Monday, 29 February 2016

Steak! So many choices.

I luuuuurve steak. Whether it's served no frills style straight from the pan accompanied by a pile of deep fried chips or tarted up with sauces, rubs, butters or a jus and served with seasonal vegetables I am one happy carnivore.

If it's on a menu, I will invariably order it. I rarely cook it at home (steak for 9? can you imagine?) so it's a treat when I go out.

Invited to a session with butcher Martin Eccles to learn about all the different cuts of meat you can turn into a steak I went momentarily light headed. Cook steak, eat steak, photograph steak and talk about steak? Count me in!


Now I appreciate that not everyone is a fan of raw meat pics so I won't post too many "before"
photographs. Trust me though the meat was gorgeous and the quick lesson on basic butchery including what to trim and what to leave was really interesting.

I should mention the event was organised at L'Atelier Des Chefs near St Paul's Cathedral by  The Meat Elite, the public face of Simply Beef and  Lamb. Remember them? The people who organised the mini-roast challenge with Fay Ripley last year. Which I won by the way. Did I mention that?

Back to the lesson. Basically we learned there is much more to steak than the rump and sirloin and it seems a good butcher is as important as the cut.

Visit your local butcher to ask for any cut you fancy or even check out your supermarket chiller shelves as many are now stocking newer cuts like hangar, bistro and flat iron (or butler) steaks.

To ensure you are buying good quality meat make sure you check for the Quality Standard Mark (QSM) on packaging.

In order to carry the Quality Standard Mark  all beef and lamb must be produced and processed through a fully assured and independently audited supply chain. The standards and specifications for the QSM Scheme cover farm assurance and quality assurance throughout the supply chain, animal age, carcase specifications, maturation, eating quality and care for the environment.

Ok, so you've bought your meat. Now how to cook it?

Mostly steak should not be cooked past medium to preserve taste and texture. I like my steak still moo-ing and although the sight of blood from my child's knee will make me gag bizarrely I have no trouble with my dinner bleeding a little.

Chef confirmed what I already knew - almost no cuts of steak benefit from being well done. Or incinerated which is how my Dad likes it.

You can simply brush oil over the meat, salt and pepper it and pop it into a hot griddle pan for a couple of minutes and Hey presto! Steak.

Or you could be a bit more adventurous and play with your favourite ingredients to create your own steak signature dish.


We were challenged to make our own steak dish and after reluctantly tearing myself away from the hob where the very lovely food writer and stylist, economist and darn fine cook, Denise Spencer- Walker was cooking up lots of tasters of different cuts of meat, I headed for the ingredients table.

Now I'm beginning to think that in a previous life I met a sticky end at the jaws of a vampire because I am almost drawn to garlic. And not just a hint of garlic - antisocial levels of the stuff.

So despite an actual plethora of ingredients available to play with I predictably picked up garlic, butter, a lemon to juice, coarse sea salt and flat leaf parsley to make a butter with.

My new favourite ingredient is anchovy paste which adds a salty more than fishy tang to food so I grabbed a tube of that too.  The whole lot (including just a 1/3 tsp of anchovy paste) was blended together using a mortar and pestle.


I spotted some shallots and thought it might be fun to echo steak dinners from the 1970's with some retro styling with crispy fried onions to garnish my buttery sirloin steaks. I peeled them and sliced them thinly then fried them in my griddle pan until almost done. Then I pushed them to the edge of the hot pan while I cooked my steaks then while my steaks were resting (very important to rest your meat!) I finished off the onions.


As you'd expect from a bunch of foodies let loose with a pile of ingredients in a professional kitchen there were some beautifully imaginative creations including one steak dish with a blue cheese and creme fraiche sauce, another with a gorgeous Moroccan style rub, one with a spicy dip and another with a smoky paprika butter.



Lunch was a real treat as we shared our creations served alongside salad and bread and of course a glass or two of wine.  The event reminded me of how versatile any steak cut can be if you just use a little imagination.

And to those who are a little nervous of cooking steak - don't be. Check out some great steak recipes on the Simply Beef and Lamb website.  Bon Appetite!



Disclaimer: I was paid a fee to cover expenses to attend this event. Views and opinions remain honest and my own.



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