Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bloggers & beef assiettes

It never ceases to amaze me how lucky we are in Australia. Despite the continent being one of the driest in the world, facing a constant uphill battle with wildly unpredictable weather; we still somehow manage to produce beef that is so damn good that there's enormous demand for it in over 100 countries worldwide.

We're the second largest exporter of beef after Brazil where cattle feed on GM soybeans and are linked to a myriad of issues stemming from deforestation of the Amazon and deformities caused by heavy pesticide use. In contrast, our industry is so heavily regulated that every single animal bred for the dinner table can be traced back to its grassroots, which for us means integrity and quality of produce. Strict quarantine measures also ensure that Aussie beef is free from scary derivatives of spongiform encephalopathies like 'mad cow' disease.

Before this beef dego I had absolutely no idea what it is that Meat & Livestock Australia does aside from publishing 'Chef's Special' and facilitating intercollegial meat judging with uni kids. As I've since discovered, they actually fund a lot of research and development projects geared towards improving grazing methods, animal welfare and sustainability. During dinner I also learned that grain-fed cattle eat loads of legume 'grains' like field peas and fava beans which all assist in nitrogen fixation, improving the soil without chemical fertilisers. A lot of the C4 grasses with increased efficiency for carbon sequestration like maize and sorghum which I mentioned in my last post, funnily enough, also come under 'grains' so although I still prefer grass-fed beef in terms of energy input and overall sustainability, I don't feel quite as guilty about eating Australian grain-fed beef anymore.  

Unless you've been living under a metaphorical rock, you will know that red meat is good for the body's iron levels. Haem iron to be exact - the little cells that improve oxygen transportation through the blood. It really makes me wonder about the level of improvement when I'm tramping through dense undergrowth in the Hawkesbury after consuming nine courses of beef and there are six humongous killer leeches swinging from my ankles. We'll not mention the part about me screaming like a sissy, but anyway.. Aussie beef is not only healthy but it is an incredibly versatile ingredient too! The MLA degustation really highlighted different cooking methods and a wide array of matching flavour combinations that I never would have thought of.

To get the most tender result when using different cuts of beef, it's important to remember how collagen and elastin (the silvery sinew) react with heat. With long and slow braising, collagen breaks down into delicious gelatinous stuff (my favourite bits!) whereas any heat makes sinew become tough so it should be removed first.

Recipes can be found at corresponding blogs and more. Hopefully you'll be inspired to try creating some of these mouthwatering dishes at home!

First up from Sarah of Taste was a rich and comforting 'Beef and ale pie'. Crisp and buttery puff pastry concealed slow-braised beef shin, celery and caramelised carrot, melded for hours with the rich and malty, full-bodied virtues of Guinness.. I could go another one right now..

Anna's (Morsels and Musings) 'Achiote and tequila cured beef knuckle with pozole rojo' was cured for 24 hours in sugar and tequila then poached for 30 minutes at 100ºC. It reminded me of the corned beef sandwiches of my childhood but in this case with pointedly Mexican flair. Avocado, corn, tomato and baby coriander were laden over the cured beef, dotted with pozole and a wistful hint of smokiness.

'Seared sirloin, buttered roots, horseradish and wakame' by Aficionado (that's me!). The sirloin was cooked sous-vide (vacuum sealed and poached in a water bath), seared and served alongside baby beets poached in butter and dashi, pickled radish and celery, enoki mushrooms, daikon jelly, wakame seaweed, horseradish and fried lotus. Simple, clean, seasonal flavours, a flirtatious integration of textures and totally fantastic (being completely objective of course).

Warren's contribution of 'Thai beef salad with mint, peanuts and chilli dressing' made use of the flat meats coupled with cucumber 'spaghetti', tomato, chilli, peanut caramel (made with roasted peanuts and palm sugar) and tiny cubes of intense lemongrass jelly. A very robust, deconstructed adaptation of the traditional.

Ellie of Almost Bourdain created a hawker dish of 'Beef satay with spicy peanut sauce, rice cake and herb salad', unlike any satay I've ever had. Ridiculously tender marinated rump was served with compressed rice rolled in toasted coconut alongside a surprisingly irresistible salad of betel leaf and was a real eye-opener to the world of Asian cuisine that I've still yet to experience. I have no idea what betel leaf is but I've since decided that I'm going to find a way to grow it so I can have it every single day of the week.

From Fouad came 'Scotch fillet with moghrabiyeh', seared first then cooked sous-vide. Moghrabiyeh I learned, is a type of Lebanese couscous which was paired with chickpeas, carrot puree, pickled carrot, saffron-poached onion, beurre blanc, cumin, cardamom and caraway. Rich, smooth and creamy countered with just a hint of acidity for balance.

Trina the Gourmet Forager had a hand in creating this 'Pulled beef and pine mushroom cannelloni'. The chuck was wet-roasted for three to four hours with red wine, beef stock and dried mushrooms for intensity of flavour before being pulled apart and rolled in delicate sheets of pasta. Speck was added to the reduction to impart an element of smokiness and pine mushrooms roasted with garlic butter and oregano. Reminiscing about this dish, I can almost imagine the perfect setting by the edge of a woodland forest - a chequered picnic blanket spread amongst a sea of wildflowers, sipping on a lusty red and licking mushroom cream from my fingers under falling light..

Ex-chef and experienced foodie Rebecca of Inside Cuisine incorporated 'Braised beef in coffee with brandied cumquats and onion milk'. The blade was cooked for eighteen hours at 63ºC and wet-roasted to create a coffee 'crust', wrapped in a croustillant of brik pastry and shoestring potatoes for a juxtaposing textural crunch, and dished up with tantalisingly sweet and nutmeg-y onion soubise.

The Internet Chef - Bridget's 'Slow braised brisket with cauliflower cream and Pedro Ximenez muscatels' drew immediate parallels with a dish of braised beef cheek with unbelievably smooth and creamy cauliflower puree that I tried at Movida last year. Braised, pressed and glazed, it wasn't quite as soft and gelatinous as Frank Camorra's, but undulating bursts of sweetness and acidity from plump PX-soaked raisins countered with a crunchy dissection of pickled cauliflower elevated Bridget's dish to another level. If I wasn't in full-view I'd have no qualms about licking my plate squeaky clean.

This was the most disappointing dish of the night: Soren's 'Citrus terrine with yoghurt sorbet and poached rhubarb'. Yes it was tasty, refreshing, super delicious, palate-cleansing, tasty, did I mention it was damn tasty? But I was left with a gaping question.

Where's the bloody beef?

Many thanks to Meat & Livestock Australia, Hausmann Communications, Alison McIntosh, Anthony Puharich, Warren Turnbull and the awesome team at Assiette for making this event happen! :)

 see more photos of the night here..


  1. i lerning you blog page.

  2. nice way to do the captions. very unique :-) probably a good thing there wasn't beef in the dessert. i think that would have been too much.

  3. It never fails to blow my mind when I realise that Real Actual People rather than Robot Magic Chefs can actually create dishes as intricate and gorgeous as these! You're amazing! And now I'm going to keep eating my Cheerios mixed with white chocolate chips...

  4. Simon! there's no such thing as too much beef! :P it would have been interesting to see how it could have been incorporated in any case haha

    Thanks Hannah, that's so lovely of you! :)

  5. Very elegant presentation of those photos - love the font! Was nice meeting you that night!


Related Posts with Thumbnails