Food-writer and safari-guide Earl Dexter gets sustainable and shuns the cooking instruments.
There’s something in the air, something like a moerse hole. The hole is in the ozone layer, and it is about as big as the gap between Jacob Zuma’s head and an outdoor-shower hanging from Branch Four of a Mopani tree. Apparently, said hole is caused by manmade gasses emitted into space. And by gasses we are not talking beery burps or bean-induced farts. No – each time you spray some rose-scented deodorant in the hope of impressing a babe, you are in fact producing gas to make this hole even bigger.
Same goes for fires, heat, car emissions and lotsa man-made stuff. If this hole in the ozone layer gets any bigger, our Mother Earth is capiche. She’s going to heat up, ice caps they shall melt and surfing is going to become the most popular sport in Greenland. How about those Eskimo chicks in walrus-skin bikinis, hey?
Having said all this, I am becoming a cook with a conscience. I mean, who wants to be responsible for causing heat exhaustion among the polar bear population just because you felt like spending three hours in front of the stove cooking a five-course Sunday lunch?
Where does all this moral meandering leave a hungry fellow? Well, why not try a couple of alternatives to braaiing, baking and frying. No, I hear you say, not the “S” word.
Of course, this lengthy and moralistic introduction is not an excuse to deploy the dreaded “S” word, as “salad”. Just because we are becoming concerned individuals does not mean we have to eschew our primal bloodlust, start wearing kaftans and chant to the collected works of Enya.
No. We are going to dine well. On gorgeously bloody meat. And we are not going to cook at all.
Here’s what we do:
This dish is not unfamiliar to trendoids hanging out in mainstay Italian restaurants. And yes, carpaccio is a dish of raw slices of meat. But to get into the swing of carpaccio and to really expose its potential, you have to make your own. I mean, if I am going to go to the trouble of eating raw meat, I want to be sure that it is not going to cause irreparable internal damage.
So. Get a beef fillet, which is going to weigh about 1,5kg to 2kg. No, you don’t have to chow the whole thing raw. Depending on how many carnivores you plan to feed, you can cut off as much as is required for a decent portion of carpaccio which could be anything from 100gm to 200gm depending on the state of the bloodlust.
Take the fillet and place it on a baking tray or any tray with gaps that will allow the juices from the meat to run through. Because you don’t want watery raw meat – you want to place the fillet on the tray in the fridge for a day or three. This allows the watery stuff to run out, leaving those layers of meaty flavours behind. Mucho important!
One day is enough, but I have been known to let my meat mature for a week in the fridge, with even more spectacular results than usual.
Okay. After your meat has been lounging around, put it in a plastic bag and chuck it in the freezer. Don’t ask – listen.
Freeze for 90 minutes to two hours. Not rock hard, but until it is firm enough to allow you to expertly cut wafer-thin slices. Unfrozen raw fillet just cannot be cut into the thin slices carpaccio requires to exude all that subtle beefy taste.
Now take your slices of sliced fillet and spread them out on an impressive platter. Sprinkle some good olive oil on the stuff, a touch of lemon juice and a whisper of good balsamic vinegar. Wait a few minutes until the slices have thawed, and cover with shavings of parmesan cheese and top with rocket, which lends a nice peppery flavour. Dish-up and eat with fresh white bread. It is primal and soul-sating.
As a kid I always heard my folks tell the joke about the Boer visiting France and asking for his steak tartare “well done” at a restaurant. I could never figure out why this should have been funny, until I bumped into a plate of raw mince and heard someone calling this mound of bloody meat steak tartare. Which it is. But don’t be grossed out, because made with the correct additions and from the right meat, it is absolutely delicious.
For six servings of steak tartare you need:
600gm of fresh sirloin. (This has more flavour for mince than fillet.)
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons of mustard
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (not olive – canola or sunflower)
2 – 3 tablespoons of brined capers, rinsed
4 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon freshly ground black peppers
Tabasco to taste
2 tablespoons tomato sauce (like the stuff the kids eat on their chips).
Firstly, do not mince the sirloin in a food processor. The result is an insipid red-grayish paste redolent of road-kill after a Cape Town-to-East London lorry rally. You want to mince the meat in one of those old traditional handled mincing machines, or even better – chop-up the meat with a very big, and very sharp knife. Alternatively, when buying the sirloin, tell the butcher you are preparing steak tartare and he must chop or mince the meat for this purpose.
If he gives you that dumb look and asks “steak what?”, well, find another butcher and hope he hasn’t been selling you seal fins as pork chops up until now.
Righty-oh. To prepare this wonderful dish you do not need a cordon bleu diploma or a Jamie Oliver hairstyle.
Just keep the mince to one side. In a big bowl, place all the other ingredients – onion, pepper, oil, egg….the whole bloody lot. Whisk together. Then pop in the mince and fold everything through with your hands, feeling that raw moist meat between your fingers. (This is my favourite part, but then I do have my issues.)
All melded and mixed, then scoop a portion of mince on one of six chilled plates. Serve with chips (French fries) or pieces of toast. This is a great dish to prepare in a campsite where you and your party want to be left alone by the other campers. Watching six adults feed on plates of raw meat is sure to keep those irritating invaders of one’s privacy at bay. Making grunting sounds while you eat adds to the fun.
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