Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Celebration Steak

As weeks go, the last seven days have been quite surreal.

There’s not much that can prepare you for making your debut on national television. It’s a little like getting onto a rollercoaster in the dark with no clue as to how the ride will pan out.

Thankfully, there have been no major hiccoughs. The heats and quarterfinals have been safely navigated and I’ve come out the other side as a MasterChef semi-finalist. It’s truly wonderful to be able to write those words.

The response has also been fantastic and genuinely heart warming. Thank you to everyone who has phoned, written, texted, emailed, tweeted or shouted across a car park. Thanks even to the person who suggested I might be Chris Martin and Stephen Merchant’s offspring (but only because you’re a Radio 1 DJ).

But my favourite response has been this:

It was quite a surprise when we pulled up in the car park at the butcher/farm shop/deli/food nerd’s nirvana that I go to and saw that sign, usually reserved for far more important matters like proclaiming the arrival of the season’s first rhubarb or new potatoes.

We were there to pick up a meal worthy of a celebration - and to my mind few things shout ‘hooray’ better than a whopping great steak. Whilst individual pieces are all well and good, practicality, economy and taste favour a shared piece of beef, especially if cooked rare and sliced tableside.

A hearty single rib (côte de boeuf if you wish to get all Gallic about it) from a Red Poll raised a mere four miles away was ideal. Aged just over four weeks the meat was dark red and looked tender enough to eat as was. Instead it was liberally seasoned, vacuum packed and submerged in a water bath to bob around merrily for a couple of hours at 52 degrees.

The logistics of the operation presented some slight problems: on realising that my largest pan was not big enough the bone had to be trimmed away and the rib-eye seared on both sides for about five minutes in order to put a tasty crust on the outside.

It was served with chips, an artery-clogging amount of béarnaise sauce and a heap of steamed broccoli as a concession to health - although once dipped into the rich buttery sauce the beneficial effects were possibly negated.

After waiting two and a half hours for a steak there was little that could have prevented us from falling on it like a pack of wolves hence the distinct lack of well composed, perfectly lit photographs.

In this case the lack of picture says a thousand words.

* * *
The MasterChef quarter final can be found here, on the BBC iPlayer and the first of the semi finals will be broadcast on BBC1 on Friday 26th March at 7:30pm.

And I'm also on Twitter.


Kavey said...

A fitting celebratory meal indeed!
Looking forward to seeing the next installments, and more of that cheeky grin! ;)

Laura said...

Congratulations Alex! Who knew cooking could be such a spectator's sport? It was a blast to watch you on the show.
Already looking forward to your next dishes!

rich (them apples) said...

Nice beef.

Good work with that chicken too - an excellent recovery.

I was heavily criticised by my wife for being, and I quote, 'a bit sad' for worrying that it looked underdone and for telling her that I'd think about slicing it up to flash fry it, just in case.

I was very glad when you actually did just that. I felt smugly vindicated.

And Chris Martin? Could be worse. Well, actually, no it couldn't, but well done on the semi-final anyway.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on making the semi-finals! Just found your blog as you mentioned you were a food writer and look forward to reading back through the archives.

Haven't seen many things I can try out myself yet as it all seems to be meat-centred so far but I'm all in favour of you carnivores taking the nose-to-tail approach as it's less wasteful.

Really rooting for you to win the competition - the dishes have been inspiring and you've got a really genuine and engaging personality on screen :-)

Merlotti said...

Alex, the steak looks really delicious...and great that you can get such local food so easily!

Sharon said...

That looks like the perfect celebration meal - an awesome looking steak. Funnily enough, I was eating steak with béarnaise sauce while watching you get into the semi-finals! Really looking forward to the next show and seeing what you cook next. Congratulations!

Just Cook It said...

Kavey - oh, stop it, my ego will start to expand beyond all recognition!

Thanks Laura, I've always loved watching chefs work as well as cooking myself, glad you are enjoying it as a spectator sport as well

Rich - A man after my own heart, for definite. Delighted that your comments were justified, smugness can be so satisfying.

edsdinner - although there is a definite focus on meat, it's not all a carnivore's dream, I promise. Check out the bread and baking posts for more veggie friendly posts. Thank you for your support and comments.

Merlotti - Thank you. I feel very lucky that excellent food is available almost on the doorstep.

Sharon - It would seem that great minds think alike. Thank you!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Perfect beef! At least you didn't have to cut it up to make it cook in time... I think if you win you can treat yourself to a bigger pan.

I'll be cheering you on tomorrow night. So far, I don't think any of the others have presented you with serious competition. Cream in moules marinieres - what were they thinking?

Nicola and David said...

Dear Alex,

We're truly thrilled that you got through to the semi finals! We will be routing for you all the way and can't wait to see what you cook next!

Always room for pudd said...

Alex, congratulations! I'll be rooting for you!

I absolutely love the style of your food. It all looks yummy, and the flavours sound divine. So glad i've found your blog.

Let me know if you need any guinea pigs to try out your winning dish!




Jan said...

Fantastic steak!
I can't wait - I just know you will win! xoxo

Alicia Foodycat said...

Another step closer! I couldn't be prouder if I was on it myself! Well done Alex!

Guy Moorhouse said...

Good luck Alex, I reckon you'll win it - you stand out from everyone else in the competition.

Good luck!

Hopie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hopie said...

Arg, my comment doesn't seem to be working. Let's try this again...

Congratulations!!! I'm off to watch you then. I can't believe I've been so absent from the blogosphere that I missed this. You rock!

Hopie said...

Dammit, dammit, you have to have a UK IP address to use the BBC player. Ok now that I've left a million messages...

Just Cook It said...

Foodycat - It was a little tight that round with the chicken! Pulled it off though, just.

Thank you so much, Nicola and David. It all gets very interesting from here on in.

Orlaith - You're too kind! Thank you. Just need to tweak the flavours up a notch to please the judges but certainly getting there.

Thanks, Jan. I'll do my best!

Guy - thank you kindly. Long way to go now and some seriously tough competition but fingers crossed...

Hopie - Oh no! You will have to experience it vicariously through the medium of Blogger

Unknown said...

That rib looks absolutely delicious. I'm drooling... YUM!

Anonymous said...

Hi Alex, love the idea of trying this sous vide method of cooking, I don't have my own water bath so will be trying this using the amateur method of freezer bag in an improvised water bath, can you tell me how long do you leave it in the water, is there a rule of thumb 20mins per lb or something?

huwboy said...

Hi Alex,
I really want to try this sous vide method but will be using the amateur method of a freezer bag in a stock pot of water, how long should you leave it in the water?
is there a rule of thumb for how long to leave in the water?
so many minutes per Lb maybe?

keiko said...

Hi Alex - I wanted to thank you for sharing this beautiful farm shop, I visited there this weekend (I'm based in Suffolk) and absolutely loved it, their Red Poll beef was really delicious! I enjoyed watching Masterchef also - congratulations and very best of luck with all the exciting future projects!