Monday, February 27, 2006

Well hung ... and tender: butter braised beef, Dutch style

I had heard about Well Hung & Tender and their award-winning Aberdeen Angus beef from the Scottish Borders before. After all, their steak beat Jamie Oliver's 21 day matured beef at the nationwide "Battle of the Beef Challenge". I had certainly noticed their eye-catching logo during my trips to the Edinburgh Farmers' Market. But the whole idea of cooking beef intimidated me, and I had not actually bought anything from their weekly stall.

Until last Saturday that is. I had spotted a highly praised and simple beef dish over at eGullet that I wanted to try. I had also invited 3 friends for a meal that night, and although you shouldn't really use your guests as Guinea pigs for new recipes, I was feeling quietly confident about the recipe, and the meat.

I told Sarah MacPherson, one half of the Well Hung & Tender team, and personally in charge of the stall last Saturday, about my planned dish. She suggested their best braising steak and gave me some helpful hints for cooking. The average hanging time for retail beef in the US is 19 days, and just 5-10 days in the UK. Well Hung & Tender, on the other hand, hangs their grass-fed and sufficiently "beefed up" Aberdeen Angus carcasses for between four and five weeks. This gives extra time for the enzymes to break down the muscle fibres, resulting in particularly tender and flavoursome meat. More importantly, it also means that this particular meat takes considerably less time to cook than similar cuts that are, well, not so well hung:)

And if you have such a great piece of meat, you don't really want to mess it up or get too fussy about it.

Butter braised beef - 'draadjesvlees/sudderlapjes'
(Imehõrk veiseliha)
Source: Butter braised beef, Dutch style by Chufi at eGullet
Serves 4

~ 500 grams of good quality braising beef
Maldon sea salt
crushed black peppercorns
75 grams butter
boiling water
2 bay leaves
2-3 cloves

Cut the meat into the same amount of pieces as you have diners. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Add the meat in one layer, brown on both sides on a gentle heat. Be gentle.
Pour over the water, just enough to cover the meat.

And now I have to quote Chufi, the eGulleteer, as she puts it very nicely:

"Now add 2 bayleaves and 2 cloves. And here comes the most difficult part.. (for me at least..) don't add anything else. Not a splash of wine, not a sliver of onion or garlic, not a whiff of any other herb or spice. Nothing. Really."

Simmer the meat at a very low heat for 2-3 hours, depending on your beef. My meat was done after 2 hours, but that's because it was a well hung piece of beef. The original recipe prescribes 3 hours braising time.

I found the whole process of braising fascinating - for the first hour and a bit more the meat was simmering away and looked rather tough. I even managed to start to worry whether I'll be done before my guests arrived. And then suddenly, the meat softened and turned flaky, making the task of transferring the meat onto a plate quite a task..

The taste was amazing. The meat was absolutely gorgeous, melting in your mouth and really lovely flavour. I will definitely cook this dish again and cannot recommend it enough.

I served this with a garlicky potato mash and roasted cauliflower, drizzling some red wine sauce on top. Very happy diners and clean plates all around.


Antti said...

Ooh, me likey meat. A lot. What's wrong with me, eating all that fish?!? Must tip me over a cow. And eat it. Mmm, beefy! Pictures like that and my instant gratification center must be directly linked :)

Alberto said...

Hi Pille! I found out your blog great looking for information for Tallinn, where I'll be travelling to next week-end, and stumbled upon this post.

Just wanted to share a tip about linking to posts on eGullet: if you click the "post number" link in the desired post you'll get a link that brings you directly to it. For example Chufi's recipe can be linked directly using the following:

Hope it helps. Signed: an eGullet Host ;-).

Randi said...

I saw your post over at egullet and it brought me here. What a cute name for a beef shop. Now I'm off to read the rest of your blog

Kalyn said...

This does sound just wonderful. I find with beef I rarely cook something that makes me go "wow" so I must try this one.

J said...

hi pille, i totally applaud your restraint in keeping it minimalist - when you have ingredients as gorgeous as your fantastic well-hung beef, who needs the extras? lovely post, as always!

shauna said...

ohhhh wow... that looks incredible :) i am dunking a virtual hunk of bread into the pan to catch all those juices, hee hee!

Thanasis said...

Looks sooooo nice!

If there is the opposite of vegeterian (meateterian:)) it should have my photo at the dictionary!

Really nice one Pille!

Anna said...

I, too, am a bit scared of big slabs of meat (definitely my mother's and grandmothers' territory). These results give me courage!

Pippurimylly said...

That one really looks like something I definitely want to try. What kind of beef cuts are these braising steaks? I tried looking around the net for a description - but in vain. I doubt the Finnish grocery stores are familiar with the term :)

Pille said...

Oi, Antti - you come and say you like beef, and then go off and make lamb mince balls?!?! But I'm flattered that my picture seemed to "connect" to your instant gratification centre:)

Hi Pille! I found out your blog great looking for information for Tallinn, where I'll be travelling to next week-end, and stumbled upon this post.

Hi Alberto - welcome to my blog! I used that linking method, but it still requires some scrolling down:(
And I'm looking forward to reading about your culinary experiences in my hometown Tallinn next week!!

Randi - again, welcome to this little blog of mine, and I agree about the name of the shop. Though I thought it was a bit naughty as opposed to 'cute'. Maybe it's just my disturbed mind (Ilva, do you want to comment on that?:)

Kalyn - as I said, this was probably the first time I cooked a proper piece of beef as opposed to beef mince. And I was definitely _not_ discouraged from doing it again. I will probably buy another piece at the market tomorrow morning!

J - thank you! I've been lost for words on your duck confit post, it's that stunning..

Shauna - you live in Edinburgh, so it wouldn't be too hard from you to get a piece of that very beef braising steak on any Saturday morning! Then you could dunk a real piece of bread into those juices as opposed to just virtual:)

Thanasis - that makes you a carnivore. And I knew that you'd approve of this dish:) Though living in Amsterdam now, you should be able to eat 'draadjesvlees' at any Dutch restaurant!

Anna - try it! Though I am convinced that the super-good quality of the meat helped to produce the perfect result. Not sure I would have earned as approving glances if I had used a simple supermarket cut..

Pippurimylly - I have nooo idea, how this piece would be called in Finnish. Maybe you can print out the piece from the Well Hung & Tender website and take it to the shop? I'll be at the farmers market again tomorrow morning, so I can go and double-check with them.

spots said...

hmm with such a simple recipe, i think the beef must be of a very good quality for the dish to taste good ya? if beef not fresh, then the whole dish not as good?

Pille said...

Hi Spots - I totally agree - it must be a top quality piece of meat, and a good proper butter. These days I rarely buy my meat from the supermarket. As I cannot afford buying from a good butcher regularly, then I just eat meat less often. All my pork & bacon comes from a trusted stall at the local farmers market, and the beef from Well Hung & Tender was top quality as well. The same with my fish, which I buy from a good fishmonger nearby. A lot more expensive, but at least it's been filletted that morning and not a week ago..

Pippurimylly - I didn't get out of bed early enough to go to the market and ask about the cut of meat, so you'll have to wait till next week, sorry!

Pippurimylly said...

No prob :) I could just try and get some good looking cuts and experiment. For a long stewing process, the best cut will not probably be the leanest one.

MikeW said...

Reminds me of a recipe given to me by a friend, along with a saddle of venison from an especially tough old deer. I invited some friends over for the enxt day, and put the meat in a wine marinade. Next day it was braised in the marinade. Hour after hour, and it was still tough after 3 hours, 4 hours, it was supposedly done at 5 hours. Guests had been snacking & checking on the main course for over an hour, but the venison was still tough.

We were considering Chinese takeout when, at 5 hours 15 minutes it suddenly became tender. I reduced the remainer of the liquid. Delicious.

Braising takes a leap of faith and a touch of flexibility, but the ressults can be outstanding!

Anonymous said...


I just found your post while google-ing something else. I'm Murray MacPherson, and it's my parents' that own Well Hung and Tender. Thanks very much for the plug!

If there's anything at all we can help with, we're on, don't hesitate to get in touch!



Pille said...

Pippurimylly - I'm glad to read over at your blog that the beef was delicious! Thanks for trying this recipe!

Mikew - lol:) I got worried as well the first time I served it - and it all really happened within the last 15 minutes. It was tough as shoe leather at one minute, and then suddenly moreishly tender!

Murray - thanks for your comment! Your parents deserved the plug:) Now that I've decided to move back home to Estonia at the end of the year, I'll be visiting your parents' stall frequently. You cannot get very good beef in Estonia yet, I'm afraid, so I must use the opportunity while it lasts!