Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Raw beef with girolles, chestnuts, parmesan and Wiltshire truffle

Snacks are always so overlooked, and I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ll happily spend hours in the kitchen preparing a hearty breakfast or intricate dinner, but when feeling a bit peckish I’m always so tempted to just crack open a bag of crisps or spread piles of salted butter onto hot toast. Although this sort of absent eating does its job and at least momentarily fills a hole, with a tiny bit more thought snacking can become that bit more satisfying. Be it stirring up a rich and tangy rarebit sauce, slicing ripe tomatoes to accompany slippery anchovies or simply toasting some almonds in a pan before coating in a slick of olive oil, salt and chilli flakes. Surely better than pickled onion monster munch! 

A day off last week saw me travelling by train across London to the ever excellent Andreas greengrocers on Chelsea Green. Although somewhat of a mission from deepest, darkest Hackney, I always enjoy seeing different parts of the capital on a bright and crisp morning. And all well worth it for the wonderful selection of seasonal produce, including many interesting and hard to get ingredients. Beautiful fresh porcini mushrooms, purple Italian treviso and heavily armoured artichokes gleamed in the light. But the real star of the show lurked in a small jar to one corner; knobbly black Wiltshire truffles. Although at that point I didn’t have a specific recipe in my head, I just had to take one to play about with upon my return home.
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to eat a really delicious steak tartare whilst lunching at Phil Howard’s new restaurant, Elystan Street, and I have been craving it ever since. I thought that something similar would work brilliantly with my newfound truffle, so after a quick visit to my local butcher, I soon had a well-marbled slice of chateaubriand in my possession. Raw beef, particularly lean cuts like the fillet, can be rather bland, and need a bit of careful help to shine through. Salt is obviously most important here, and hard cheese such as parmesan is commonly used to add richness. But a little seasonal twist in the form of finely sliced girolles and sweet chestnuts worked a treat here. The key is to make sure everything is at room temperature, and to taste repeatedly and adjust the flavourings until just balanced.
Serves 2
For the beef:
200g good quality dry-aged beef fillet, trimmed of outer sinew 
1 small handful of girolle mushrooms 
8 cooked chestnuts 
3 tbsp finely grated parmesan 
1 small Wiltshire black truffle
For the sourdough:
2 thin slices of white sourdough bread
To finish:
More gratings of black truffle 
Extra virgin olive oil

Chop the chestnuts roughly. Pour a glug of olive oil into a frying pan and bring to a medium-high heat. When hot, add the chestnuts along with the mushrooms and a good pinch of seasoning. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until everything is tender and slightly caramelised. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, then chop very finely and transfer to a bowl. 

Preheat the grill to high. Cut the crusts from the sourdough and discard. Using a pasta machine or rolling pin, gently roll the bread until very thin. Place onto an oven tray and drizzle with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Set under the grill for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until lightly golden and crispy. Remove and allow to cool, then break each into three equal pieces.
Chop the beef to a coarse mince texture using a very sharp knife and slide into a bowl. Combine with most of the cooled mushrooms and chestnuts and grate in the parmesan and about 2/3rds of the truffle. Season well and pour in about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Mix together with a spoon, adding more of any of the flavourings to achieve a balanced flavour. The delicate flavour and texture of the beef should still be the focus.
To serve, spoon generous amounts of the beef mixture onto the pieces of sourdough and arrange three on each plate. Top with lots more grated black truffle and a few drops of extra virgin olive oil.

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