Cook­ing ‘lo­cal’ with Francesca

Island Life - - Contents -

Make the most of lo­cal in­gre­di­ents with lovely Francesca.

When the whole world is go­ing ‘or­ganic’ we are so lucky to have the best beef in the world. Van­u­atu beef cat­tle roam freely in green fields of pas­ture and are raised with­out an­tibi­otics, hor­mones or growth stim­u­lants, free of dis­eases and… happy! Although the qual­ity of our beef is very good, when I buy meat I look for a dark red colour, nice mar­bling and fresh­ness. I like my beef to be aged, which means it has been hang­ing for a while to re­lax the mus­cles and get much more ten­der and tasty when cooked. This process of ‘dry ag­ing’ at con­trolled hu­mid­ity and tem­per­a­ture is called “frol­latura” in Italy and it varies from 24-48 hours to 14-21 days for the most pre­mium meat. We all un­der­stand that time is money, so if you can­not find aged meat, pre­serve your steak in the fridge for a few days be­fore cook­ing and that will help. When choos­ing meat, keep in mind that the parts of the an­i­mal that work the most and build mus­cles such as the legs are the tough­est and good for slow-roast­ing or stew­ing. The softer parts such as the back are ten­der and suit­able for grilling or fry­ing. A bit of fat in the meat is good be­cause it gives taste and mois­ture while cook­ing, how­ever it is rec­om­mended to dis­card ex­ces­sive fat. I’d like to share here the ba­sic point­ers to cook a per­fect steak and pre­pare a tasty beef stock for your soups. When it comes to meat lovers, the Ital­ian “bis­tecca alla fiorentina” is with­out doubt the mas­ter­piece of beef dishes. In the ear­lier 1800s, dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions in the squares of Florence, it was tra­di­tional to cook quar­ters of beef and dis­trib­ute slices to the peo­ple. Ap­par­ently, the name came about as rich English mer­chants kept ask­ing for ‘beef steak’ (slice of beef) which the peo­ple of Florence trans­lated into ‘bis­tecca’. The tra­di­tional cut for the dish is a T-bone steak about 3cm thick, com­pris­ing of sir­loin on one side and fil­let on the other side of the bone. Butch­ers use only beef from young fe­males as they say ‘fe­male is bet­ter’….! Here I have found aged scotch fil­let steak a much more ten­der cut and my ideal size of steak is about 300g and 1.5-2cm thick. I leave the steak to mar­i­nate in qual­ity ex­tra vir­gin olive oil with fresh chopped rose­mary and gar­lic for a cou­ple of days. I cook the steak on a very hot plate or grill. Ac­cord­ing to the size of the steak the cook­ing time is 2 to 3 min­utes for rare, 4 min­utes for medium/rare, 6 min­utes for medium and 8 min­utes for well-done. You must turn the steak only once or max­i­mum twice, if you wish to have a cross grill pat­tern on the sur­face, and sea­son with salt only af­ter the meat is cooked. F or a de­li­cious beef stock, use 1.5kg of beef shin, one peeled brown onion with a few cloves stuck in it, one large car­rot, one cel­ery stalk, one tea­spoon of black pep­per, two bay leaves, a few springs of fresh thyme and flat leaf pars­ley and a gen­er­ous splash of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil. Put all in­gre­di­ents in a large pot with 5L of wa­ter and let it sim­mer for three hours un­cov­ered. Al­low to cool and store in plas­tic con­tain­ers in the fridge for up to three days or longer in the freezer. When mak­ing stock, the raw meat is added to the wa­ter while cold, to re­lease all juices and flavours in the stock, as op­posed to when cook­ing a stew, where it needs to be seared on high heat to keep all juices in­side be­fore cook­ing. A 90g piece of lean beef con­tains 25g

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