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 ‹