Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Discovering Aitchbone Joint of Beef

What do you mean, you've never heard of aitchbone beef? 




(To be honest, neither had I.)

I wrote an article recently for Yahoo! Lifestyle on 'lost cuts' of meat that butchers and chefs think we should be eating more of. There are so many cuts of meat that are falling by the wayside while people queue up to buy their pre-packaged chicken breasts, burgers and steaks. How about liver? Kidneys? Ox and pig cheeks? And then, of course, there's this magnificent cut, called an aitchbone. 




I had a Twitter convo with Ant from Well Hung Meat Co (which is where I buy my meat, each month) about the cut, which he proposed as one of the 'lost cuts' in danger of being forgotten completely. After a bit of messaging backwards and forwards about what it tasted like, he very kindly offered to cut one up and send it to me to photograph for the article and then cook for myself, to see what it was like. You know, to satisfy my curiosity. Was I excited. Like, TOTALLY.

The aitchbone, he told me, is a Victorian cut and could even actually date to earlier times. A lovely traditional, British, historic cut of meat. People have been eating it for around 200 years - at least. It's lean, and can be roasted slowly or pot-roasted. Except with this one there was no way I was going to get it into a pot. It weighed over 6kg. 

After a bit of online research I decided I was going to roast it slowwwwlly, to medium. A quick look at a reputable online roasting calculator revealed I had to cook it for nearly six hours. 

NEARLY SIX HOURS? 

NOPE. 

I roasted it for 4 hours, at gas mark 5. 

The smell of the beef cooking was amaaazzzing. I spent all morning thinking about thick gravy and spicy horseradish sauce. I took a peek 2 hours in. It had turned all burnished and the layer of fat on the outside had started to render down. I clapped my hands together a little bit (as you do) and quickly closed the oven door. 



When the 4 hours were up, I gave it a prod - it felt about right, still a bit bouncy - then left it to rest while I went on the school run. It's about 30 minutes. When I came back, I gingerly cut into the beef, hoping it wasn't too raw on the inside. After all, I'd undercooked it by 2 hours, according to the roasting calculator. 

But it wasn't raw. It was WELL DONE. But I didn't actually mind. Just look at it...




There were some pinkish slices at the centre of the joint, so I snaffled those up pretty quick. But OH MY GOODNESS the beef. Even my nine year old joined me at the kitchen worktop, gluttonously grabbing chunks of juicy, hot beef while I sliced it into it with my knife. We fought over the crispy bits that had meltingly tender beef on the other side. It was LUSCIOUS. And although it was cooked a little bit more well done than I had hoped for, it was still juicy and tender. 




This episode taught me this:  

You must try these forgotten cuts of meat - don't just stick to your mince, sausages and chicken legs. It would be a shame if these cuts vanished - and I can tell you this was one of the best roast beef dinners we could remember (and my husband's from Argentina and he's precious about his beef). Embrace the kidneys, the liver, the cheeks, the trotters, the tongue - even the cuts that seem old-fashioned and have a reputation for being chewy and tough. Usually the secret's all in the way you cook it. It's morally right, too, if you're a meat-eater (you eat the whole animal rather than a few bits of it) - all you need is a bit of advice on cooking and what it tastes good with. 

Have you ever tried aitchbone? What are your favourite 'lost cuts' of meat?