Friday, 24 July 2009

Black Pepper Beef with Mushrooms

So I finally got round to doing some actual cooking for this blog. Unfortunately, things did not turn out well.

Whilst studying in London, the most affordable cuts of beef that you would find are the casserole beef, and the Basics frying steaks. The former is available both in regular and basics varieties. Having been here for some time now, I'm quite familiar with dealing with casserole beef, and have used it successfully for group dinners on a number of occasions. However, I've yet to try the Basics version, because I can't find it in myself to serve low-quality food to my guests and friends. Besides, the regular one is only 50p more...

The existence of this blog has given me an excuse to try it out. While I was at it, I thought I would also take the opportunity to experiment in another area. One of the main problems with casserole beef is that if not handled and cooked properly the meat can be very tough. Tenderising the meat was often done either physically with a kitchen utensil, or through the use of appropriate marinades, such as wine or vinegar (both are acidic). More recently I've discovered that the use of Bicarbonate of Soda works too, although they can significantly alter the flavour of the food, and has to be washed before use.

This time round, I thought I might try to use Basics sparkling water, which is effectively carbonic acid, to try to tenderize the meat. It turned out to be a disaster: The sparkling water was dyed red, and when I poured it away I also lost whatever juice/blood/liquid that gave the beef its flavour. Setting it in lashings of black pepper and garlic did not do much to help the situation.

This blog post will also be the first one involving rice. Sainsbury's stocks Basics long grain rice, which is American long grain, as opposed to the Thai long grain that we're familiar with. The rice is broken, so you won't get whole grains. You might think this is a small point, but it seems to add to the enjoyment of the meal. Somehow.

Photos showing the cooking process...

Other than the silly mistake with the beef, everything else was okay. The onions taste just like the regular ones, as do the mushrooms, so if you're not fussy about sizes it could be worth the price. The garlic tasted a little sharper than what I am used to, but that could be due to my steeping it in the beef overnight. The rice, other than being broken, is a little starchier than what we are used to.

DescriptionPrice per UnitNo. of servings
Trade-up Premium
Trade-up Benefits
Diced Beef

2+£0.50, incl bulk discount (2 for £6)
Not known, this time anyway
Mushrooms£1.466 (700g)

+£0.54 (750g)
More consistently shaped mushrooms

Onions£0.67many (1.5kg)

+£0.33 (1kg)
More consistently sized mushrooms
Garlic£0.39variable (2 odd-sized bulbs)
+£0.21 (2 loose bulbs)
Bigger, more consistently sized bulbs
Black Pepper
Better tasting pepper. Recommended.
Sparkling Water
Mineral water vs Distilled water
Long Grain Rice
Broken vs Whole grains, higher quality. However, both are American; get Thai rice from Chinatown instead.

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