Bresaola…make your own!


Bresaola…make your own!

When I first set eyes on this latest painting from the wonderful Bonnie Lalley, I was immediately reminded that I had not made any of my own bresaola for over two years! Not good. The time is ripe for making another – thank you for the prompt, Bonnie! Lemon and beef are such an Italian pairing – they squidge a shot or two of lemon over their carpaccio and their bresaola at will. And basil and lemon are seemingly ever present in any mediterranean kitchen – as essential for summer cooking as a bucket and spade are for a trip to the beach!

Bresaola is an air dried beef, aged traditionally for two to three months. I always use topside – it is possibly the best thing for this cut I reckon. You could use silverside too if you cannot get hold of a piece of topside.

The word Bresaola (formerly Brazaola, Brisaola or Bresavola) has uncertain origins.
Its etymology can be found in words like “brasa” (embers) or “brisa“: “brasa” were braziers used to dry air in the rooms used for seasoning process while the second one, brisa, is a dialect word for “salting”. It comes from a valley called Valtellina in the Northern Italian Alps in the Lombardy region. There are of course similar products around the world – chipped beef in the States, cecina in Spain, dendeng from Indonesia and brési from France.

Bresaola can be traced back to the 14th century in Italy and like so many cured meats, it was mostly farmers and their families who ate it – it was very much a way of simply preserving meat and it only escaped from Italy in the 19th century, first being exported to Switzerland, just across the border. It seems to be available in lots of places now, though I assure you, supermarket bresaola is nothing compared to those you can buy in Italy – or off a deli counter here in the UK. or indeed to your own home made version!

It is served mostly as an antipasti – or with salads – and is often seen added at the last moment to the magnificent pizzas they serve in the Piazza Navona in Rome, with large curly shavings of parmesan and a handful of fresh green glimmering rocket, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
(Now my mouth is watering-enough)

Right, my home cured bresaola is based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s version from his magnificent tome simply entitled, ‘Meat‘.

You will need the following:
3-4kg joint of topside beef

Then for the marinade:
1kg sea salt
12 sprigs of rosemary
20 cloves
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tsps of dried chilli flakes
5 strips of orange zest and 5 of lemon
1 bottle of a decent red wine

Mix together all the ingredients in a non metallic container that will hold the joint comfortably – indeed snugly. Add the meat and turn over to coat it well. Cover and leave in a cool place – a fridge will do if you have one large enough – otherwise an out house is fine. It needs to stay there for 5 days – but twice a day turn the joint over. After 5 days, remove the joint and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Wrap it in a double layer of muslin cloth, tie up with string and hang it in a dry but cool and draughty area, such as an outbuilding or covered porch. Let it hang for at least 10 days. 15 would be even better. You will feel that it has become hard to the touch. Wonderful!

Trim before serving. Take away the outer 5mm from the bit you are going to slice. Slice very thinly across the grain of the meat. It will be browner on the outside than the centre – that is as it should be. It can be hung in a cool place for a month and used as and when you need it. If the weather gets too warm you could pop it in the fridge. Always keep it wrapped in the muslin. Never cling film! It needs to breathe. That is why the stuff you buy from the supermarket in clear air tight plastic trays needs to be opened at least an hour before you serve it.

I made my first home cured bresaola one with my daughter, Hannah, and she loved the whole process. It is a great thing to do – fun indeed for all the family! And richly rewarding!



Peppered Shin Beef in Red Wine


Peppered Shin Beef in Red Wine

This was last night’s supper. The shin beef was from those marvellous people at Parsonage Farm in Upton – please visit their website – Sarah and John Mills are two of the nicest farmers you could meet – they also butcher their own meat and have also moved into making their own salamis! They know their stuff. This dish shows shin beef at its very best – it is such a marvellous cut and highly underrated. Yes, it takes time to cook, but time well spent. I put this together in about 20 minutes and then popped it in the oven and went out for the day. I came home to the most marvellous aromas – what a welcome!

Preheat the oven to 150c. For 6 folk I used a kilo of shin, cut into large chunks. I used a heavy round casserole dish with a lid. I arranged half the beef on the bottom – added 5 whole peeled cloves of garlic, two sprigs of rosemary and 3 or 4 good grinds of black pepper. Then I popped the rest of the beef on top, plus 5 more cloves and more rosemary and more black pepper.


Then add a whole bottle of a good red, preferably Italian. Add 2 bay leaves.

Pop the lid on and bring to a gentle boil on the hob. Then place in the centre of the oven for at least 6 hours. When it is ready check the seasoning – I added just a whisper of sea salt and a light drizzle of love oil. Then I removed the beef with a slotted spoon and broke it up gently with 2 forks – it drifts part in the most dreamy fashion. I served it with steamed cauliflower and baby new pots with a taleggio and cream sauce.

This is beef at its best. Full of rich dark flavours that haunt the tastebuds and make them crave more!

Steak your claim…


Steak your claim...

….for the best cut for a tasty steak to drool over at a lunchtime. Well, I am going to put a marker down for the Denver steak. I bought 4 of these marbled beauties for lunch yesterday – worth seeking out if you have not had one before. They need no tenderising – just a little salt and pepper, then a little oil in a hot hot pan – 1 minute on one side then flip and 2 minutes on the other side, and flip once more for the final 4th minute for a wonderful medium rare finish as in the above photo of mine. Best to let it rest for about 2 or 3 minutes if you can resist – it lets the steak relax.

I served it in a warm pita with finely sliced fried onions and a little salad on the side – oh, and a fine slither of Dijon mustard. I like it with pita as too many folk serve steak sandwiches in bread so thick you can’t taste the steak. Anyway, it still constituted a light lunch – and it just melted in the mouth.

I look forward to hearing your favourite cuts for a steak sarnie!