Making The Most Of Beef

In European culture, beef has a special culinary place, being second only to venison in importance. This is due to a great extent to the relative paucity of beef during the Middle Ages and the fact that it can take two years or more for a calf to be ready for the table. As a result beef was a meat destined for the tables of the aristocracy only (which may well be why the name for this meat is derived from Norman boeuf rather than the vernacular Anglo-Saxon).

Up until the agricultural revolution of the 18th Century, beef remained a real rarity and even with the development of larger breeds that matured quicker beef was still expensive. So much so that it was an aspirational meat. Only those who had made it in society could afford beef.

Some of this cachet remains with beef to this day especially for the prime cuts such as fillet and sirloin.

Below are two classic beef recipes, one for a very expensive cut and the other for a much cheaper cut of the meat.

Fillets of Beef Pompadour

Ingredients:

4 fillets of beef (about 250g each)
4 firm tomatoes
butter for frying
4 tbsp Glace de Viande
30g Maître d'Hôtel Butter sliced into thin rounds

(Maître d'Hôtel butter is butter mixed with herbs then rolled into rounds, refrigerated and sliced)

Method:
Trim the fillets then slice into rounds. Heat a little butter in a frying pan and when smoking add the beef rounds. Brown quickly on one side then turn over and brown on the other. Reduce the heat, glaze the fillet rounds then return to the pan and finish cooking slowly (cook to your desired level of done-ness).

Slice the tomatoes into rounds and fry or grill until cooked. Divide the tomato slices between four plates and sit the beef fillets on top then place a round of the Maître d'Hôtel Butter on top. Serve with mashed potatoes and garden peas.

Red-cooked Beef

Ingredients:
750g piece of stewing beef
4 x 3cm length of fresh ginger
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 tbsp groundnut oil
5 tbsp vegetable oil
5 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame seed oil

Method:
Add the beef, ginger and rice wine to a large pan. Pour over just enough water to cover then bring to a boil. Skim-off any scum that rises to the surface then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour.

When tender, remove the beef from the pan (reserve the liquid), allow to drain and cool then cut into 3cm cubes. Meanwhile, heat the groundnut oil in a wok, add the beef and stir-fry for 30 seconds before adding the soy sauce, ginger and the reserved cooking water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, then cover and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Transfer the beef to a serving dish, sprinkle with the sesame seed oil and serve.

Of course, two recipes can only scratch the surface of what's possible with this versatile and flavoursome meat. And I hope that these recipes have piqued your interest and you are now ready to find out more about the possibilities of beef as an ingredient in your cooking.

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About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed Lloyd Evans runs the Celtnet Recipes free recipe site where you can find hundreds more beef recipes and recipes for beef products, as well as many more Chinese recipes.