This is a delicious dish for the beginning of July; in fact, if the weather’s good enough I would definitely suggest firing the barbecue up for this. It would only enhance the smoky deliciousness of the paprika that I rubbed into these steaks. We wimped out last night as the evening still had a bit of a chill, and so I resorted to my trusty griddle. Every time I use it I am made happy with memories; layers of flavour built up over years, and the knowledge that it was my Great Aunt Stella’s, then my mothers, then mine; somehow it ended up in my boxes when I left home…
These steaks were worth treating with a bit of extra care and attention. From my local butchers, they were from a farm mere miles away and were beautifully aged; I could only imagine happy cows as I prepped dinner and sat down to eat. I have become increasingly depressed by the meat in supermarkets. It used to be that I’d get the special occasion meat from the butchers (turkeys for Christmas, lamb for Easter, special joints for special meals), ham and bacon from the butchers; the white crap that oozes out of cheaper bacon scares the hell out of me. What is it? I’m reliably informed that it’s the water that they pump into it to make it look lovely and plump, but what the hell makes it white? Too spooky for me.
But over the last five or so years the difference between ‘proper’ meat and mass produced meat has become more and more obvious, and the quality of proper meat is just too good to refuse. Of course, not being able to take advantage of twofers and bogofs means that our meat is sometimes more expensive but it’s about choices. We now eat less meat, with more fish and vegetarian evenings. And my choices at the meat counter have to be wiser; chicken thighs, slow cooking beef and cheaper cuts of pork are more reasonably priced and things like steak and lamb chops have to be more of an extravagance. But, really, there actually isn’t a great deal of difference between the prices behind the butcher’s counter and the prices in the supermarket aisle; a quick online search tells me that Everyday Value Skinless Chicken Breasts (Large) from a large high street supermarket are £7.39/kg, when my butchers is £7.50/kg. That’s value meat, most certainly not free range, compared to meat from an independent supplier, from a local farm: well looked-after, high welfare meat. And, even more galling, they are now trying to sell us higher welfare, quality meat with a modicum as taste, describing it as a ‘premium’ product. I’m not buying it; I want that as a baseline.
And: the taste. The taste is a revelation: pork tastes like pork again! Beef has some marbling and fat content, something the supermarkets have been hellbent on eradicating from our meat. Lamb is unctuous and flavourful, and chicken is more than just water and flabby skin – it tastes like chicken used to taste (old woman alert). But, certainly for me, it feels good to be getting back to a time when meat was a luxury, and something to be savoured, rather than just something to fill the plate. If a chicken costs little more than the potatoes, where’s the glory?
So, this is a little ode to the not-so-humble steak. We had this with homemade chips, the last of this season’s asparagus and, at the last moment, I decided to throw a handful of cherry tomatoes into the oven to swell and burst and squish themselves into delicious roasted tomato oblivion. This was all topped off with the freakin’ awesome chimichurri sauce, fragrant with parsley, garlic and a smidge of chilli. The fresh, summery flavours of the sauce lifted the macho sirloin to a lighter, more refreshing place, and packed in a hell of a lot of taste.
I favour rib-eye and sirloin, as I find it to be the best balance between flavour and texture. Rump is a bit too chewy for me, and fillet sometimes fails to deliver on the flavour front. But you, you can grab any steak that you fancy and get it on the barbecue or griddle, and enjoy my salute to the steak!
This recipe for chimichurri sauce makes enough for two people but I quite often double the recipe and freeze it in small cubes to pep up a a couple of chicken thighs or a lamb chop. It freezes well, given that it’s properties are fairly similar to pesto, which freezes excellently.
- 2 steaks of your choosing
- 2tsp sweet smoked paprika
- 2tsp rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 green chilli, seeds removed
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 spring onions, white only
- 15g parsley
I removed the largest stalks but left the rest in
- 3-4 sprigs oregano
Mine was from the garden and had only very spindly stalks so I left them in; if your stalks are woodier, remove them
- 2tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2tbsp rapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper
- Sprinkle half a teaspoon of paprika on each of side of each steak, season with salt and pepper and brush on the oil.
- Roughly chop the chilli, garlic cloves and spring onions and pulse in the food processor. You could do it by hand if you don’t have a food processor or can’t be bothered to wash it up afterwards.
- Add the herbs and blitz until finely chopped. Add the vinegar and oil and blitz again to combine. I like mine fairly finely blitzed but some people prefer to have a chunkier chimichurri; you decide.
- Season with salt and pepper and set aside. You can make this a couple of hours in advance if it’s easier – it’s gives the flavours a chance to get to know each other.
- Preheat your grill, griddle or frying pan and cook your steaks. It’s difficult to give cooking times when I don’t know how but I cooked mine for 2-3 minutes on both side. I then turn the griddle off and let the meat rest on the pan as I serve up the rest of dinner.
- Eat with a smile on your face, and enjoy your chosen cut.