Steak gets returned to the chef more than any other meal. Which either means there is a shortage of good restaurant grillers out there, or steak-eaters are a fussy lot.
Home-grillers are another matter. Few are equipped with the know-how of sourcing the perfect steak – matured to within an inch of its life – then cooking it with infinite skill and bags of love.
It is crucial to know when steak is done. (Getting this right would save many, many marriages!) Some seasoned steak-cooks nudge the meat gently and can tell it’s ready (or not) by the way it springs back; others pierce the meat with a razor-sharp knife, rest tip against upper lip and know by the warmth of the metal.
Seasoning steak is another matter. Some believe in salt-and-peppering after cooking; others bliss out on crusting the meat with freshly milled black pepper before cooking and seasoning afterwards with salt. All agree that a gloss of olive oil is essential, and that braaiing is the best way to cook it.
Spice-Crusted Beef Fillet
Serves 6 to 8
1.5-2kg trimmed whole beef fillet
Salt and milled black pepper
Roasted Spice Mix
50g coriander seeds
30g cumin seeds
2 t crushed black peppercorns
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cardamom
1 t turmeric
½t ground ginger
½t ground cloves
The dusting of freshly roasted spice adds a bit of drama. Add just before cooking or, for more flavour, up to a couple of hours ahead.
To prepare the spice mix, toss the coriander and cumin seeds into a dry frying pan and roast over medium heat, tossing them until aromatic and golden. Allow to cool, then grind with a pestle and mortar and mix in the remaining spices.
Place the fillet in a dish. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle over the spice mix and press well into the surface. Bring the meat to room temperature.
When your coals are hot, brown the fillet well on all sides. Continue braaiing over cooler coals, rolling the meat so that it cooks evenly.
It will be medium rare in about 20 minutes. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving into thickish slices. Add a judicious sprinkling of salt and pepper. Serve with a salad and herb-crushed spuds.
800g potatoes in their jackets
Small bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced
Salt and milled black pepper
½ cup chopped herbs (parsley, marjoram, oregano, fennel)
Boil the potatoes until half cooked. Drain, peel and cut into chunks.
Sizzle the butter in a large frying pan, then add a good glug of olive oil (don’t be mean; this is vital for the flavour and crustiness of the potatoes). Stir in the spring onions then add the potato chunks and season with salt and pepper.
Fry until crisp and golden, turning occasionally at the start; more frequently as the potatoes get crisp and crunchy. Try not to mash them too much – this will ruin the effect – and add more olive oil if necessary. Stir in the herbs and tip the potatoes onto a serving plate.
Protein will reduce the perceived level of tannin in a red wine while the pepper and spice of the crust will increase the perception of fruit but also the perception of alcohol. Go for medium-bodied Shiraz.