Sometimes creating a great meal isn’t about spending hours in the kitchen ‘slaving over a hot stove’. Sometimes it’s just about buying top quality food and more or less putting it together. Well, in the case of brilliantly barbecued steak, it also requires a good cook who knows what they are doing. Fortunately for me last night my son Jonathan was to hand, and I don’t know anyone who barbecues better than him.
There was just the two of us for supper. Lyndsey and Freddie are still in Wales. Jonathan offered to take a wonderful rib of beef from the freezer that he’d bought about a month ago. He’d bought two then and we had one straight away. He buys meat from Boarstall Meats at the local Twickenham Farmers’ Market. Boarstall Meats’ farm lies near Aylesbury, just north-west of London. They’ve been selling meat from their own butchery on the farm since 2000. We discovered them at the farmers’ market a few years ago and they’ve become our ‘must go to’ butcher for most of our meat, but especially for anything special – parties, family gatherings, etc. Jonathan has rung them to place special orders and spoken to owner Edward as he’s walking across the fields. I don’t know anywhere to get a better chicken but really, after last night’s beef, I might also say I don’t know anywhere to get a better rib of beef!
As you can see from the photo, this was a 60-day aged rib of beef. So you know already, it’s going to be special. It was also quite expensive. But what a treat. And of course you want to cook it well and know what you’re doing. Jonathan is an all-round good cook; he’s not just a barbecue cook. He has a Weber barbecue and uses one of their chimneys to attain a high temperature for the coals quite quickly.
Jonathan said he’d prepare the steak as a tagliata – slices of steak laid across a bed of rocket, dressed with oil and balsamic and shavings of Parmesan cheese. It’s one of our favourite dishes. I meanwhile offered to put a mix of new white potatoes and sweet potatoes, coated in olive oil and dusted with za’atar, in the oven to roast.
I also made a tomato and red onion salad.
Jonathan didn’t do anything fancy with the steak. It didn’t need it. He just smeared some olive oil all over it with his hands and seasoned it. Then it went on to the hot coals. Because it was such a thick steak, he cooked it with the lid on the barbecue. When he judged it done, it was left on a plate with a loose covering of foil to keep it warm, to rest for a few minutes.
Then he sliced it thickly.
It was perfect. A crisp caramelisation on the outside and deeply pink and rare in the middle. Just how we like it! Then he laid it across the bed of rocket and dressed it.
We sat in the garden. It had been a gloriously warm and sunny day and even with the light fading, it was still warm enough to eat outside. Jonathan opened a bottle of Argentinian Malbec to drink with the steak.
It has a wonderful aroma and fruitiness but is softer than some Malbecs, making it extremely drinkable, and a wonderful accompaniment to the steak.
The steak was fantastic: such a gorgeous flavour, beautifully tender. It did require Jonathan’s excellent barbecuing skills to produce such a fine meal, but in essence it was an incredibly simple meal. We finished with a couple of strawberry tartlets I’d bought from Your Bakery Whitton in the morning.
They were quite small – not too big, not too small, just right as Goldilocks might say: the lightest of pastry, crème pâtisserie and fragrantly sweet strawberries. A lovely ending to a very fine meal indeed.