Why beef is good for you
Thanks to our celebrated collection of native breeds and abundant green pastures, Britain effortlessly picks up the trophy for the world’s best tasting beef. So why settle for slack-fleshed, vapid supermarket stuff? This grain-fed produce comes from fast-growing, foreign breeds fattened up on cereals, and won’t eat that well, because it is rarely aged, more usually just dispatched directly from abattoir to store. It can’t match the taste and succulence of darker, dry-aged beef from heritage breed cattle that grow slowly on a grassy diet. It also won’t have that light cover of flavoursome, golden-white fat.
Why is beef good for me?
One of the most nutritious foods, beef has appetite-sating high-quality protein, which has all the essential amino acids needed (isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine and more)to build muscle and bone. Beef is a great source of B vitamins (vital for brain function), and the most absorbable form of iron (called haem iron), which builds red blood cells and gives you energy. Its rich store of zinc supports the immune system.
Beef contains both saturated and monounsaturated fat (thought to be protective against heart disease). Contrary to the prevalent dogma, it’s emerging that there is no good evidence to support the notion that saturated fat is harmful. Beef from grass-fed cattle is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies show reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes and some immune system disorders.
Where to buy and what to pay
Buy pastured beef from a craft butcher who has hung the meat to dry-age it and allow its natural flavour to develop. Guide price: rib-eye steak £24/kg, stewing beef or steak mince £10/kg.
• Joanna Blythman is the author of What To Eat (Fourth Estate, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.99 with free UK p&p, go to theguardian.com/bookshop
Marinated spiced beef
This recipe is a mixture between the kind of spiced beef I remember having at Christmas in my childhood and the German sauerbraten which I had on a recent visit to Berlin. Both the recipes involve several days marinading, the British/Irish one is 7-10 days, and the German version 3, so that’s where the method comes from, but the flavourings are a mixture of both recipes. Sauerbraten is usually made with red wine, but for a more interesting, light recipe I have used a mixture of cider and ginger beer.
The beef is really good eaten hot with noodles or mash or very thinly sliced and eaten cold. I like to use brisket for this recipe but topside or silverside works too.
2 tbsp light muscovado sugar
2 tsp salt
1½ tsp ground allspice
1½ tsp ground coriander seeds
1 kg brisket topside or rump
300ml dry cider
150ml ginger beer
150ml cider vinegar
3 onions, peeled and sliced
1 tsp juniper berries
1 tsp mace blades
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 celery stick, sliced
2 tbsp flavourless oil
2 tsp mustard powder
1 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp sour cream (optional)
1 Mix the sugar, salt, allspice and coriander and rub it all over the beef.
2 For the marinade, place the cider, ginger beer, vinegar, onions, juniper, mace, peppercorns, bay leaves, and 150ml water into a pan with the veg. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
3 Put the meat in a bowl that holds it snugly and pour the marinade over. Cover. Leave in a fridge for 72 hours, turning the meat over twice a day.
4 Heat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Lift the meat from the marinade, drain and pat dry with kitchen roll. Strain the marinade, reserve the liquid and keep the veg.
5 Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole and brown the meat on all sides. Remove it, add the veg and fry, stirring for 5–6 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Sprinkle the mustard and flour over the veg and stir over the heat for a minute, then add the marinade. Stir until smooth and simmering.
6 Put the beef on the veg and baste with the liquid. Cover tightly with foil and a lid and roast for 2–2¼ hours, or until the meat is tender when pierced with a thin knife or skewer.
7 Lift the meat on to a warmed serving platter, cover loosely with foil. Strain the cooking liquid into a pan; boil rapidly to reduce. Add the cream, if using, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the meat, and serve with some sauce spooned over.
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