Food

What’s Wellington’s best beef dish?

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Photo: Annette White

It’s no secret I’m a card-carrying carnivore – a fully paid up member of the nose-to-tail eating club.

Meat is bloody marvellous. The whole beast, flesh, bones, marrow… it’s all good.

And Kiwi-grown? It really is among the best in the world. Yet two of the most memorable meat meals I’ve eaten in recent years have been in London restaurants.

·         Roast bone marrow and parsley salad at St John Bar and Restaurant in Smithfield. There’s a thrilling contrast between the austerity of what’s on the plate – bones, grilled sourdough, a small pile of dressed parsley and an even smaller pile of Maldon salt – and the luxuriousness of the marrow, jelly soft and slippery.

·         A magnificently meaty beef pie for two, shared with a friend in the stark but pub-convivial surrounds of Great Queen St, in Holborn. The dish arrives with a battered old serving spoon, the kind your nana has in the second drawer in her kitchen. The gravy has bubbled up around the edges. And the crust… Oh my god, the crust. A proper suet crust. Flaky. Intensely savoury. Melt in your mouth light and toothsomely dense at the same time. It is the crust of dreams. It is perfect.

This week I’m taking New York-based food and travel writer Elyse Pasquale out for dinner in Wellington. Her blog, Foodie International is all about tasting different countries’ cultures. Literally.

Elyse is eating her way around New Zealand filming a new web series, Off the Beaten Plate. She’s already staying with a sheep and beef farming family so she can find out first-hand what makes our lamb so good. So while she’s in Wellington, I want to showcase our wonderful grass-fed New Zealand beef.

But there’s so much choice. I’m struggling to decide. Where should we go for dinner? And what should we eat? I’d love to know what you think.

Tell me, what’s the best beef dish you’ve eaten in a Wellington restaurant in the past 12 months, and why was it so good?

 

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Food, Recipes

Parmesan-crumbed lamb chops

The best picnic food ever – if they last that long.

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 These Parmesan-crumbed lamb chops are pretty darn awesome, hot or cold.

The recipe is from Pipi: the cookbook and once you try it you won’t want to do them any other way. Adding cheese is a stroke of genius, keeping the deeply savoury, golden, crunchy crumbs firmly stuck to the chop.

6 slices fresh bread

3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

1/2 cup flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs, beaten

2 lamb racks, cut up into 16 wee chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Whiz the bread and Parmesan together in a food processor until they are tiny crumbs. Then fill one bowl with the flour seasoned with the salt, a second with the beaten egg and a third with the crumbs.

First dust the chops with the flour, then dip them in the egg, and then put them in the bowl with the crumb mixture, turning them until they are completely coated. If you want to make absolutely sure you have a lot of crumb on the chops, you can repeat the egg and breadcrumb steps.

Lay the chops on a plate lined with greaseproof paper and put them in the fridge for at least half an hour to help set the crumbs.

Now you’re ready to cook the chops. Place a large frying pan on a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Brown the chops on each side. You will have to do this in batches, using the remaining oil. Then transfer the chops to a roasting dish or baking tray, and put them in the oven for 10-15 minutes to cook through.

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Food, Recipes

Ooh… saucy

Familydinner

Meatballs baked with tomato sauce. Just the thing to dish up for a laid back dinner with the family.

To make the meatballs, mix together:

60g fresh breadcrumbs

500g mince

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

zest of 1 lemon

45g parmesan, grated

big pinch of nutmeg

Add 2 eggs, lightly beaten, and shape into balls (imagine taking two bites out of each one).

Roll in flour to coat. Refrigerate until needed.

 

Sauce:

splash olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 stick celery, diced

2 tablespoons red lentils

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tins tomatoes

250ml vegetable stock or water

Heat the olive oil and gently fry the holy trinity – the onions, carrot and celery – until soft.

Add all other ingredients, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

When you’re ready, preheat the oven to 180C. Heat another splosh of olive oil a large pan and fry the meatballs over a medium heat until nicely browned.

Don’t crowd the pan – brown off in two to three batches if need be. No need to cook the meatballs all the way through – they’ll do that in the oven.

Add the sauce, transfer to a casserole dish, cover and bake for 25 minutes.

Serve stirred through spaghetti – and be generous with the grated parmesan and torn flatleaf parsley.

This is enough sauce for four servings, for which I use 500g dried spaghetti.

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pork-belly

Crackling. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Yeah boy.

Food

Burnished and beautiful

Crackling. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Yeah boy.

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Food, Recipes

Spring into stew

How can you tell when spring is truly sprung? It’s not frolicking lambs or tulips bursting into bloom. It’s the rain, buckets of it, spilling across the nation and ensuring the first days of daylight saving begin and end in damp and drizzly sogginess.

One minute you’re drooling over the new season’s asparagus, the next you’re up to your ankles in an overflowing drain and your socks are sodden.

C’est la vie. The best thing for it is to dig out your gumboots, head out in search of some puddles and jump right in.

And make stew. Giant rib-sticking potfuls of it.

The following one-pot wonders are great spring warmers. Better yet, you don’t even have to brown the meat. Just chop everything up, bung it in the pot with water – look ma, no stock – and let it simmer ’til it’s done.

Aussie foodwriter Jill Dupleix’s tender lamb curry spiked with tangy lemon, mint and fresh coriander will look after itself while you’re splashing about in the rain. When you get back, all you’ll have to do is towel your hair and cook the rice.

And this Danish stew from British foodwriter Sophie Grigson is definitely not sophisticated food; it’s basic, filling, peasanty stuff, made of little more than meat and spuds all cooked up together in a large pot until the spuds go mushy and absorb the nice meaty gravy. It’s not pretty, but it tastes great.

Captain’s Comfort
450g chuck steak
675g floury potatoes
50g butter, plus extra to serve
1 large onion, chopped
600ml water
3 bay leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped spring onions

Cut the steak into 2.5cm cubes. Peel the potatoes and cut into 2.5cm cubes. Melt the butter in a heavy pan and add the chopped onion and meat. Cook gently, stirring, until the onion is tender but not browned.

Add the water, salt, bay leaves and pepper. Bring up to the boil, cover and simmer for one and a half hours.

Add the potatoes and continue simmering, half-covered, for a further 45 minutes or so, stirring every now and then until the potatoes disintegrate to thicken the stew. By the end of the cooking time you should have a thick mixture – soupier than mashed potatoes, but just about thick enough to eat with a fork.
If necessary, add a little more water as it cooks, or boil off some of the liquid at the end if it isn’t thick enough.

Adjust the seasoning and sprinkle with the spring onions. Serve in big dollops with a knob of butter on top of each and a hunk of dark and chewy rye bread on the side.

Serves four.

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When it comes to lamb, I want a slow hand

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A bloody lamb steak is all well and good, and the lamb chops at Tayyab are indeed the stuff of dreams, but what really, really gets my juices flowing is lamb cooked long and low, ’til the meat melts from the bones. Plus, not having a tandoor handy at home, slow-roasting a shoulder or braising a brace of shanks is a far surer route to domestic bliss.

I was planning an idle bank holiday lunch a few weekends ago – one where we could sit and gossip at the table for hours, sloshing back buckets of wine. The food needed to be sensational – I have a reputation to uphold, after all – but it also needed to be effortless. I had a hankering for lamb and kinda fancied a roast, but was also wedded to the idea of a midday matinee at the Ritzy, so any last-minute pfaffing was out.

Trawling through a mountain of recipe books in search of inspiration, I hit upon just the thing, Nigella‘s warm shredded lamb salad with mint and pomegranate. It proved to be a wise choice. Not only for the aforementioned reasons, but because my lunch guest was feeling so seedy after the night before, she didn’t turn up ’til suppertime. The lamb was none the worse, merely needing a quick blast in the magic box to get the fat back up to lubricating temperature.

Now, a word about cooking times. The domestic goddess bungs a 2.5kg shoulder in a 140C oven overnight, using a roasting tin tented with foil in which to cook it, suggesting 170C for five hours if you’re cooking it the day you intend to eat it. My shoulder was considerably smaller – 1.3kg – so I used a lidded cast-iron casserole instead, and cooked it at 170C for three and a half hours. I used the same amount of water – I could have cut the quantity but liked the idea of having readymade stock for a sticky risotto the following evening.

1 shoulder of lamb
1 onion, quartered
6 cloves garlic
1 carrot, halved
1 stick celery, halved
Maldon salt
500ml boiling water
small handful freshly chopped mint
1 pomegranate

On the hob, brown the lamb, fat-side down in your chosen roasting dish. Remove when nicely browned across its middle and set aside while you fry the veges, sprinkled with salt, gently for a couple of minutes.

Pour the water over and replace the lamb, this time fat-side up. Let the liquid in the pan come to a bubble, then put in the preheated oven.

About an hour before you want to eat, remove the lamb from the pan to a large plate. To finish the salad, pull the lamb to pieces, sprinkle with more salt and the fresh mint, then cut the pomegranate in half and dot with the seeds from one of the halves. Squeeze the juices from the other half over the salad and it’s done.

Confession time. I’ve been meaning to try this for years, and once I had, I couldn’t wait to do it again. I ordered another shoulder the very next day.

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Food, Recipes

Spear a thought

One of the famed Cleopatra’s charms is said to be the special way she had of serving asparagus. Well, no, not really, I just made that up, but I’m sure it’s entirely possible.

The ancients were pretty fond of asparagus so I reckon it probably appeared at her table, and she was a smart enough chick not to have overlooked its erotic symbolism.

Asparagus is one of the few things in polite society one is encouraged to pick up and eat with one’s fingers.

Cooking it can be accorded as much mystique as cooking the perfect omelette, but that’s all bollocks.

Lay down your spears in a large frying pan containing just enough boiling water to barely cover them, bring the pan back to the boil and cook until a knife inserted in the tip lets you know the desired degree of doneness has been reached. If you’re doing heaps and heaps, just plunge the lot into a huge pot of boiling salted water. Or toss stubby spears in olive oil, sprinkle with flakes of Maldon salt and a good grind of black pepper and roast in a hot oven until tender and patched with gold.

Mum used to make this Chinese-style beef every year with the first of the asparagus – as sure a harbinger of spring as the more traditional lambs and daffs, it was a thrifty treat. Sliced fine and piled up with sticky soy-smeared beef and rice, it made the four of us think we were eating a feast of asparagus, when in reality we had fewer than half a dozen spears each.

The recipe comes from the Beauty and the Beast Cookbook, which seemed terribly exotic in the late 70s when it was published. It contains one of the all-time best recipe instructions: “as much fresh asparagus as you can afford”. Fabulous.

Beef Shreds and Asparagus:
500g rump steak
4 tablespoons dark soy
2 tablespoons sherry
1 clove garlic, crushed
thumb green ginger, grated
black pepper
as much fresh asparagus as you can afford
peanut oil for frying

Cut steak into strips 5-8cm long and 1/2cm thick. Marinate for an hour in the soy, sherry, garlic, ginger and pepper.

Slice asparagus diagonally into 1/2cm slices and fry quickly in medium hot oil until soft on the outside but still crisp in the centre. Transfer to a small covered dish and hold in a warm oven.

Fry the beef shreds in the oil and toss gently until they are coated and glossy brown. Serve immediately with the asparagus and a mound of fluffy white rice.

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