As Good as it Gets – Salt Crust Picahna Beef with Chimichurri:
While I’m horribly camera shy, I AM always tempted by a challenge. Especially when it involves cooking with some of the finest meat available in the UK. So, despite the fact that I spent most of July travelling, I still accepted a cookery challenge. Well, wouldn’t you if you got an invitation like this?
I would like to invite you to take part in our gourmet Masterchef-style cooking challenge.
Tom Hixson is a third generation, family-run butchers sourcing the best beef, lamb, pork, poultry and deli products from around the world. We supply our handpicked products to top restaurants across the UK including; Michelin Star restaurant Wild Honey, award-winning chef and winner of the BBC’s great British Menu Aktar Islam as well as supplying English Rugby players Matthew Hankin and Elliot Daly.
As part of the challenge, we will send you sample cuts of some of the world’s best meats, including Wagyu and USDA beef for you to taste and develop your own Masterchef-style dish with. You can be as adventurous and creative as you like with your recipes and use whatever ingredients you think will accompany the meats the best.
My meat arrived promptly and beautifully packaged. I opened up the box to discover a large pack of gluten free pork sausages, some bone marrow burgers and a truly stunning cut of beef.
This is a Picahna cap – it’s a cut of beef you don’t often see in the UK, though, astonishingly I have seen it cooked rather beautifully on an asado by the 2010 Masterchef winner Druv Baker. I remembered it being meltingly tender and yet full of flavour. And, I might even have risked cooking it on the barbecue if the weather had been a little better. But, with most of July rained off, I had little chance of doing that. Instead I searched the internet and discovered that Picahna is often roasted in a salt crust. It seemed like a great idea – as you can perhaps see, the meat has a thick layer of fat which the salt helps to dry out.
I’m not going to pretend I invented the recipe. I used the instructions on the ‘From Brazil to You’ website. I did adapt it a little, but only because I couldn’t find dried parsley, so I used fresh instead. I cooked the beef to the bottom end of the recommended temperature for medium rare – and I did let the meat rest for 20 minutes.
As an accompaniment I made a Chimichurri sauce, one of my favourite accompaniments to summer barbecues. It’s essentially a sauce made with fresh and dried herbs, garlic, chilli and oil. You can mix and match to your own taste – I know some people don’t like coriander and if you choose, you can make Chimichurri with parsley and oregano. But, for my own palate, I love the lemony fragrance of fresh coriander and I think it offsets grilled meats really well.
When we took the beef out of the oven I was slightly nervous. I thought the overall result might be a bit too salty. But, actually all I needed to do was to brush off the salt crust before I served it. And, with the Chimichurri and a few lime wedges it was perfect.
Would it win Masterchef? probably not – it’s far too simple. But, if I cooked it again I’d serve it with a crushed potato stack and I’d make a colourful pepper stir fry. And with Tom Hixon’s beef and my Chimichurri, who knows!
I am a firm believer that meat bought from a good butcher or directly from a farm tastes different to supermarket products. Maybe it’s prejudice. Just as I don’t always eat organic food, I don’t always buy my meat from a butcher. When I do, it’s a real treat and I appreciate the difference.
With many thanks to Tom Hixson for the samples of meat. I will be sharing more recipes over the next few months.