Welcome to our new monthly column with Francesca McKay. After several years working for one of the world’s biggest media companies, in 2019 Francesca enrolled at Leiths School of Food and Wine to retrain as a chef before working for Daylesford Organic in the kitchen of their farm in Kingham.
Now splitting her time between her home in The Cotswolds countryside where she works as a food writer and a chef at local favourite gastropub The Chequers Inn, and the Cornish coast where she has family roots.
Francesca’s passion is creating dishes that are steeped in well-crafted simplicity and local seasonality for friends and family to enjoy around the dinner table.
On the menu today we have Beef skirt. Beef skirt, also known as bavette, is prized for its flavour and despite not being one of the most tender cuts available, it can be slow cooked or tenderised then griddled as steak and sliced into ribbons. Readily available through us from Hook Norton Butchers and used widely in the restaurant trade, skirt is an underrated and often overlooked cut of meat at home despite its versatility.
Here we bring you two recipes, one to showcase each method of cooking to get you inspired in the kitchen (or garden!).
Carbonnade of beef; a hearty, traditional dish slow cooked that has depth and warmth from the flavours of the local dark ale it is cooked in – here we have used Chadlington’s Bruern Bitter. There are versions of this dish rooted across France and Belgium, Carbonnade Flamande being one of the regional dishes across northern France but this one proudly showcases some of the best produce the beautiful Cotswolds countryside has to offer..
Cooked sans vegetables, it is versatile and to be served with potatoes and your choice of seasonal vegetables. It is fantastic served with glasses of the ale it’s cooked in.
Below is a recipe for the silkiest, tastiest mashed potato; once you have tried this, you will never need another.
CARBONNADE OF BEEF
- 1kg beef skirt
- 3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 2 tsp dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp plain flour
- 300ml dark or amber ale
- 300ml beef or veal stock
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Trim any excess fat and sinew from the beef skirt then cut the meat into chunks approx 5cm long and 2.5cm thick
- Heat a little olive oil in a heavy bottomed frying or casserole pan over a medium high heat, season the meat with salt and black pepper then brown all over until a golden crust forms
- Brown the meat in batches so as not to crowd the pan as this will steam the meat instead of browning it. Place the meat into a sieve over a large bowl. In between each batch using a little water to deglaze the pan and transfer the juice to the bowl the meat is resting over. Use fresh olive oil for each batch
- Preheat the oven to 150°C and in a heavy bottomed, oven proof pan, heat a little more olive oil on a low heat and sweat the onions with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes until translucent then increase the heat to medium and let the onions start to caramelise
- Add the garlic and sugar; stir and cook for 1 minute then add the flour and cook for a further minute
- Slowly add the ale to the pan, stirring as you do to prevent lumps from forming then add the stock, vinegar, the juices from the bowl under the sieve and the thyme sprigs
- Bring to a simmer then add the meat to the pan, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 3 – 3.5 hours
- Check from time to time to ensure that it is only simmering gently
- Once the meat is softly falling apart, remove from the oven and check the consistency of the sauce; if it is thick and full of flavour you can just season and use but if it is thin and watery, strain then return the liquid to the pan and reduce on a medium high heat
- Remove and discard the thyme stalks
- Taste and season
- Serve with mashed potato and your choice of seasonal vegetables
- Wash and peel the potatoes then chop into small, even sized chunks
- Put the pieces of potato in a saucepan with cold water and a generous pinch of salt
- Bring the water to the boil then reduce to a simmer moving the pan lid so it is half covering the pan
- Cook the potatoes until a table knife easily passes through them, approx 15 minutes (but check, it depends on the size of your pieces)
- Drain the potatoes into a colander and leave them to steam dry for approx 3 minutes
- Using 3 – 4 pieces at a time, pass the potato through a strong metal sieve. Using more pieces than this will release the starch making them gluey
- Return the mashed potato to the pan and move them to the side leaving a space – put the butter here and on a low heat, gently stir to bring the butter into the potato
- While the butter is melting, slowly add the milk, allowing it to incorporate with the butter as you stir
- Once all is combined, remove from the heat, add salt and ground white pepper, taste and adjust the seasoning
This Skirt Steak Salad, a light but nutritional and substantial dish that packs a punch on the flavour front and will wow your friends and family. One of the best things about this dish is that the majority of it can be made ahead, freeing you up to host stress free.
Although it’s a great year round dish, now we’re getting into BBQ season this salad is something a little bit different to have on offer; 5 minutes to cook, plus 5 minutes to rest is all it takes and of course, the meat benefits from being cooked on coals, imparting a charred and smoky flavour that complements the earthy vegetables and creamy balsamic dressing. Watercress adds a nice peppery bite while the beans and tomatoes bring a light freshness making this a perfect all rounder salad.
SKIRT STEAK SALAD
- 600g skirt steak
- 700g new potatoes
- 400 – 500g bunch raw beetroot
- 200g fine beans
- 100g cherry tomatoes
- 1 bag fresh watercress, washed
- Olive oil
- Salt & freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C
- Wash the potatoes and slice any large ones into 2/3 pieces then do the same with the beetroot trying to keep the pieces of both evenly sized. No need to peel either
- In separate bowls, toss with a little olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast in separate tins for 30 – 45 minutes until a knife passes through easily and the potatoes have taken on a golden brown colour
- Put them aside to cool
- Wash and trim the fine beans then boil or steam for 3 – 4 minutes then drain and plunge into cold water to prevent them from cooking further in the residual heat
- Take everything out of the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking the steak and assembling the salad
- Chop half of the cherry tomatoes in half and place all the salad ingredients into a large bowl
- Make the dressing
- Wrap the steak in parchment and using the frying pan you’ll cook it in, whack the meat for approx 30 seconds to tenderise it then pat down with paper towel so it is very dry to the touch and using your hands rub all over with a very light coating of olive oil
- Put a dry heavy frying pan on a high heat until it is smoking hot then season the steak with salt and freshly ground pepper and add to the pan for 2 – 2.5 minutes each side
- Remove the steak from the pan to a plate and rest for 5 minutes while you add half the dressing to the salad and mix to combine (put the other half into a small jug to serve alongside should anyone like more)
- Arrange the salad onto a platter then slice the steak evenly, place atop the salad, give a light sprinkling of crunchy sea salt if you have it and another grind of black pepper and serve
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Mix the mustard, vinegar and oil together, whisking until combined and looking creamy
- Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper then taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary
- All the components except the steak can be prepared a day or two in advance ready to be assembled when you need it
- If you have any vegetarians, portion a little of the salad separately and serve with grilled goats cheese
- If the beetroot has leaves, don’t discard! Wash them and use in the salad alongside the watercress
- If using the BBQ, follow all of the same steps, just cook the meat directly on the BBQ grill