Tips on How to Buy Steaks

The average Irish person loves meat and it is usually a family favourite. My weakness is Steak. Some of my customers continually ask me what cut of meat would be best for a particular dish so I have decided to give some pointers on buying Steak and other cuts of Beef.

The number one tip I give customers is that a good butcher will be happy to answer any questions you may have, so ask! They should be knowledgeable about the various grades, cuts, how they should be cooked, and the provenance of the meat – was it reared on organic feed, grass-fed or factory farmed etc? The Grade of meat refers to the age, marbling, colour, and texture of the meat and will also be a determining factor in the price.

“We are what we eat” so another important factor a conscientious consumer might want to take into consideration is how the meat was reared? Know what the labelling means:

  • Grain-Fed: All cattle graze in the pasture for the first part of their lives, but grain-fed stock are then moved to feedlots where they’re fattened up on a concentrated mix of corn, soy, grains, and other supplements, plus hormones and antibiotics to prevent illnesses. Grain-fed cattle yield more tender (fatty) meat, and will usually cost less than organic, natural, and grass-fed, but you have to weigh the pros against all the other things they’ve ingested when choosing what’s right for you, and your family.
  • Natural: Means hormone and anti-biotic free. Much like an athlete who takes hormones to bulk up,  grain-fed cattle are given hormones to bulk them up faster for slaughter. This is done purely to increase the profit. Likewise, antibiotics are given to prevent illness – lessening the risk of having to put a sick cow down (and not be able to sell it). How many times have you heard your doctor say “you shouldn’t take antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, or you might become anti-biotic resistant when you really need them.” Do you really want to ingest them in your meat? There is absolutely no health advantage to you eating these chemicals, and there could quite possibly be health risks to you in the long term.
  • Grass-fed: Cattle graze entirely on grass as they were biologically meant to do. That means it’s better for the cow, and better for the environment. Grass is easier on their digestive system so they don’t emit as much ozone damaging methane gas, and less fuel is used in producing their feed.

 

Cuts of Beef
Finally, understanding the difference between the cuts helps in making your selection too, and this really boils down to personal preference.

Beef for Roasting – Sirloin, fore rib, fillet

Beef for Pot Roasting- Topside, silverside, brisket, thick flank.

Beef for Stewing and Braising – Chuck, shin, brisket, flank, neck, topside, silverside. (These cuts are also suitable for salting and boiling.)

Beef for Pies – Chuck, brisket, thick flank, shin (foreleg), shin or leg (hind leg).

If you want to serve steak you want to avoid all cuts that require a slow-cooking process to tenderize the meat. The most common cuts for steak are:

  • Fillet Mignon comes from the tenderloin, or most tender cut of beef. It also has very little fat, so it is a great option if you are watching your weight.
  • T-Bones & Porterhouse steaks are cut from both the striploin and tenderloin, so it’s like getting best of both worlds
  • Ribeye’s are a big steak house favourite because they have a lot of fat yielding flavour
  • Sirloin is another lower fat option, generally a more cost effective cut of meat with plenty of flavour, but can be on the tough side.

Beef is a great source of protein and iron. Making informed choices will help you decide what is right for you.

Roasted Garlic & Chili Rub

This versatile rub is an outstanding on any kind of beef, chicken, pork or shrimp. I sometimes find garlic already roasted at the store, which does save time, but it is very simple to do – just check out my note below. Any extra can be saved and used up to 5 days covered and refrigerated, but in my household it goes quickly.

Servings: 8

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes


Ingredients

Roasted Garlic & Chili Rub

  • 1 whole head garlic roasted and squeezed out of its paper like exterior
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil


Directions

Roasted Garlic & Chili Rub

  1. Squeeze roasted garlic out of it’s skins into a small bowl. Add chili powder, brown sugar, oregano and salt. Slowly add the olive oil, mixing into a paste consistency.

Serving Suggestions
Serve the rubbed and grilled beef, pork, chicken, shrimp or fish with mashed potatoes and simple grilled vegetables.

Heat To Eat
I like to rub my meat, poultry or seafood and store until I am ready to grill and eat; but you could also heat already cooked meats in the microwave on 50% power to heat without cooking further, for 3-5 minutes, turning midway to distribute heat evenly.

Notes
To roast the garlic: Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut a 4-inch square piece of foil and place on a sheet pan. Peel the papery outer layer of a head of garlic off, leaving the skins on. Cut 1/2-inch off of the top of the head of garlic. Place the larger piece of garlic on the square of foil on a sheet pan (save the rest for another use). Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the top coating well. Wrap the foil loosely around the head of garlic and roast in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and squishy when you squeeze it. Store any excess garlic in an airtight container coating the garlic in olive oil for up to one week.

Poaching Eggs

Poaching eggs is one of the easiest, quickest, and lowest calorie ways of preparing eggs, as there is no added fat. Poached eggs make great additions to salads or sandwiches, or just served simply with toast and a little salt and pepper.

Ingredients

  • Fresh eggs
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar (rice vinegar works well) (optional)

Method

1. Fill your saucepan with several inches of water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil.

2. While the water is heating, crack your egg into a shallow cup or bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. Before you add the egg to the water, reduce the water to a simmer, then gently slide the egg into the water.

3. Generally speaking, cook your egg for 2 minutes if you like them runny, 3 minutes for medium firmness and 4 minutes if you like a firmer yolk. The flowing white strands are nothing to worry about.

4. Even if you like your yolk runny, gently touch a thicker part of the egg white to make sure it’s firm, as you lift it from the water. If it is not, sink it back in the water a little while longer. When cooked, remove the egg with a slotted spoon so it can drain and serve immediately.

Randy’s Top tips

  • Fresh eggs will be easier to poach (they’ll hold together better) than older eggs.
  • Vinegar is optional, it will help the eggs hold together, but if you don’t like the taste, don’t use it.
  • To help your egg keep its shape, try swirling the water to create a whirlpool effect before adding your egg.

Alternatively, the truly easiest way to make poached eggs is with an egg poacher.

For a healthy egg option, try poaching your egg and serving on toast, with bacon or on a bed of fresh asparagus for an extra treat!

In the restaurant we serve our poached eggs for breakfast with Burren Smoked Salmon, baby spinach and our homemade 5 seed rye bread. All these ingredients are fantastic super foods: Smoked Salmon is a great source of protein, the antioxidant vitamin E, vitamin B-12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Spinach is high in protein, high in Vitamin A, high in Vitamin K and a great source of folic acid. Click here to find out more about Super foods

Enjoy

Randy

How to Roast a Red/Green Pepper

Ingredients
• Red/Green peppers
• Vegetable oil

1. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil.

2. Lightly coat red peppers with oil. I use a spray bottle and then wipe the peppers with a paper towel until they glisten. The oil is important because it gets very hot relative to the pepper, so the skin chars before the rest of the pepper can overcook. (Avoid extra-virgin olive oil as its smoke point is low and will burn).

3. Broil peppers on high gas setting until the skin blackens. About 4 minutes. Turn your exhaust fan on…this will get smoky! Alternatively you can pop these into the oven – they will take approx 45 minutes.

4. Turn peppers to cook the other side. You may need to continue turning and cooking a couple more times depending on how large the peppers are.

5. Once peppers are black and blistered, place in a bowl with a lid and allow to cool. The steam will help loosen the skins.

6. Once the peppers are cool, peel off the skins and remove the seeds under running water. The water isn’t absolutely necessary, but it certainly makes the job easier. A colander in the sink is great for keeping the mess to a minimum.

7. Dry peppers in a layer of paper towels and you’re ready to use.

 

Roast peppers will sit in the fridge for up to 2 weeks in oil and can be used for salads, sandwiches, soups, pastas, tapas platters etc

Enjoy!

Randy

Pressure cookers: they’re not as scary as you think

Pressure cookers aren’t made the same way they used to be. And that’s a good thing! I think we all have horror stories of someone using one of those original pressure cookers…the lid wasn’t on quite right, or the weight wasn’t placed just so, and the whole thing flew apart in an explosion of boiling hot liquid and partially cooked food.

They’re not like that anymore. Nowadays, they are fitted with a number of safety features – the most important of which is they won’t pressurize until the lid is locked in place, and won’t open until the pressure has been released from within. No more explosions. And they are significantly quieter, so the ever-present fear of an explosion is gone as well.

With that in mind, it’s time to give the pressure cooker another chance and recognize how useful they can be. If you’d rather be anywhere but the kitchen, then the pressure cooker is a wonderful addition to your appliance collection. Most foods will take half the time or less to cook. For example, boiling potatoes conventionally typically requires 20 minutes or so to cook once the water is boiling; in a pressure cooker, the time is reduced to about 9 minutes after the water boils. Most dried beans (after soaking) cook in about 10 minutes, lentils in 6 minutes. A beef casserole takes a half hour verses 3 to 4 hours conventionally. Or how about soup in 12 minutes instead of 45?

How do they work? They are used on foods that have at least some moisture or liquid in them. Once the lid is locked and the burner is turned on, the liquid begins turning into steam which becomes trapped inside. Since the steam has no place to go, the pressure inside the cooker builds, and as it does so, it increases the maximum temperature that the liquid could otherwise normally reach. Inside the pot, hot steam is infused into the food, so not only does it cook significantly faster due to the higher temperature, but it also retains its moisture.

So, as long as you have enough liquid to start, you end up with delicious, moist foods cooked in a fraction of the time. Also, food that is cooked quickly retains more nutrients, and less time on the stove means less energy being used. So pressure cooking = healthier, tastier food, on the table quicker, and saving money…what’s not to like?

I highly recommend you give pressure cooking a try.

You’ll be glad you did!

Thanks
Randy

Randaddys Shortcuts to save you time in the kitchen

For all us busy people, there’s not always a lot of time in the week to cook those tasty meals we all crave. We here at Randaddys have come up with some time-saving tips that are often used in professional kitchens, but can also save you some time at home too.

Multi-task
Chefs don’t stand around waiting for water to boil or the oven to heat up. Have the kettle boiled before you start, have the oven turned on. If you don’t have this done, do some other jobs in the meantime – chop the vegetables, set the table or get the plates organised. That way, as soon as everything’s heated up, you can start cooking straight away and have dinner on the table in less time.

Peeling
Peeling certain vegetables can be fiddly and time-consuming. Slice vegetables and meat thinly for even speedier results in the kitchen.

Choose foods that naturally cook quickly
Fresh noodles and pasta might cost a little more, but if your priority is time, they cook in just a few minutes. Gnocchi only takes around three minutes to boil, so try this when time is tight instead of dried pasta, which can take around 10 minutes. Fish fillets generally cook quicker than meat, and seafood such as prawns and scallops cook even quicker.

Prepare in advance

Prepare as much of your meal as you can, this all saves time when the dinner rush is on. Potatoes can be peeled and chopped for making chips or for roasting – leave them in a bowl of water in the fridge and just drain and pat dry with a clean towel before using. Gravy, stuffing and salads can also be prepared in advance, saving you time later on.

Clear up as you go
Pop vegetable peelings and empty packets in the bin as you go along. Wash any dirty chopping boards etc as you go. You’ll save yourself tidying up time afterwards.

If you have some time while you’re waiting for a lasagne or a stew to cook, for example, start washing up what you’ve used so far, instead of sitting down to watch TV. You’ll have less clearing up to do at the end of the meal and can then sit down and relax.

What are your top tips for speedy cooking during the week? We would love to hear them……..

 

How to cook the perfect battered fish….

This is an ideal dish for your guilt free Friday treat – Enjoy!

The secret of the bubbles – whether you prefer pollock or cod, with the skin on or off, everyone agrees that good batter should be light and crisp, which means getting some air into the mixture. There are two principal methods for doing so: adding a raising agent, such as baking powder or yeast, or making up the batter with a carbonated liquid, such as sparkling water or beer.

Perfect battered fish

Proper fried fish needs little in the way of fancy embellishments. Beer and raising agents, for flavour and volume, and good hot fat are all you need for pure, unadulterated happiness. (Oh, and a piece of fresh fish, of course.)

Serves 4

Dripping or oil, for frying
400g plain flour, put in the freezer for 15 minutes before using
3tsp baking powder
550ml very cold beer
4 pieces of sustainable white fish (I used pollock)

1. Heat the fat in a deep-fat fryer or chip pan to 185C. Whisk the baking powder into the chilled flour, along with ½ tsp salt, and then quickly whisk in the cold beer until you have a thick paste. This needs to be done just before you cook the fish.

2. Position the bowl next to the fryer or pan. Have a plate lined with kitchen paper ready. Dip your fish into the batter and then carefully lower it into the hot fat, and agitate the frying basket to prevent the fish sticking to it. This will also give the batter a more interesting texture. Do this one or two pieces at a time: don’t overcrowd the fryer.

3. Cook the fish for about 4–6 minutes, depending on size, keeping a watchful eye on it; it should be crisp and golden. Lift out of the fat and drain on kitchen paper then serve immediately.

Is battered fish an art best left to the professionals, or can you beat the efforts of your local chippie? Which recipe do you use, and what fish do you honour with it? And can anyone suggest a good recipe for proper mushy peas?

Slow Food Festival Clare

As the slow food festival of Clare approaches in May, one of the many topics on the agenda at the festival is Batch Cooking. Slow cooking is not all about making elaborate 4 hour dishes at home it’s about using raw ingredients to eat healthier.

The basic idea behind batch cooking is to create a double, triple, or even quadruple recipe of a particular meal or dish so that it can be quickly pulled together and served later on.
Cooking in advance has the serious advantage of saving time and money. You’ll waste less food (especially the perishables), and you’ll save money by doubling up your efforts on the spoils brought home from the supermarket. It’s also healthier, because you won’t need to buy convenience foods that are chock full of MSG, preservatives, sodium, and other unpronounceable chemicals.

There are a few methods of batch cooking, but essentially, it involves cooking a lot of food in advance. You can cook enough food to warrant freezing and stockpiling, and you can prepare scratch ingredients, helping you to cook without the fake ingredients found in so many shop-bought items. Some handy ways of storing your concoctions would be in freezer zip lock bags. This would cut down a lot of space.

In my opinion robust comfort foods are my favourite and are like fine wines and need time to do their own thing for fermentation. There’s nothing like a bolognese sauce the next day, there so many different things you can use it for and change it into. Some easy family favourites like bolognese can be made into things such as Lasagne, Chilli con carne, Chilly beef tacos, topping for your baked potato. Cottage pie and on and on……

So fire up your imagination, start changing your diet and cutting down your cooking times and start batch cooking!!!!

Can anyone suggest a good recipe to batch cook? Or if anyone would like a recipe for a nice bolognese just let us know 🙂

See you soon
Randy

A Traditional Christmas

How life changes, eh??? Having a few days R&R has had me thinking…. not something I do a lot of 🙂

Usually I am rushing about and so busy I don’t have much time for reflection… but over the past few days I’ve been thinking about how much my life has changed in recent years, especially when it comes to Christmas traditions.

Growing up in Canada I got used to snow at Christmas…. yes, all that picture postcard stuff that Irish people long for … we had snow every year!  So it was picture perfect.

On Christmas Eve it was all about getting home to my parents house.   The whole extended family would gather at the house, sometimes there could be as many as 60 people gathered around the table, from all corners of the world. As we all know, Canada is very multiculural. Everyone brought their own unique dish to share at dinner on Christmas Eve, but there would always be turkey and ham….. and with such a crowd the chatter and laughter would be something else.

Once dinner was finished, it was time to open presents.

Christmas morning everyone got suited up and we played ice hockey – trying hard not to kill ourselves or each other!!!!  It was a great way to work off all the excesses of the previous evening!  Mind you all that exercise and burning of calories was followed by a few pints and left-overs, so it is questionable that it did us any good at all???? I just loved those turkey sandwiches!  They always tasted wonderful after all that fresh air.

By Boxing Day (St. Stephen’s Day) everything would be kind of back to normal… but if you did have the day off from work, mostly it was all about shopping.

Since getting married to my beautiful Polish wife, Christmas tradition is quite different.  We are both getting used to the fact that we live by the sea in Ireland where the chances of snow are very very slight!!!

Now we celebrate Christmas in the Polish tradition with my wife cooking dinner on Christmas Eve.   I love having others cook for me 🙂  I like the lovely Polish tradition of sitting down to dinner on Christmas Eve as the first star appears – dare I say it, it adds a romantic feel to the evening 🙂

On Christmas morning, we exchange our gifts and take a walk down to the beach in Lahinch with the dogs, to watch the Christmas Day swim….. the key word here is ‘watch’.  I don’t know how those folks do it?  Jumping into freezing cold water!!  Maybe some year I’ll be brave enough to do it!!!  It would make me feel all virtuous then as I sit be the fire for the rest of the afternoon with a glass of wine and watch lots of movies!

And then St. Stephen’s Day….. it’s back to work.

Do you have family Christmas traditions?  How will you be spending Christmas?

However, you will be spending it, we wish you a very very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

See you soon

Randy

To market, to market…. and a simple Apple and Cinnamon pie recipe

Well this past weekend Randaddy’s attended our first ever market!  I know you probably won’t believe it, but we’ve never done anything like this before!

As it is the ‘off season’ we thought the market would be a great opportunity to get out there and meet people, and promote Randaddy’s…… just in case there are any folks who don’t know about us 🙂

We had no idea what to expect.

So we baked bread.  We made scones and cakes.  We whipped up some red pepper and leek hummus, and off we went to the Burren Christmas Family Fayre

What a great time we had!  Major thanks go to the team for all their help, to Majella and Patrick who worked tirelessly in the kitchen, and to Caitriona who manned the stand and has such a wonderful way with customers.   Thank you too to all you guys who came along and supported us, and gave us some wonderful feedback.  So thrilled that you all liked that Red Pepper and Leek Hummus….. there will be more made!

From a personal perspective, I loved meeting the people, I loved meeting other food producers and seeing just how much industry and activity is in the locality.

I totally enjoyed spreading the word about what we are doing at Randaddy’s and am so looking forward to welcoming new people to the restaurant in the new year.

And having been to one market….. I am off to another!  This time I will be on the other side of the stall though.  I am off to the Christmas Market at Doonbeg Lodge where I am hoping to meet lots of local producers, and maybe get some ideas for 2013.

What’s your favourite local market?  Should we be attending more?

Let us know what you think.

And to get those lovely aromas of Christmas going in the house, here’s a really easy recipe for Apple & Cinnamon pies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (17 oz/475g) package puff pastry
  • 3 large red baking apples
  • Small handful of walnuts, or chopped almonds or pecans
  • 75 g brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 beaten egg

Directions:

  1. Thaw puff pastry according to directions on package.
  2. Peel, core and chop apples up coarsely.
  3. Combine apples with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nuts.
  4. Heat oven to 350°F/180°C = gas mark 4
  5. Flour surface lightly and cut pastry sheet into eight 3 in x 3 in squares.
  6. Divide the chopped apples between 4 pastry squares brush edge with beaten egg.
  7. Place second pastry square on the top of the already filled pastry to form a pocket.
  8. Press down border with fingers to seal and then press with fork to decorate the edges.
  9. Make a 1-inch L shape incision into each pie and fold back the pastry flap.
  10. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and brush each square with some beaten egg.
  11. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until golden.

Enjoy!

Randy

If music be the food of love…

If music be the food of love, play on: William Shakespeare.

These words featured in Twelfth Night liken sensual music to food, which when played continually will, hopefully, sate a wild appetite for passionate pursuits. But old Will the quill inadvertently hit on a nugget of truth when making the comparison of food to music.

The common denominator with a recipe and a song is that they are made up of component parts, brought together in harmony. Put in the correct sequence and they taste/sound wonderful, but jiggle things about a bit and the results can be dire. For example: imagine a three course meal when a fresh prawn cocktail is presented with a liberal pouring of custard on top; or a juicy, thick slice of rare beef comes smothered in Rose Marie sauce; and apple crumble arrives swimming with lashings of onion gravy – not nice. Paraphrasing Eric Morecombe when playing piano (badly) with Andre Previn, ‘all the notes (ingredients) are correct, they’re just not necessarily in the right order.’ A great song is often simple, as is a great dish, but everything should be assembled in its proper place for the finished result to have the desired, stunning effect.

Music may well be the food of love, but I’ll take the risk on this occasion and change things around a little – if the love of food is music to my taste-buds, play on.