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I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard Elvis, the undisputed King of Rock and Roll had died. I will never forget I was in the operating theatre coffee room that Tuesday morning on the 11th September 2001 watching the TV agog at the live feed of the twin towers crashing to the ground. My first experience with wagyu beef was in a Rayokan hotel in Yudanaka where little cubes of pure heaven were cooked on hot stones. They simply melted in the mouth thereby marking one of those precious rare moments where a brief silent pause is followed by an expression of disbelief which is shortly followed by the refrain of “wow!”. Wagyu meaning “Japanese cow” is, for good reason, a highly sought after beef which is known for its immense quality and perfect marbling. It derives from the Wagyu breed of cow. The particular strain of beef I had at the hotel was Kobe beef from the Tajima strain of wagyu cattle. when I pleaded with the perfectly attentive waitress as to how beef of such quality could be reared, she smiled in a good-naturedly way and said that the farmer fed his cows on apples. i guess the mystery will remain a mystery.
My trip to Selfridges in London would inevitably lead to me gravitating towards the food hall. An array of beautifully displayed food instantly feasts the eye. The butchery counter displayed a stunning collection of wagyu beef cuts. I took a hunk of sirloin. The butcher kindly cut a marrowbone and a pigs trotter for me using their efficient saws. At the nearby green grocery section, I bought some stout looking king oyster mushrooms.
This recipe combines the excellent texture and quality of the wagyu beef with the intensity of the sweet sticky beef sauce reduction and served with a meaty mushroom. It’s a carnivore’s dream. The reduction is highly flavoursome and simply delicious and becomes sticky as a result of the high gelatine component of the trotter. I assure you you will not be disappointed with this reduction. I like to think of the effect rather reminiscent of an autumnal woodland floor. This recipe serves 4 people. Serve this with a good quality Burgundy, Brunello di Montalcino, Amarello or, if you can get hold of it, a Sassicaia.
for the sticky beef reduction
3 tbsp olive oil
1 chopped marrowbone
1 chopped pig trotter
1/2 cup (120 mls) water
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 punnet of white mushrooms
10 black peppercorns
2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup (120 mls) Madeira wine
1 cup ( 250 mls) Red wine (full bodied such as Cabernet Sauvignon)
8 cups (1 L) beef stock
In a large pan or stock pot, heat the olive oil and brown the marrowbone and pig trotter pieces. Transfer them to a warm plate. Deglaze the pan with water. When the pan begins to sizzle, add the chopped vegetables, stirring until caramelised. Deglaze for a second time with the Madeira. Deglaze for a third time with the red wine and then let the pan simmer until the liquid has reduced by a third. Add the peppercorns and thyme then add the beef stock. Ensure the bone/trotter pieces are covered adding more stock or water to top up if necessary. Seal with a lid and cook gently for 4 hours. Periodically check the stock pot adding more water as necessary. Once complete, drain the stock into a non-stick pot and reduce the liquid until it becomes a sticky sauce. Be careful not to overcook the sauce thereby destroying the fruits of your patient reduction. You will not be happy to see a burnt cinder at the base of the pan.
For the woodland floor
3 knobs unsalted butter
8 shallot hearts
2 king oyster mushrooms, halved in the vertical plane
3 king oyster mushrooms, diced
2 turnips, peeled and diced
Rocket and watercress leaves
Sauté shallot hearts, diced mushrooms, 4 mushroom halves and turnips in the butter until they are nicely browned. Arrange the leaves and sautéed vegetable medley in the centre of the plate.
For the wagyu sirloin
3 tbsp vegetable oil
18 oz (1/2 Kg) wagyu sirloin, trimmed and cut into thick rectangular slices then seasoned with sea salt and black pepper
Place the oil into a skillet and sauté the beef slices under high heat for about 2 minutes each side ensuring a good seam of pink inside the cuts. Transfer the slices to a warm plate and let them rest for 10 minutes before plating out.
Constructing the dish
Layer the beef on the woodland floor as described above. Using a syringe or squeezy bottle, plate out the warm, sticky beef sauce around the perimeter of the dish. Carefully level the halved king oyster mushrooms so they can stand on their stems. Trim the bases if necessary.