Recently I’ve been eating some extremely scrummy beef from Woodlands Jersey Beef which has exceeded all my expectations as far as the local cattle goes. In order to serve these excellent hunks of animal at their best I’ve scoured my food tomes for the ideal methods of preparation. This has led to me thinking there is probably only one cookbook you need.
The quality of meat available here in Hampshire is extremely high, but I was delighted to see Woodlands Jersey Beef at the Hampshire Farmers’ Market a couple of months ago as I know Jersey beef to be particularly tasty. The steaks, roasting joints and sausages we have got from them have all delivered really lubricious pleasure.
Woodlands claim bull Jersey calves from four dairy herds around the Hampshire region. They are normally culled at birth because they are considered too light and expensive for meat production. Jane and Paul Denley know what I have learned on my many trips to Jersey, that the high-grade beef they produce is well worth the expense of farming less productive steers.
The Jersey steers are fed on milk until age four-to-five months then on grass, hay and sugar beet in the winter until they are two-to-three years old. During this time they live outside in the glorious Hampshire climate and are not dosed up with hormones or regular antibiotic treatments. These are cattle that are allowed to grow at their own rate and express their natural flavours in an unforced manner. This is what we like.
The meat itself has a yellow colouring to the marbling and, after a prolonged Facebook discussion, I learnt this colouring comes from a high proportion of beta-carotene in the fat. This is a good thing: it’s healthy and adds to the flavour. You can see the yellow colour of the fat in this picture of a rolled rib I roasted just after Christmas.
What a rib of beef it was! A meat-tastic piece of protein that delivered all the flavour, fat and fun one wants from a really quality piece of animal. It was delicious and was one of the very best pieces of beef I’ve ever roasted. Feast your eyes on the whole thing:
It was cracking!
Last week I had a couple of rump steaks. Again, as you can see in this picture before they were cooked, the fat has a gentle yellow colour. Those used to pig fat might worry about this; yellow pig fat is either off or will go that way quickly. This is not at all the case with Jersey beef as I explained the source of the colouring above.
All it took was a generous seasoning with salt and pepper, ninety seconds per side in a frighteningly hot grill pan, then a ten minute rest and rump tastes of extreme pleasure were ours for dinner. Here they are cooking:
Because all of Woodlands Jersey Beef’s meat is dry-aged for 28 days before it’s sold the already superb character of Jersey meat is enhanced and gains additional complexity. They not only care for the cattle but care for the cuts as well.
The mince is really characterful and adds a distinct classiness to any dish you might cook with it. I made a rather spiffy chilli with my last batch, enhanced with dark chocolate, red wine and beef stock, and I felt I couldn’t have made a better one. It is not just mince and bears no relation to the kind of tasteless watery rubbish one picks up all too often in supermarkets.
We’ve also fried up some of their beef sausages which had the brilliantly rich character of the fancier cuts, but I really felt these needed the addition of lots of horseradish to make them shine. When I next see the Denleys at a Hampshire Farmers’ Market I might be bold enough to suggest they season their sausages a little more. That being said, if you like beef sausages these are simply the nuts.
Woodlands Jersey Beef have an online shop and will send beef to you by courier if you cannot get to them at a Hampshire Farmers’ Market. I recommend you make all efforts possible to secure some of this high-grade beef, your taste buds will sing your praises as you plough through the glorious flesh.
When I was cooking the steaks and roasting beef I had a look at my old favourite Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s Meat but I decided to check out the instructions in Hawksmoor at Home – the recipe book from my long-time favourite restaurant. I was glad I did!
The instructions for cooking steak are simple enough, pretty much as I give them above, but the roast beef recipe was mind-blowingly fantastic. From charring the outside of my roast to cooking it for hours at a low temperature the procedure provided quality aromas and yielded the perfect roast at the end of it. It was dead easy too.
This is a feature of all the recipes, they may seem like complex, ‘restaurant’ food but they are actually quite within the ability of any half-decent cook and made all the easier thanks to being explained with admirable clarity. As you would expect with Hawkmoor (here’s a review of their latest opening) they expect you to use the very finest ingredients, and so do I so buy them from places like Woodlands Jersey Beef!
There is more to Hawksmoor at Home than cooking meat. The macaroni and cheese recipe has been a real hit in Elitistreview Towers. There are even instructions on how to cook vegetables without getting cancer – I’m not sure about eating them, though.
A cocktail section includes all the Hawksmoor greats, including the Fancy Gin Cocktail – the single greatest martini I have ever had. I don’t need to read the wine section but I’m told by a lesser member of the booze illuminati it is quite useful.
As I went thought the brilliant book and drooled over almost every page (I think there were only two things I didn’t want to cook in it) it struck me that this is the only cookbook you will ever need. Some may take issue with that but there is one hell of a lot of good eating in that book.