After cooking loads of fish recently, it is definitely time that I tackled a piece of meat. I was inspired recently by reading an excellent article by Jay Rayner about his favourite eating experiences. His choices ranged from dining at el Bulli and the St John to more personal meals such as crab on the beach and a big piece of steak at home with his wife. It was this last example that hit a chord with me, and got me thinking about the best things that I have eaten. Holidays scoffing carpaccio in tucked away Venetian restaurants and fresh seafood off a Cornish campfire sprung to mind, but certainly the best thing that I have eaten recently was chomping through a steak as big as my head at Hawksmoor in February.
So beef it was, and instead of buying a standard ribeye, I wanted to try something a little more special. One of the greatest meals that Katie and I never had was when we paced the streets of Florence a few years ago, frantically looking for somewhere decent that would offer us one of it’s famed slabs of t-bone. After hours of searching we got impatient in the humidity, and settled in a rubbish tourist restaurant for rubbery gnocchi and tough veal. I’ve been keen to settle that one ever since. Still, I was slightly hesitant about ordering a porterhouse (which has more fillet attached than a t-bone), as frankly it is an expensive piece of meat and I wanted to do it justice. I have cooked conventional steaks loads of times but my experience of cooking larger joints of meat is quite limited, so I would have to be very careful.
Cuts of meat such as t-bone, porterhouse or even bone-in ribs or sirloin are only really available from good independent butchers. I am lucky enough to have some great ones a cycle ride away, but last week I was really short on time, and there was no way that I would get the chance to visit my favourite Ginger Pig. Whilst researching cuts of meat I stumbled upon the website for the East London Steak Co, which instantly impressed with easy functionality and a great selection of produce. I would never normally order meat or fish online, as I like to see the quality before buying and I try and support local supplier as much as possible, but thought that I would give it a go. I have to say that the service and quality were excellent, and I was very happy with what I received. If I ever need meat at short notice and can’t make it to the shops then I would definitely buy from them again.
The only surprise that occurred from ordering online was that when the meat was delivered, I discovered that the cattle breed was Dexter. Dexter cows are much smaller than average, and as a result my 1kg porterhouse was much smaller and thicker than I was expecting. I was happy with this though, as Dexter meat is considered to have great flavour and tenderness, so was excited about trying it. My only concern was that my initial cooking timings would be thrown with this much thicker piece of meat.
After a lot of prodding and checking during the cooking process, I was extremely pleased with the results. The sirloin side was perfectly cooked for me, pink and tender all the way through without being raw. I have to say that the fillet was a little overcooked, and only slightly pink. But I’m not sure if cooking the two parts evenly is all that possible given the tiny size of the fillet, but it was still very tender and juicy. The flavour of the meat was extraordinary, and I only have the quality, aging and hanging of the meat to thank for that.
Pairing the steak with simple Jersey Royals and greens complimented the flavour of the meat perfectly, and turned it into a complete meal. Albeit a very meat heavy one. Jersey Royals and broad beans are bang in season right now and should be made the most of.
Serves 2 very hungry people
For the beef:
1 x 1kg dexter porterhouse steak
10 sprigs fresh rosemary
10 sprigs fresh thyme
5 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
For the bearnaise sauce:
4 egg yolks
1 small banana shallot, very finely chopped
4 tbsp tarragon, chopped
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
250ml clarified butter
1/2 lemon, juice only
3 tbsp cold water
Salt and pepper
For the Jersey Royals:
12 small jersey royal potatoes, washed and scrubbed lightly
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 tbsp tarragon leaves
Salt and pepper
For the greens:
1 large handful broad beans, podded and shelled
250g baby spinach leaves
2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
Take the steak out of the fridge a couple of hours before cooking to allow it to get to room temperature.
Next make the bearnaise sauce. Pour the white wine vinegar into a small saucepan with three quarters of the tarragon, some seasoning and the chopped shallot. Reduce by half over a low heat then take off the heat and allow to cool. If clarifying your own butter then do this at this point too and cool slightly. When the reduction is cool add the egg yolks and whisk well. Return to a very low heat and carry on whisking continuously and making sure that the mixture doesn’t get hot enough the scramble. After about 10 minutes the eggs will have emulsified with the reduction and formed a thick frothy texture. Take off the heat and very slowly add the butter, whisking still until all the butter has been incorporated into the sauce. Pass through a sieve then add the remaining tarragon and taste. Squeeze in the lemon and season if necessary. Cover and set aside.
For the Jersey Royals, put the washed potatoes into a medium saucepan and cover well with cold water and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and plunge into a bowl of very cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside to finish at the end.
Heat the oven to 200ºC.
While the oven is heating up make the flavoured butter for the greens. Mix the butter with the chopped anchovies, garlic, thyme and seasoning until fully incorporated.
When the oven is hot heat up a heavy griddle on a very high heat until smoking. Season the steak well and rub with a little oil. When the pan is really hot, put the steak fat side down in the pan to render for a minute, then sear on all sides until well coloured. Transfer to an ovenproof dish with the rosemary and thyme and put into the oven. Turn the oven down immediately to 180ºC, and cook the meat for about 30-35 minutes. Use a thermometer to check the middle, which will be 58ºC for medium-rare. Take the meat out of the oven and allow to rest in a warm place for at least 15 minutes.
While the meat is resting, heat up two large saucepans to a medium heat.
In one pan, melt the butter with a little olive oil for the potatoes. When hot, add the sliced garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the potatoes, season well and toss in the butter and garlic to cover. Cook for about 5 minutes, then finish with the tarragon leaves.
Cook the greens in the other pan. Melt the anchovy butter and 2 tbsp of water and add the broad beans. Cook for a couple of minutes then tip in the spinach. Stir well until the leaves have just wilted, then taste and season.
Transfer the potatoes, greens and bearnaise into serving bowls. To serve the meat, take the sirloin and fillet off the bone and slice thickly. Pour over the cooking juices, season and transfer to a board and tuck in.