Friday, 7 January 2011

Why I Know Nothing About Beef, and other stories...

Thankyou for your comments about what to do with my braising steak - it made me hungry just reading your suggestions! In the end Delia did in fact come to the rescue. Her recipe is called Latin American Beef Stew. It is made with the beef, onions, chilli, garlic, chopped tomatoes, red wine, sweetcorn and peppers, and was absolutely gorgeous.
So why didn't I have a clue what to do with this meat? The answer, I think, is that when I was a child, beef was considered to be very expensive, so we wouldn't have had it very often, anyway. And then, I hate to say this, but my mother was a terrible cook (she is sadly no longer with us, so I guess it's okay to spill the beans in this way.) There was many a day when I'd come home from school and find a burnt out saucepan on the garden path. Please don't think I'm kidding. Sometimes she couldn't boil an egg without being distracted and letting the pan boil dry. She couldn't make spaghetti bolognaise. I don't know why. Her mother, and in fact her mother-in-law were both exceptional cooks, so there's no accounting for it. My sister, also, is an amazing cook.
Anyway, back to the beef. I don't really remember having it at home, and if we did, it would have tasted like shoe leather, so in my head, I didn't think I liked it. I know if we eat in a restaurant I usually order fish or chicken. It's only in very recent years I've ordered beef occasionally.
Then we moved here, and Pongo and Missis love to have barbeques in the summer, and Pongo always cooks big bits of beef. I think it may be sirloin, I'm not sure. Every year they buy a whole Aberdeen Angus cow and fill the freezer with it, and this year they asked if we'd like to go in with them. We agreed, and now my freezer is full of beef, and ... it's absolutely, flippin' gorgeous!
But of course, I don't know the significance of each piece of beef and how you're supposed to cook it (technically I can't fry an egg either, but that's another story!)
You used to be able to buy books called, 'The Dairy Book of Home Management' which told you which joints came from which part of the pig, sheep or cow, and how to cook them. Finding a book like that now is practically impossible (and I'm only talking about a book from the 70's or 80's, not exactly Mrs Beeton).
And so, I've turned to my much mocked, 'Delia's How To Cook (Book 2). It's so interesting I can't begin to tell you. She says...
'In most cases forequarter meat (which comes from the front half of the animal) is best for slow cooking because this is the bit that works harder, stretching and pulling the rest along all the time (examples for beef include brisket joint, and braising and stewing beef). Muscle and tissue begin to build up as the animal matures, and this, together with a marbling of fat in-between the meat fibres, seems happily to be tailor-made for slow cooking...'
It's making me hungry just thinking about it! I bet you knew all that already, didn't you? How clueless am I? I'm forty-three for goodness sake, and all this is a mystery to me (and my son-in-law is a butcher!)
So there will be 'adventures in beef' for quite a while, until it's all used up, and then, I think you'll probably find, we'll get some more.
So, what's your favourite bit of beef, and what do you do with it? I'd love to know.
Mrs O.


  1. Oh now AM! C`mon on!....But since you asked here we go.
    Brisket of Beef: Take a substantial piece, rolled and tied. Acquire a large lidded stewing pan. Big enough to accommodate the said meat. Turn oven on, around 100 deg, or gas 4?
    Put meat in pan, also one whole peeled onion, two whole carrots, and 6 whole black peppercorns.
    Pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, say 1 pint? Put lid on and place in oven for 4-5 hours. Maybe longer, test with skewer, should go right through. Easy.
    Keep check on water, this is your gravy.

  2. Hi Jane, so glad you managed to get that braising beef cooked and you thoroughly enjoyed it, well done. You might find that Dairy Book either in a charity shop or even a bootsale they are still around.
    My favourite piece of beef is actually a joint roasted with roast potatoes and all the trimmings, rather boring but very yummy. With love and hugs Shirleyxxx

  3. I'm ruined for life. We have Omaha Steaks here in the USA and I have some of their sirloins and filets. Tender meats that broil well. I use them in stroganoff, stir fry, shishkabobs, and just marinated and broiled. Chopped beef makes great meatloaf, meatballs, and also works well in a stir fry.

  4. My mom was a professional cook, but at home it was nothing but simple food, and as my father liked everything very well done that was the only way I ever tasted beef until I was grown, now I love a piece of rare beef

  5. I'm a big fan of Delia and her How to Cook books have some great recipes.
    Thanks for your lovely comments on my blog. I've left you something, the next time you visit. M x


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