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I don’t think you can really beat a good classic. No matter how you break it down with food you always, always come back to flavours and ideas that naturally work with each other.
We all know them: duck and orange, salmon and dill, lamb and mint, pork and apple etc. etc…
The risk is that without careful thought these combinations can be a bit of a cliché, so when I was planning my current menu I reflected on the time I spent working in France. I was a total food tourist, enjoying all the French classics: cassoulets, croque monsieur, coq au vin, moules marinière and my personal favourite bourguignon. There’s something really, really amazing about a good bourguignon. I don’t know if it’s the classic idea of using cheaper cuts of meat and cooking them for long periods of time with stock, wine, bacon, basic things that my friends over there always seemed to have in the cupboard, that appeals or just the fact that it’s so satisfying to eat.
I wanted to try a different cut of meat while keeping the garnish the same, so after a lot of experimenting I decided to use the rump cap. It’s a great cut of meat, I’d say underrated in the UK. It’s very popular in Brazil, they call it the ‘picanha’ pronounced ‘pickanya’. Brazilians normally slow cook it, which makes sense as it’s from the hindquarter of the cow so can be tough if cooked too quickly. Done properly it melts in the mouth…
So, on to getting our piece of rump cap prepped and ready. There’s a lovely coating of fat on this cut of meat which of course means flavour. Ours goes into a vacuum bag with some aromats such as garlic and thyme and then is cooked slowly for 2 hours at 60 degrees. This breaks down the fibres of the meat so it’s super tender but can still be served nice and pink like a steak.
While the meat is cooking we move on to prepping the show stopping mashed potato! Many people debate about how to do good mash, let me end it right now and tell you…
First and foremost, select good potatoes. We use Lovers potatoes here, they are fantastic quality all rounders for mash and chips and most other things, but you can use Maris Piper or Desiree if you must, they are also really good. Don’t whatever you do use baking potatoes, they aren’t even good for baking really are they?? Too much sugar content and too much water so the potato is all sad and miserable.
So, we cook them firstly in the skins to prevent the potato breaking down and absorbing too much water. It’s important to note to season the water with lots of salt, so it’s almost like seawater, this will help later as well with the final seasoning.
Pick similar sized potatoes so they all have the same cooking time. Once they are cooked, drain and wait until they have pretty much stopped steaming, to remove as much water as possible. Next, peel the skins off, and put them through a potato ricer on its finest setting. Then they go into a pan to warm gently for a couple of minutes, again to dry them out.
Next is the bit you need to really work at. To simplify, for 1kg of potatoes I would recommend you use 250g of COLD unsalted butter and 350ml of HOT milk. Cut the butter into small pieces and start beating it into the mash very quickly to make the potato nice and smooth, then gradually add the milk and beat again. Don’t attempt to be health conscious with this. Buy the best butter and use whole milk, it makes a massive difference, trust me! And please don’t use cream, it separates. With your potatoes perfectly mashed, all that’s left is to add your preferred seasoning of salt, roasted garlic or chopped parsley. Or why not live like a French King and add them all? Keep your mash warm until you are ready to serve.
We next warm up our garnishes of onions, mushrooms and bacon. Again, use the best you can get. Dry cured bacon is a must and I prefer to use wild mushrooms because I like the variety of flavour.
The finishing touch to our Beef Rump Cap is a sauce of red wine, port, beef and chicken stock, a touch of red wine vinegar and some honey. You’ll have to come in to try that one I’m afraid, I can’t be giving away all of my secrets!
While the sauce is cooking, give the beef a quick roast in a hot pan on all sides to colour it up then slice it into three. Use sea salt to season the meat on the inside where it’s been cut. Remember the inner part of the meat always needs seasoning and salt never sticks that well to the outer part when you pan fry.
Plating up at home can be as simple as you like. Give yourself a big portion, it’s been a long week and you’ve just spent your very last bit of energy beating milk and butter into potato because you’ve decided to read a blog and get cooking, so you’ve earned it!
Next time, I’ll be talking duck…
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