Tag Archives: Beef

From Beijing to Hangzhou (via Changsha)

Tea picking

I suspect many westerners have a handful of preconceptions about China, primarily driven by what we see on the news and read in the papers, and all coloured by the protests that took place in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and the terrible government backlash that ensued.

But if you visit, I think you’ll see a very different place to the one you are expecting. People are more enthusiastic, more intelligent, more energetic, more interesting, more opinionated and enjoying life more than most people I meet in London. Everywhere you look, people are going about their daily business in the same way people do here in the UK. Of course the press is controlled by the government, and Twitter and Facebook are blocked and replaced by Chinese versions that are automatically monitored and censored (mainly through keyword searches), and of course there are serious human rights issues that are a real concern. But despite all that I think it’s fair to say that for the vast majority of people, life over there is just as it is over here. Business is booming, people have good jobs, eat good food (far better than we do), drink lots of beer, go to bars, drink more beer, play dice, drink more beer and fall down. Oh and they smoke a lot. Really, all the time. Remember when you used to have an intercourse fag at the dinner table? (about 20 years ago…) They still do that in China. I hesitate in saying this for fear of my own little backlash, but that’s pretty cool…

And so to the food. Wonderful. Fantastic. Unbelievably good. And not at all like the british Chinese food we get to eat over here (mainly I think, because we generally eat Cantonese food here in the UK, rather than Mandarin). Every meal feels like a banquet, and rice is rarely served. Normally about 20-30 dishes, all shared and all perfectly balanced with each other: pork (Chairman Mao style is the best), steamed fish, fried fish, soup, noodles, pak choi, beef, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, beans, prawns, snails, duck (although the tongues are not my faves) and tofu. Always tofu. What is so perfect is that everyone helps themselves from the centre of the table and takes only what they enjoy and only what they need.

So rather than trying to describe how it was all prepared (I have no clue), I’ll just leave you with a little peek at some of the dishes (with a few of the more challenging ones thrown in for fun – there were very few of them, but they have to be included for balance) – oh and the odd funny sign. No photo album is complete without a photo of a funny sign…

Thanks Fan, Jacqueline and Watson…

What’s your beef?

I’m not an idiot. And I know that the vast majority of Hindus do not eat beef. I know that. And I can’t ever remember having beef curry anywhere outside South East Asia (or possibly, in the very distant past of 1970s Lytham St Annes, out of a tin), but that doesn’t mean that it’s not allowed. Or indeed that it, in fact, cannot be a tantalisingly delicious dish. Because, as it turns out, it can – here’s how –

Curry with Beef

Start by putting the following into a dry frying pan: two teaspoons of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon bark and a couple of cardamom pods and warm them up, then pound them with salt (not too much just yet – you don’t want to dry out the beef) and pepper corns and put them into a large casserole with a tin of chopped tomatoes and swoosh the tin out with a little water – into the casserole also.

Now cover about 500g of chunkily cut stewing steak with a little flour and seasoning and fry them in batches in the same frying pan until they are brown all over. Not to ‘seal’ them, but to caramelise the sugars in the beef thus bringing out more flavour (I mean really – what does sealing mean? Come on people – It’s time to destroy the fallacy of the scientific chef – do you honestly believe Heston Blumenthal got better than a C at O’ Level chemistry?)

Next, take four fresh red chillies, a large onion and 6 cloves of garlic, chop them all finely and fry them gently in oil and butter and add the spices. Next, into a liquidiser pour a big handful of raw cashews and enough milk to allow them to blend into something like a smoothie. blend them. Into something like a smoothie. Put it all in the casserole along with a handful of chopped fresh coriander and a tablespoon of turmeric, and put the casserole with its lid on in the oven at 150c for at least 2 hours.

Now, when you want to eat, make some of this brilliant rice (you can follow the same recipe but only cook for 15 mins if you prefer, the 40 mins is only if you want a crunchy bottom).

5 minutes before the rice is ready, take the casserole out, pour in 150-200ml of double cream and another handful of chopped fresh coriander into it and put it back in the oven.

That’s it. really really good. And even better on day two…

Vitello tonnato

This is a lovely dish even if it looks reminiscent of something you may have deposited in a back street after a big night on the town. Besides, there are plenty of things in life that look awful but taste great and I urge you to give this a go – it really is beautiful, and it is (at least in its original form) an Italian classic.

Vitello Tonnato (DATW style)

The classic recipe requires you to used veal poached in a herby broth as the basis for this dish, but I used seared beef carpaccio instead which I think works really well.

To make the sauce, you need to put the following in a blender and give it a good whizz – a tin of really good tuna in oil and a tin of anchovies in oil (after having drained the oil), two hard boiled egg yolks, a tablespoon of capers, the juice of a lemon and a good glug of good olive oil. Once blended, season with black pepper and salt (carefully – you don’t need much salt).

For the beef, use my carpaccio recipe – take a piece of really good beef fillet and roll it in a dry rub of herbs and spices that you’ve pounded with a pestle and mortar. My favourites are finely chopped thyme and rosemary with cumin and corainder seeds and lots of maldon sea salt and black pepper (Note – whenever I refer to salt in here, just assume it’s maldon sea salt…). Then sear the beef all over in a very hot frying pan with a little oil and leave it rest for ten minutes. If there are any lovely juices at this point, add them to the sauce.

Now take the beef and slice it thinly onto a plate, covering the surface (and again adding any juices to the sauce). Spoon over the tuna sauce and sprinkle over a little chopped parsley and capers. As always, serve with really good bread and a bottle of crisp white wine or a bottle of Bandol rose if the sun is shining…