Thursday, 4 February 2010

Goodman: #blokeseatbeef

A few weeks before Christmas, Twitter saw the organising of a ladies-only steak night at Hawksmoor restaurant, a casual comment from the food writer Simon Majumdar along the lines of "well bollocks to you lot then, any blokes up for a men-only steak night?" (I'm paraphrasing.  A bit.) and before you could say testosterone-fuelled-boozy-ball-scratching-beefy-banquet #blokeseatbeef had enough gonads committed to the cause to pack out the private dining room at the back of Goodman steakhouse in Mayfair.

I'd eaten at Goodman a couple of times before and I would have been more than happy if we'd just been a big gang of regular punters choosing from their regular menu but they went far out of their way to make it a very special event indeed, and not just with the range and quality of food and wine they obtained for the evening. 

As we were settling in with glasses of fizzy Chapel Down head chef John Cadieux sent the evening's expectations into the stratosphere with an entertaining and knowledgeable presentation of the beef we would be eating.  Four humungous slabs of ribeye sat on the table while John explained the 4 different breeds they were from (a USDA Hereford/Angus, Scottish Limosin, Irish Black Angus and Belted Galloway from the Lake District) how they'd been aged and the differences between them all, his expertise and passion for his subject much in evidence as he lovingly manhandled, sniffed, stroked, poked and prodded the goods.  

A plate of raw meat was passed round for us all to admire, the cry from one enthusiastic table of "my god, smell that, it's fantastic!  It smells just like a corpse!" is going to haunt me for some time to come.

Eager anticipation for John to get the ribs downstairs and start cooking turned into mild fear when he announced that what we saw was only half the beef they were cooking for us.  36kg in total.  Between 25 of us.  That weight includes the bones so you could say that it worked out at about 1kg of meat each, although given the bone gnawing I saw going on later in the night there's more than a few gentlemen who easily broke that estimate.

A starter of Frank Hederman smoked salmon served 2 different ways was accompanied by a talk from the man himself who'd flown over from Ireland to personally deliver the fish.

A kind of mad professor of the fish smoking world knowing far more than any one person really should about such things, Frank was a very entertaining speaker enthusiastically explaining as we ate the fish itself exactly what was (and wasn't) needed to produce such a fantastic end product.  Served simply in thick slices with just onions and capers it was a truly memorable starter.

The main event arrived to much excitement, the seemingly never ending plates of ribs just labelled 1-4, turning it into a blind steak tasting for us all to argue about the merits of each one as we ploughed through them.  There was no clear winner by the end of the night when John and David Strauss, Goodman's general manager and organisational super-hero took a show of hands and revealed which was which with opinion divided right across all 4.  Even as we were eating and debating the merits of the various plates ("has anyone got any more 2?", "I've not had any 4 yet", "that's not number 3, no way", "which one's this I'm eating?") individual opinions were swinging back and forth at dizzying rates.  I suspect most people's favourite was the one they ate last, although that might well just have been me.

The side dishes included the delicious tobacco onion rings and their legendary creamed spinach (20% of your 5-a-day and 100% of your calories-a-day) and - with David obviously concerned we might be going home hungry -  was all followed by a cheese course courtesy of La Fromagerie of Stichelton, Keen's cheddar and some Stinking Bishop which was well and truly living up to its name.  Humming to high heaven it looked like it was about to crawl off the plate, sprout little cheesey legs and run away.  The offer of a dessert of creme brulee or cheesecake was met with various noises ranging from groans and sobs to assorted belching and trumpety noises, the brave souls that managed to find the effort to raise a hand and pronounce one of them clearly enough to be understood deserve our admiration.

Argentinian wine producer Catena supplied a really wonderful Malbec to go with the steaks, along with a Chardonnay.  I seem to remember a Chilean Cabernet/Carmenere appearing from somewhere and then some port on the table with the cheese, although being a New World version it was called Starboard.

Special mention must go to the ladies that waited on our tables, they quickly got the measure of us all and were friendly and helpful and made it seem effortless - something it certainly wasn't - keeping the vast quantities of food and plates flowing in and out of the busy room, at the same time making sure we were all kept well-supplied with whatever we were drinking and maintaining a very sturdy sense of humour about the whole thing.

Tours of the kitchen and the meat ageing room were popular and they did well to have got all of us round there by the end of the night, the Josper grills used to cook the steaks are a sight to behold when they're in full flow, and the meat room is something to experience when the door opens and the fan inside blasts that smell out all over your face.

A hugely enjoyable and memorable night out in every way, many thanks of course go to Simon himself for arranging things but as he's the first to admit most of the credit for the evening's success deserves to go to the generosity and enthusiasm of Goodman and their suppliers and their determination to make the event something special for all of us lucky enough to be there.

search the #blokeseatbeef tag on Twitter for more pics, comments and blog posts about the evening.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin

Jerusalem artichokes aren't from Jerusalem and they're not artichokes but other than that whoever named them hit the nail pretty much on the head.  Reputation of their flatulence inducing properties, coupled with the fact that in their raw state they look more like something's gone terribly wrong at the potato farm means they're sadly under-appreciated by your typical home cook.  This is a great shame, they're versatile and delicious, tasting similar to artichokes but with a more gentle and subtle savoury taste that means they can work very well with other flavours in a meal (rather than turning them into a car-crash as artichokes can do.)  This recipe uses them to liven up a simple gratin into a much more interesting dish, it's also a rather sneaky way of introducing a few of them into a meal in a way that won't have people pulling faces and claiming squeaky bums in the manner that might greet a big bowl of roasted Jerusalem artichokes or a Jerusalem artichoke soup, which are more popular ways of serving them.

I think the farting effect is exaggerated, mainly because we all like to make bottom-burp jokes.  It is something that only afflicts certain people, it's not the case that everyone gets the almighty trumps after eating a bit.  Jerusalem artichoke's main carbohydrate is inulin rather than starch which some people can be very intolerant to, causing "a filthy loathsome stinking wind in the body" as a 17th Century gardner put it.  The inulin content is nothing particular to Jerusalem artichokes though, chicory, onions and garlic for example all contain it in high concentrations.


1 large potato
6/7 medium Jerusalem artichokes
5 or 6 slices prosciutto
parmesan cheese
1/2 litre stock

Put the oven on at 180 degrees.  Peel the potatoes and the artichokes and then slice as finely as possible.  I use a mandolin for this which is quite good fun but bloody dangerous when you're getting down to the last bit of a vegetable (if your concentration slips then your finger slips then eeeuuuwwww) if you've got a food processor with the right attachment use that, otherwise you'd better enjoy (like, really enjoy) using a knife to chop things 'cos it's a lot of chopping.

Grease an ovenproof gratin dish with butter (or oil) and place a layer of potato and artichoke slices in the bottom, grate a little bit of nutmeg over and season with salt and pepper.  Go easy on the salt, you might even want to omit it altogether since the ham and the cheese are both quite salty and depending on the stock you're using there could well be enough salt in the dish already.  Add some torn/snipped pieces of prosciutto and grate a bit of the cheese over that, dot a little bit of butter on it if you're feeling really decadent and repeat to build up each layer in the gratin dish.  Pour the stock over, grate a little more cheese on top and place the covered dish in the oven for about an hour.  After an hour remove the cover, turn the over up to 200 and give it another 10 or 15 minutes to crisp up a little on top.  

Jerusalem artichoke flower photo courtesy of KingsbraeGarden