With a deep freezer full of quality beef at his disposal, it seemed only fitting to ask Ryall for his advice on how to cook steak. ‘Don't waste your time cooking Angus beef any less than medium,’ he said. ‘There’s no point cooking it rare because you're not cooking it enough to break down the fat, which is what releases the flavours in the meat.’ Yes, as controversial as this might seem to those of us who view ordering anything over medium-rare as the height of culinary gaucheness, this seemed to be the consensus among the beef producers. The farmer also has some pretty stringent views on how to serve the finished dish: ‘Never use a sauce as a camouflage - give the option of the sauce on the side, but never put the sauce over meat. The meat should be presented on its own.’ You’ve heard the man - when you next cook steak stick to simple seasoning and have your sauce dishes at the ready. With the right care put in at every stage, from rearing the cow to cooking the beef, the final flavour of the steak will speak for itself.
As a lover of beef but a shameful, self-confessed townie, a lot of things about my visit to Ben Ryall's farm surprised me. Firstly it was the behaviour of the cows themselves. Docile, curious creatures, they would come forward and inspect us before trotting off once we were deemed unworthy of their interest - clearly they weren't threatened by strange visitors tromping through their field. Learning more about the slaughter conditions, too, was reassuring, with Ryall adamant that the cow's welfare was paramount throughout the process. Most of all, though, was that I came away from the farm a friend of fat. Not to say I was ever its enemy - not to look at me, anyway - but speaking to Ryall made it clear to how great an extent fat is the key to flavour. To perfectly cook the steak's fat is to cook the perfect steak, and if that means leaving it in the pan a little longer then I'll gladly do so - the extra time can be well invested in septuple-cooking my chips.