Steak and chips is probably my favourite treat meal. That and a bottle of red makes any Friday night in feel special. Especially as it’s incredibly easy to cook – who wants to spend their Friday night slaving over a hot stove? The trickiest bit is the chips*!!
Given this love of steak, you might be surprised to learn that I only started eating it in my early twenties. See, the BSE scare meant that all beef was banned from our family home from the mid 80s. Which meant that I didn’t really start eating it again until I’d left home and learnt how to cook it for myself.
To begin with I was nervous about eating it rare, but I soon got fed up of using steak knives. I think my first really enjoyable steak was at Harvey Nichols in Leeds – Gav and I used to go quite regularly- back when we had money for shopping trips and fancy lunches…
Of all the cuts available, I prefer the rib-eye. Ok, it’s not as tender as the fillet, but I find it more flavoursome, thanks to the fat running through it. Having said that, I ain’t gonna turn my nose up at a bit of rump or sirloin!
But recently I’ve been experimenting with different cuts (which is mostly thanks to my new food related job) and I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on some hanger steak. Otherwise known as onglet, the hanger is rumoured to be the butcher’s favourite cut – probably because each cow only yields around 4/5 steaks and because it’s from the diaphragm, so often lumped in the offal category.
Although some suggest you cook hanger to medium, I was only ever going to cook it rare. So I just sliced it into thick steaks, let it come to room temperature and cooked it for about a minute on each side in a hot frying pan.
So, how was it? Pretty bloody good actually. The meat was delicious – with a slight offal tang to it. And although it was tougher than a lot of other cuts, it just had a bit of bite, so was perfectly acceptable in my book. It’s certainly one I’ll try again – especially as it’s significantly cheaper than my trusty rib-eye… which means I can spend more on the wine!
Lambs’ heart is hardly considered to be an alternative to a good steak (yes I know that this is lamb rather than beef, but do bear with me…) and most recipes call for a long and low braise. But I remember a butcher once recommending that I try it with beef heart, so figured it must work with lamb heart too.
We only have high welfare meat at Mr Pickles’ and I can genuinely say that I’ve been really impressed with the lambs’ hearts we get in. They’re really lean, at least they’re the leanest I’ve ever cooked, and a lean heart has got to be a good sign, aye?
Unlike beef hearts (which are enormous) lambs’ hearts are pretty manageable, so I decided we would have one each. I just trimmed them of the valves and the little fat there was on the outside and cut into slices that were around one centimetre thick. I cooked them just as I’d cooked the hanger – brought them up to room temperature and cooked for a minute on each side in a hot frying pan.
And it was a winner! Honestly, I love lambs’ heart anyway – the only way I can describe the taste is that of an intense lamb flavour, but cooking it this way was a bit of a revelation! Although the heart is generally braised, I thought it really benefited from the fast cooking. It was as tasty as ever, incredibly tender and ready in a matter of minutes (rather than hours)!** Perfect for a Friday night in.
*Peel potatoes, slice into wedges, parboil, coat in oil with spices/herbs/whatever you fancy and blast in a hot oven for 30/40 minutes.
** One of the major downsides of cheap cuts can be their intense and long cooking times – which can sometimes negate the savings made on buying the meat. So it’s good to learn quick cook methods for this type of meat too.