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Thursday 8 September 2011

Surprise! ...It's Beef

I have previously intimated that beef does not agree with me.

The full story is that, wayback when the BSE scare first hit the UK, my family pretty much stopped eating beef for a while. When the fuss died down, and we started eating beef again, I found I just didn't like the taste, so it wasn't served up to me. More recently, I had the tiniest morsel of beef from a friend's plate at a restaurant, and was vomiting shortly thereafter.


It transpired around the beginning of this year that I had a slight irregularity with my stomach (which, bizarrely, caused a cough that just wouldn't go away, and made me sound like I had asthma) and, following a seemingly successful treatment for that condition, I had begun to get curious about my beef intolerance.

And, being a pig-headed fuckwit, rather than start small, I decided today - on a whim - to cook myself a steak.

So, off I trotted, down the road to my local Sainsbury's, and picked up a good-sized portion of Rump at a decent enough price. The packaging was woefully ambiguous in its cooking instructions, describing a 'medium heat' without any reference to proper temperature scales, be they Centigrade or Fahrenheit. A brief Google session led me to believe that the phrase 'medium heat' equates to anything between 170C and 200C - which, to this particular layman, seems like a 'high heat', especially when one considers that my electric grill is only numbered as high as 200, though a closer examination of the dial just now suggests 'MAX' must be approximately 300C. Timings were similarly vague, because steak can be 'rare' (show it the grill, slap it on the plate), 'medium' (actually put it under the grill for about 5 minutes a side, depending on how thick it is) or, if you are a philistine, lunatic or merely crass, 'well done' (thoroughly grilled).

Now, I must confess that, in my youth, I was always of the mind that meat should be cooked, and so I fell - happy in my naïvete - into the latter category. What can I say in my defence? Seeing meat bleed as I cut into it did not increase my appetite.

Getting daring in my old age, I opted to aim for 'medium' and see how palatable the results were. Further Googling suggested a very simple recipe and, God only knows why, but I have a jar of Horseradish sauce in my fridge, so perhaps the time was right to give beef another chance.

Yes, I know it's out of character for me to give anything a second chance. Just shut up and read on, OK?

  • Beef Steak (duh)
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Preparation Time: About 40-45 minutes

Tools Required:
  • Sealable Bowl or Tub large enough to comfortably accommodate the steak
  • Tongs
  • Grill Pan & Wire Rack
  • Foil (to line the grill pan)
The Process:
Pour some Worcestershire Sauce into the tub - enough to cover the bottom. Shake/grind in a little salt and pepper (to taste), then slap in the steak, pour some more of that lovely, piquant fluid over the top, and add a little more salt and pepper on top. This is, essentially, a very simple marinade. Seal the tub, and stick it into the fridge for half an hour.

About halfway through this time, switch on the grill to the mythical 'medium heat'. I went for 180C, but see later on for some further details. The goal is not only to let the grill get to the required temperature, but to have it at that temperature for a good 10 minutes before the steak gets anywhere near it.

Grab enough foil to line your grill pan, and set its wire rack in place. Once the half hour has elapsed, whip the steak out of the fridge, out of the tub (allowing the excess marinade to drip off), then transfer it to the grill pan's wire rack by dexterous application of the tongs. Stick the steak under the grill for about 5 minutes per side, flipping it over with the tongs.

Obviously, while all this action is taking place, you should somehow be preparing whatever will be accompanying your steak for dinner. I failed utterly at this and, at the last minute, threw together some instant mash and blasted some frozen mixed veg in the microwave. (Achievement Unlocked: Look, Ma... I Can Improvise!)

The Results:
OK, you already know that my first attempt at beef is going to be doomed to failure. Surely you've read other pages on this blog?

No? Really?

Well... I have to say the results far exceeded my expectations. It wasn't perfect... it wasn't even great... but it was edible. The still-pink interior of the meat didn't put me off (that is to say, I didn't allow it to put me off... Willpower FTW) and, while I cannot honestly say that I'm a convert to the epicurean delights of bovine flesh, it certainly wasn't as vile and musty as I remember from the beef of my distant youth.

I suspect that upping the temperature to 200C would have been a good idea... or possibly just cooking it for slightly longer than 5 minutes per side. It has further been suggested that frying might have yielded better results. One of the problems, though, was in the quality of the meat. Not being a connoisseur of red meat, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but seams of tough, rubbery stuff would not have been high on the list. Sure, I know there's going to be fat in there... and maybe gristle, a bit of sinew, possibly even bone fragments... but some mouthfuls I simply could not swallow because of this strange substance and its resistance to a thorough mastication. Not even a generous slathering of Horseradish helped.

Considering this was my first full steak in well over a decade (possibly two!), I think I did well to polish off about 2/3 to 3/4 of the meat. Now that I know my stomach can tolerate beef (hurrah for Proton-Pump Inhibitors!), I shall endeavour to reintroduce it into my diet, and try as many methods of cooking (and different cuts of meat) as I possibly can... Any maybe come up with a more complicated recipe next time...