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Fort on Beef
Every caring cook should dread the phrase ‘killing weight’. It means that animals, eating cattle in particular, are raised to ‘killing weight’. In other words, they are brought to the point of slaughter as quickly as possible (12 to 24 months, usually) with no regard to their natural development. They aren’t allowed to mature quietly, develop fat and flavour, at their own pace.
In practice this means we are eating adolescent animals. This may suit most fast-growing Continental breeds, such as Simmental, Charollais and Belgian Blue, but traditional British breeds, such as Belted Galloway, Red Devon, Gloucester, Highland, Welsh Black, are all slow-maturing beasts. It takes them 6,7,8 years to come to full maturity.
Some cows will live as long as 30 years, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to eat one. And then there’s the hanging and butchering, which can ruin a decent carcass. There’s a fabulous amount of rubbish talked about what breed makes the best steak, and how long beef should be hung for. Until we routinely grow our own animals to full maturity we’ll never know. For the record, probably the best steak I ever ate in open competition at a blind tasting turned out to be an 8-year old Friesian milk cow.
Article written by Matthew Fort
What Beef Goes With
A mainstay of British cuisine, beef is traditionally served with a variety of greens or root vegetables, which complement the natural tenderness of the meat.
Artichokes, cabbage, carrots, broccoli all line up perfectly next to the meat and the trick is knowing how best to cook the veg in order to get the best out of the combinations.
As for sauces, beef is often served with or cooked in a red wine or Madeira sauce. Marcus Wareing opts for a hybrid sauce, using both brandy and red wine in his roast sirloin of beef recipe.
If looking for something slightly different to serve with beef, why not use Luke Holder's recipe as inspiration, which pairs the meat with Dorset snails or even Mark Jordan's recipe which uses lobster as a partner to beef – both of which demonstrate the versatility of Beef’s flavour.
For a less fancy beef dish - look no further than this steak tartare recipe or this homemade beef burger.
Braising and Slow Cooking
Whether you want to fix up a quick batch of scones for tea or create an impressive soufflé dessert, this baker's collection is a good reference of some fantastic examples of British baking.
Our wonderful collection of baking recipes includes...