Beef

Butchers should love sous vide. They should be actively promoting the cooking method. They could, if they had the wit, see that the saving of their dying craft is tied to innovation. Domestic sous vide is such an innovation and could help on a path to profitability. Using sous vide, one can turn out a spectacular steak in just over an hour. I can turn out a spectacular steak in a lot less time without sous vide. Granted, the SV steak may be a bit tastier and a bit more tender. But, this is not where Sous Vide really shines.

“Why would you waste three days cooking a bit of beef?” “How can a cut like that taste good?” “Wouldn’t a nice fillet be tastier?” So go the questions. So goes the debate. I can tell you now. The debate is over. There is very little to be said. For the technical amongst you, this was beef cheeks sous vide 54/72 (129/72 American and 54ºC for 72 hours for the non technical). 

You are probably reading this hoping it’s a software glitch in the Anova or a hacking of the Joule that has led to this culinary failure. It is technically true that an app was responsible for the issues. But in reality, it’s my own dumbass behaviour that was the problem. The app in question is WhatsApp and the issue had nothing to do with the sous vide end of the cooking. I started over two days out, planning a 48 hour cook of my short ribs. At this stage, everything went according to plan.

In an ideal world, all women would be a 10 so dress manufacturers would only need to make one size. Shopping would be a lot simpler too. Men would be happy with mid grey polyester-cotton trousers in 32” waist/ 34” leg. Retailing would be so much easier. In the same idiom, butchers could only sell mince meat and chicken breasts. Things would be so easy. But, for women, men and butchers, life is not that simple. Butchers need to offer a bit more than the top margin products that virtually sell themselves. Some try to do it by buying in a range of day-glow sauces and “adding value” by disguising the meat in these industrially produced “authentic” flavours. This may keep the wolf of competition from the door in the short term. Business logic tells me that the advantage will be eroded by supermarkets and this variety of independent butcher, like the guy trying to fit into size 32, will be under pressure again.

Butchers are like the rest of us. There are the good ones and there are the not so good. There are some worth marrying and some that deserve a life of loneliness. When it comes to the ‘lesser joints’, some butchers play a little on the ignorance of the buying public and sell them stuff that should really be going into the off cuts. Thankfully, there are many great independent butchers selling top quality meat. I believe that most of them are at least “in a relationship”. Butchers who are keen to educate their customers and are delighted to see people like me using the lesser cuts in different and interesting ways. So, when I encourage you to try this straightforward Beef Short Rib Stew, be sure you get the right ribs from the right butcher. It could lead to a beautiful romance and a long term relationship.

Beef and Mushroom Stew (1 of 2)

We live in a rapidly polarising and intolerant world. More and more of us have no room to share with anybody who has different views, different religion, different nationality, different colour or different sexuality to ourselves. It’s kind of easy for me to take a stand on this as I don’t have a religion, have very few views on anything of importance, am a citizen of the world, in my underwear, I am a pasty colour that is best kept covered up and you can mind your own business on the sexuality bit.

Fillet Steak with Stilton (1 of 9)Here we go again. A nice photo or two to convince you of the efficacy of my approach combined with a little bit of alliteration in the headline and you are already a few lines into the story. I can’t and won’t pretend that this is a recipe. It isn’t. It is, however, a truly sensational way to serve a top quality, dry aged, Irish fillet steak. 

Thai Beef Stew (2 of 9)I’ve been writing this blog for a few years now. Like all endeavours, it has it’s ups and downs. There are weeks when I am overflowing with ideas for stories and recipes. There are the fallow periods when I haven’t either a recipe or story idea that makes any sense. I have been through a thin patch recently and was beginning to think that perhaps I should park the endeavour for a while (That’s a euphemism for give it up entirely). Then, along came a thought; “What about a Thai style Beef Stew?”. Without thinking about it, I was thinking about it. I rummaged in the press and the fridge. Yes! lime leaves, coconut milk, lemongrass, chilli, ginger, garlic, potatoes and palm sugar. I just needed the beef and the spinach. Then I got to thinking about my motivation. Why do I write this blog? Why do I take the photos, process and publish them? Why do I devise and cook these recipes? 

Last October, a bunch of us MIDRA (men in denial of the reality of ageing) went on a seven day cycling trip to the mountains of Southern Spain, taking in exotic, historic towns including Seville, Ronda and Granada. We also cycled up and down some huge mountains, some of our group conquering the Pico de Veleta, one of the greatest cycling challenges in Europe. The mountain is the third highest peak in Spain, and the highest paved road in Europe. Spain is a beautiful country and well worth the trip if you have the inclination. As in any group of men, there are leaders and followers. On the Spanish food front, our buddy Seamus is a leader. He has spent more time in that part of Spain, than the rest of us. Using his experience of the region, he took charge of some of our restaurant bookings. His thought, to give us some insight into local food traditions. One of the highs of the trip for me was the night we had the Spanish Oxtail Stew.

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