john torode’s BEEF (+ a hearty slow-cooked beef pie)
After last week’s review of the veggie-centric New Urban Gardener, it’s time to even things up with an unapologetic ode to meat – John Torode‘s “Beef: And Other Bovine Matters”. Most of the nation knows Torode as the loud Aussie chef judging alongside produce man Greg Wallace on the Masterchef. But of course he was known in foodie circles well before his appearance on the BBC programme, as chef patron of Smiths of Smithfield (and now, the newly opened café-bar The Luxe in nearby Spitalfields)
One may mistakenly assume a meat-focused cookbook penned by an Australian would be all about thick slabs of meat on the barbie. Not so. While there may be the obligatory steaks and burgers, there are also scores of refined options (many of which draw on the Asian influences that Torode so loves), including Grilled Beef with Thai Flavours in Rice Paper, Beef Consomme with Poached Egg and Truffle Oil, plus eight variations on the delicate Venetian classic, Carpaccio. Despite being a true homage to nose-to-tail eating (with a whole section on Offal), there’s also a handful of non-meat dishes thrown in – from the perfect spuds to some rustic puds (made with suet of course). In addition to recipes, the book discusses what to look for when buying beef, the many numerous breeds, and features a useful guide to the different cuts available (complete with photos and diagrams), hidden in its fold-out covers.
The vibrant photos make all the beefy recipes (all with a nice little intro with a cooking or serving tip) look very enticing indeed, but naturally the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the pie. I decided to try out (in honour of British Pie Week) Aunty Mary’s Slow-Cooked Pie. He suggests using stewing cuts so I got some a mix of brisket, steak and kidneys. I substituted the lard-based pastry with ready-made puff pastry, partly out of laziness but mostly because lard scares me. It’s a not a slap-dash job, taking a full 4 hours to cook, but it came out as promised – moist and succulent. I did find though that I had to top up the braising liquid with additional water (I probably added an additional 2-3 cups) while it was simmering away on the stove and the end product could still have done with a bit more gravy. Also, the potato to meat ratio was a bit off – Next time I’d drop one of the taters, double the amount of stock and try it with oxtail or cheek (but definitely not kidneys – I always forget the taste does not agree with me). Below is the original (unaltered) recipe from the book if you’d like to take it for a test-spin yourself this weekend, before pie week ends!
Aunty Mary’s Crusted Slow-Cooked Pie
2kg stewing steak (such as skirt, shin, brisket, cheek or tail)
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
2 large onions, roughly chopped
50ml worcestershire sauce
1 litre stock or water
50ml vegetable oil
80g plain flour
salt and pepper
200g lard, at room temperature
400g self-raising flour, sifted
180ml cold water
1 pinch salt
a little milk
Trim any excess fat off the meat, but leave in all the gristle, then cut into 3cm cubes. Shake the meat and flour in a plastic bag with some salt and pepper – a quick way of coating the meat in the flour with no mess,
Heat a cast-iron or other heavy-based pan over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, fry the onions for about 3 minutes. add the floured meat and cook until coloured, about 10 minutes. Pour in the stock (or water) and add the Worchestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours.
add the potatoes and cook gently for a further 1 hours.
Meanwhile make the pastry. Rub the lard into the flour and salt, or put in a food processor and mix, until resembling breadcrumbs. add the water bit by bit and mix to a dough. Let rest for 20 minutes.
Check the meat – when ready it will be soft and break apart when squeezed. The sauce should be rich and thick. Season as necessary.
Heat the oven to 190°C (374°F). Three-quarters fill an ovenproof pie dish with the meat mixture. Roll out the pastry to 3cm thick and cut into a shape large enough to cover the top of the dish. Beat the egg and milk together and brush over the rim of the dish. Press the edges of the pastry down firmly. Brush the pastry with the egg wash, then cut a small hole in the middle to allow steam to escape. Bake for 40 minutes. If the edges of the pastry become too brown, protect with some foil.
Many thanks to Quadrille Publishing for kindly providing the review copy and allowing reproduction of the recipe above.