Nigel Slater

The Observer Magazine - - NEWS - Pho­to­graphs JONATHAN LOVEKIN @NigelSlater

On a win­ning streak with cheaper steak. Plus, nice gnoc­chi

The bavette, that long, slen­der steak from the lower end of the belly, sounds less than promis­ing. No rim of creamy-yel­low fat to frame its flesh; no thick bone at its side to en­rich it as it cooks; a piece of meat that is cut thin­ner than I usu­ally pre­fer. And yet, briefly mar­i­nated with thyme, gar­lic and rose­mary and cooked quickly on a hot grid­dle or over coals out­doors and left to rest be­fore slic­ing, it has be­come my go-to steak this sum­mer.

I bought my first piece a few years ago, more out of cu­rios­ity than any­thing else. De­spite its lack of fat and bone, it tempted: the colour was the deep­est ma­roon flecked with tiny nuggets of sweet fat and its deep, open grain in­trigued. The price was a bar­gain com­pared to what I nor­mally paid for steak. Cooked on a sear­ingly hot cast iron grid­dle, the one I still use, the meat was ready in no time, then rested and sliced into thick pieces. I’ve never looked back.

For years I con­sid­ered this cut best for slic­ing thinly and toss­ing in a smok­ing wok with gin­ger and spring onions, or for end­ing its days in the depths of a ragù sauce. Noth­ing wrong with that af­ter all, but it seemed daft to do with­out a steak be­cause of the cost when there is a good­value cut such as this to be had.

I cooked bavette this week, basted with a herb-freck­led mari­nade and served with roasted veg­eta­bles – a rough mix­ture of baked aubergine and scar­let pep­pers, a coarse purée of the lat­ter run­ning through the roughly chopped flesh of the aubergine. On the plate, the caramelised juices of both the steak and the veg­eta­bles merged de­li­ciously into one. Add to that the an­chovy-spiked dress­ing that I used to toss some green beans and we had a cheap din­ner lit­tle short of a feast.

Grilled bavette, aubergine and pep­pers

The cook­ing time is for a rare steak. Serves 2

bavette steak 500g

For the mari­nade: le­mon thyme 12 sprigs mar­jo­ram 5 sprigs rose­mary 3 bushy sprigs gar­lic 2 cloves pars­ley a small bunch olive oil 6 tbsp

For the roast veg­eta­bles: red pep­pers 3, large aubergines 2, large gar­lic 6 cloves onions 2, medium

For the onions: onions 2 medium but­ter 40g olive oil 6 tbsp

Make the mari­nade. Pull the leaves from the le­mon thyme and mar­jo­ram and drop them into a shal­low dish large enough to lay the beef flat. Re­move the rose­mary nee­dles and roughly chop them, then add to the thyme and rose­mary. Peel the gar­lic and chop it finely, to­gether with enough of the pars­ley leaves to give two heaped tbsp, then add to the other herbs to­gether with a gen­er­ous sea­son­ing of coarsely ground black pep­per and the olive oil.

Place the beef in the mari­nade, turn­ing it to coat both sides gen­er­ously with the oil and herbs, and set aside in a cool place for a cou­ple of hours.

Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Place the pep­pers, aubergines and whole cloves of gar­lic in a large roast­ing tray and trickle over some olive oil. Bake for an hour, turn­ing the aubergine and pep­pers once. When the pep­pers are black­ened here and there and the aubergines are soft and de­flated, re­move from the oven.

While the aubergines and pep­pers are in the oven, peel the onions, cut into ‹

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