Tagliata is a cut above

Tagliata of beef

Tagliata of beef

Sat, Oct 27, 2012, 01:00

Cooking vast quantities of meat can sometimes turn me off eating it, but then I turn to tagliata and can’t imagine a tastier, juicier and more delicious meal, writes DOMINI KEMP

EVERY NOW AND then I get completely fed up eating meat and contemplate becoming vegetarian. Usually it’s after cooking vast quantities of meat when catering, as opposed to eating loads of meat. Part of me thinks it’s all to do with getting older, as the list of things I am now concerned with are the very same things my mum used to say 20 years ago: don’t eat late at night; if you drink too much wine, you’ll find it hard to sleep, and forget about drinking coffee after 2pm.

But then I go and cook something like tagliata of beef, at home, on a quiet Saturday evening, and immediately my faith is restored in a life full of foodie pleasure and I can’t imagine a tastier, juicier and more delicious meal, with a big glass of red wine. Tagliata means cut in Italian, so this is a sort of sliced beef dish that can be served in plenty of different ways.

When we’re catering a large party, we usually roast whole sirloins of beef, marinated with lots of herbs, before chargrilling or roasting them, letting them rest for ages and then tossing with loads (and I mean loads) of chopped herbs – flat leaf parsley, some tarragon and chervil, plus plenty of pink peppercorns, crushed black pepper, Maldon sea salt and great olive oil. It ends up as delicious slices of medium or medium rare beef, coated in a crumb of salty, herby deliciousness.

But restaurant versions seem to be a bit more contained and feature plenty of rocket and Parmesan shavings and none of the above herby concoction. I checked out a few different variations, namely from fancy New York Italian restaurants and Heston Blumenthal.

Eventually I came up with a hybrid version by marinating the beef in a rich, thick, balsamic marinade, pumped full of rosemary. I also fried chunky slices of Portobello mushrooms in this marinade to serve with the slices of beef, which has the handy effect of bulking out this dish. I know we might be a bit fed up with rocket, but there’s a time and place, and if served with these flavours, it really is the perfect accompaniment.

It’s apparent to regular readers that baking isn’t my strong point, but this brack was specially delivered by my husband to his friends, Des and Ann in Carlow, baked for them by another friend, Dorothy. The delicious small of brack nicely camouflaged the kiddie detritus that lurked in the car on the way down, and everyone agreed it was one of the nicest bracks. Very kindly, the recipe was handed over to me, so Peaches and I gave it a go, but immediately started to botch it up. Flour? Check. Raisins? Check. Soaked raisins? Eh, no. But the photographer was booked and I felt that we were hardly in a position to work out how much soakage the raisins would have done overnight, so we didn’t alter a thing and chucked the whole lot together. We couldn’t believe how lovely it was, even without the obligatory pre-soaking of raisins. In fact, it was so nice, and so large, everyone got a few hunks of it to enjoy. I really recommend this brack recipe. It comes from a good Dublin woman, endorsed by good Carlow folk.

Just the thing to bake for Halloween and for the fun of it, chuck in a ring or small trinket for good luck.

Tagliata of beef

I used fillet of beef and made it for two, but feel free to substitute sirloin or rib eye if making for larger numbers, as the fillet would get very pricey. But nice for a treat. Serves 4-6

600-800g fillet of beef

Salt and pepper

4 good handfuls rocket

8 Portobello mushrooms, peeled and cut into thick slices

Parmesan shavings

Marinade

100ml balsamic vinegar

Good few sprigs rosemary

8 cloves garlic, peeled

200ml olive oil

Start by making the marinade. First remove all the leaves from the rosemary, you want a good tablespoon of rosemary leaves, even two. In a blender, whizz all the ingredients together. Season the marinade, which should be dark and thick. Pour it on top of the beef and leave for a while to marinate – a few hours would be great, or even overnight.

When you are ready to cook, put the rocket onto each plate, along with some Parmesan shavings. Heat up a frying pan or chargrill until it is really hot. And if your pan is a regular size, you may need to do this in two batches.

Let the excess marinade run off the beef and then sear and brown it at a very high temperature. Turn the steaks over when they release themselves and when you have great colour on them, set them aside to rest. Finish cooking any remaining steaks if necessary, otherwise fry the chunky mushrooms and pour any remaining marinade on top. They don’t need much cooking. They will absorb the marinade and heat up thoroughly till they get slightly charred and burnt at the edges and are piping hot. At this stage, you can slice the beef and arrange beef slices and mushrooms on top of the rocket and serve straight away.

Dorothy’s brack

You’ll need a 24-centimetre (approximately), spring-form cake tin. You need 800ml liquid, but can substitute some whisky for the tea, if you want. Say 200ml whiskey and 600ml tea.

500g sultanas

500g raisins

500g dark brown sugar

800ml cold tea

680g flour

3 tsp baking powder

3 tsp ground mixed spice

3 eggs beaten

Soak the sultanas, raisins, sugar and tea overnight. The next day, preheat an oven to 150 degrees/gas 2. Line your cake tin with parchment paper. Sieve the flour, baking powder and mixed spice and fold this into the fruit.

Then add the beaten eggs and mix well, pour into the tin and bake for three hours. Cool in the tin and then serve slices with a good smear of butter and cup of tea.