Chill the plates. Just before serving, spread a slick of thin Caesar dressing over the base of each plate.
With a very sharp knife, slice the beef really thinly and lay some paper thin pieces of the raw beef over the sauce. Season with a little flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Put 5 or 6 Lamb’s tongue sorrel leaves on top, add a generous grating of fresh horseradish, a little freshly grated lemon zest and a few more flakes of sea salt.
Marmalade Suet Pudding
For almost a week during the cold January days the whole house smells of marmalade. My father-in-law always looked forward to the final day when the last of the oranges had been turned into marmalade, because by tradition on that day there is marmalade pudding for lunch. This recipe makes use of beef suet, the fat that protects the beef kidney. Your butcher will probably give you the suet for free because there is so little demand.
Makes 2 puddings
450g (1lb) plain white flour
450g (1lb) minced beef suet
450g (1lb) breadcrumbs
450g (1lb) sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 eggs, free-range if possible
8 tablespoons homemade marmalade
milk, if needed
4 tablespoons water
450g (1lb) marmalade
juice of 1 lemon
sugar, to taste
2 lightly greased 18cm (7in) pudding bowls
Mix the flour, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar and baking powder together. Add the beaten eggs, marmalade and a little milk to moisten if necessary (the mixture should have the consistency of plum pudding). Spoon into your greased pudding bowls and cover with a double sheet of greaseproof paper with a pleat in the centre. Tie the paper firmly with string under the lip of the bowl. Place each bowl in a saucepan of boiling water. Cover and cook for 2–3 hours, topping up the water in the pan from time to time to make sure that it does not boil dry.
To make the sauce, put the water and marmalade into a saucepan. Warm them together for 15 minutes and then bring slowly to the boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and sweeten with a little sugar to taste. When the pudding is cooked, turn it out on to a warm serving dish and pour the sauce around it.