Saturday, 12 January 2013

Chimichurri Braised Beef and Berry Cake Puddings

With the ever increasing price of beef and lamb, chefs and foodies all around the world are looking to cheaper cuts to satisfy our need for meat. The lamb or beef roast, traditionally the right of all New Zealander's weekend lunch, is now usually only seen gracing the table on special occasions. Price and the decreasing size of most families means that the large weekend roast of meat no longer makes economical sense. Who wants to eat cold roast until Wednesday when there's only three or four people to feed? Farmers wives have always known how to cook the cheaper cuts, and they usually had a crowd to feed. When the cattle beast or hogget is killed, every single cut is skillfully prepared to feed the family and the workers.

I could talk at length about the declining number of skilled butchers being trained and the need for supermarkets and industry leaders to provide smaller specialised cuts of meat, not just ban-sawed lamb leg 'steaks' or great lumps of miscellaneous 'roast beef', but that could take all day.

Instead, here's an easy recipe for one of the cheapest beef cuts around, skirt steak. We are getting to the end of the side of beef Mum and Dad gave us; this was one of the few cuts left at the bottom of the freezer. Despite being braised, its perfect for summer eating, as removing the meat and reducing the sauce means it doesn't eat like a stew. Its simple to make, and if you have a busy day planned, can be cooked in a slow cooker.
Food styling not so good today as the hungry guests were waiting!

Chimichurri Style Braised Beef

1 red onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
a sprig of fresh oregano
1 small chilli, take the seeds out if you don't want it too hot
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/3 cut olive oil
1/4 cut lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C.
Put all the sauce ingredients into a kitchen whizz and blend until smooth. Be careful about how much chilli you add as chilli's vary in intensity. Its worth adding a little then trying the taste before adding more if needed.
If you wanted to use this mixture as a sauce for a grilled steak then de-seed and skin the tomato before blending. I left the seeds and skin on to retain the moisture for the braise.

2 pieces of beef skirt steak - trim off all the tough silver skin to expose the muscle.
Any quantity of meat can be used, as long as there is enough sauce to cover it in the pan.

Place some sauce in a high sided roasting pan followed by the meat, then the remainder of sauce on top. Choose a pan that is small enough to allow the meat to remain covered during cooking. Add 1 cup of water to the pan and cover tightly with either a lid or some cooking foil.

Because we had a big crowd coming for lunch, I added 5 scrubbed and cubed potatoes to the braise after about 1 and a half hours of cooking time.
Bake in the oven for approximately 2.5 to 3 hours until the meat is almost tender and soft. Remove the cover from the pan and return to the oven for another half an hour - don't worry about this step if your using a slow cooker.
Once cooked remove the meat from the braise and set aside on a cutting board. Remove the potatoes to a serving dish, and heat the sauce on the stove top until it is reduced and thickened. While it thickens, slice the meat into neat strip-slices across the grain. Place the meat onto the bed of potatoes. Taste the sauce to check the seasoning, then pour over the meat. 
I served this dish with a red cabbage coleslaw and steamed corn and green beans.

For pudding I wanted to try out my cute new square baking pans. With so much lovely summer fruit around I baked these lovely little cinnamon butter sponge inspired cakes and
served them with custard. I chose the butter sponge over the egg sponge as I thought the fruit needed a thicker mixture to support it.

Cinnamon Fruit Butter Sponge Cakes

125g butter
125g caster sugar
1 egg
125 plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup milk - warm it to blood temp. before adding to the mixture
approximately 1.5 to 2 cups fruit - I used raspberries, black currents and sliced gooseberries.

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C.    Grease the moulds with butter. You could use muffin pans, or just one baking dish.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale. Add the egg and continue to beat.
Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and cinnamon and the warmed milk.
Gently fold in the fruit being careful not to over mix or the fruit will break up.

Carefully spoon the mixture into the molds.
Mix an additional 1/3 cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and top each cake with a sprinkled teaspoonful. 
Bake for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

The meal was really well recieved. The boys (Aunty Em's nephews) weren't so sure about the chilli aspect, but they enjoyed the pudding) It's been great to have so much more time over the holidays to cook and eat and spend time with our family and friends. Hope your all enjoying the season.

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