We've had the most wonderful weekend here at the cottage. Our wonderful friend Nick came to visit, and we had a grand old time catching up. He is the new head of some important business, and has been travelling all over the globe the last few weeks. Together with us living with other people and painting every spare moment until just recently, there wasn't a lot of socialising done. A lot to discuss, then.
And with discussion came food. On Saturday night The Fabulous Man and Nick decided they're going to have a braai, ie a barbeque over proper fire, not sissy gas (I know there are fire restrictions and all that, but still). They made beef sausages and a butterflied leg of lamb, and I thought I was in heaven. That wood smoky taste you only get from cooking over fire is second to none, and I felt like crying thinking about home. (Sometimes I still find myself thinking of "home" as South Africa. I'm sorry fellow Australians, I'm working on it). Sunday morning was spent over cups of tea and good old english breakfast, and a lazy walk into town. All in all a great weekend.
Back to normality on Monday night, and I decided to try a recipe of Jamie Oliver I've been saving for a while. It's roast beef cooked half over the coals, and finished off in the oven, served with a capsicum and chilli salsa. It's the salsa that caught my eye initially. I think it's good to have a little something up your sleeve that's easy to make, but jazzes up a normal meal. This sounded the perfect accompaniment to the barbeque that can unfortunately so easily turn into burnt sausages in bread and overcooked lamb chops. We've all been to those.
Of course the recipe is vintage Jamie, which means six hundred different ingredients cooked meticulously from scratch. He suggests you roast red peppers, red onion and chillies over the coals for about half an hour until nicely charred, and then fiddle with them a bit more. Then chop it all up with all the other ingredients. Now, in a perfect world, this is what I would do, but in my world, not so much. Actually, dinner time in our house is turning out to be a bit of a stressful time. The Little Girl is usually tired and grumpy by now, usually still needs a bath, and the Fabulous Man is trying to recover if he's been away during the day. And I'm trying to cook dinner. It sort of works if I feed the girl early, have dinner cooked late afternoon, and then give the girl a bath while the Man catches his breath. Sort of. Mostly not. Hence anything cooked over coals for hours doesn't get done on a Monday night if it can be bought ready made from the shop. My recipe then contains a jar of red peppers from the supermarket, and I slowly cooked my onions in some olive oil in a pan while chopping up the rest of the ingredients. The meat was cooked on the stove. No woodfire either, alas.
I substituted the beef with sirloin steaks, as suggested by Jamie, however, I am keen to try the rib-eye next time I make this. And there will definitely be a next time. This dish was sensational. We loved the marinade for the beef, and the salsa lifted the whole meal from the ordinary to the divine. Highly recommended, dear readers.
Seared herby beef with spicy capsicum salsa
Bunch of thyme
3 garlic cloves
1kg piece rib-eye (on or off the bone), or 4 250g sirloin steaks
3 red chillies, seeds removed
4 red capsicums, halved, seeds removed (or a jar of ready-roasted capsicums)
1 red onion, cut into wedges
6 anchovy fillets (or, if you're anchovy-shy like I am, only one)
small bunch of basil, leaves picked, smaller leaves reserved
red wine vinegar
If you're using a gas barbeque, preheat it to high heat, otherwise light the fire. If you're in South Africa the men will take care of this. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Pick leaves from half the thyme, then pound in a pestle and mortar with garlic and some salt. Mix in some olive oil until marinade-conistency, then massage into the meat. Leave for at least 30 minutes. Use the remaining thyme sprigs as a brush. You can tie them together with string if you could be bothered.
Meanwhile, for the salsa, chargrill your chilli, capsicum and onion on a medium barbeque for 20 minutes, turning occasionally until slightly charred all over. Alternatively, use bottled chargrilled capsicums, and caramelise the onions on the stovetop. Put in a food processor with the capers, anchovies and basil and process until finely chopped. Add a generous splash of vinegar and some olive oil until you've got a good dipping consistency. Taste, and season if needed.
Put a roasting pan in the oven to get hot. Put the beef on the barbeque and cook for 10 minutes, turning every minute to give a good colour. Use the thyme brush to brush with any remaining marinade. Transfer the meat to the roasting pan and cook in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until done to your liking.
Alternatively you can use 250g sirloin steaks. Marinade them the same way, then barbeque for 7 minutes, turning every minute. They will cook through on the barbeque or in the pan.
Serve the meat sliced with some rocket dressed in olive oil and lemon juice, and the salsa on the side.Yum!