I've talked here before about eating less meat but of better quality for the sake of our health, the environment, and so on.
When it comes to eating better meat, you can't go past Eye Fillet Beef Steak.
OK, I see you throwing your hands in the air and declaring (with only the mildest hint of indignation) that who, in the current economic climate, can afford fillet steak? It's not 1986 now, after all.
But here's the thing: Communities can.
Fillet steak follows the same rules in a supply/demand/price-point market as any other product, and suppliers know this. On a per kg basis, no, you can't necessarily afford to buy fillet steak in meal-sized portions off the supermarket shelf. We certainly can't.
But any good butcher or wholesaler (like, say Prestons or Moore Wilsons in NZ) will supply fillet steak in whole lengths, and the price per kg is significantly less than you would pay for cut, trimmed, packaged fillets from the coldshelf.
But still, you argue, the price of a whole fillet ranges into the $40-50 mark, and who can justify that sort of a spend on one piece of meat?
Well, consider this: You're not paying a cent for bone, and virtually nothing for fat. Hunt for a lean cut of fillet steak, and your price per kg is practically 1:1, top-notch meat to dollar. No amount of chops, sausages or stewing steak will give you that degree of economic return.
With a full cut, you can also poke and prod to your heart's content, finding the most tender specimen. Yes, a soft, tender hunk of raw meat will cook up more tender than a tough piece. Amazing, eh?
Sorry, did I say something about community? Why yes, I did. It comes back to that matter of outlay. Who has the outlay to buy these large, if delicious, cuts of meat? Restaurants, for one.
Restaurateurs understand the economy of the whole fillet, and it works even better for small groups of people. Let's say, for example, a 2kg fillet, costing $40, is bought by two couples. That's $20 each.
Now, each of those couples have 1kg of fillet steak. A nice decadent size for a fillet steak if 200g, so that's five steaks, each costing $4.00. That's an $8.00 steak meal for two; I challenge you to find 400g of pre-cut steak on the cold-shelf in NZ for less than $10.00.
And of course, you don't have to be decadent. You can cut that steak into six, or eight, or even ten pieces. You may have a smaller piece of steak, but you still have top quality. And for the sake of our bowels, we shouldn't eat more than 100g of red meat a day anyway.
The only catch is that a 200g steak will cook more nicely than a 100g steak, so to get around this, just cut to 200g, cook as a single steak, then slice and share. Perfect.
It does require someone have a freezer, and that you cut and store the steak in individual portions, but that's not a big deal these days. Freezers are our friends.
This is just one way that reaching out to the people around you can improve not only your budget, but the quality of the food you're eating as well.
Give it a go. You'll thank me for it.
Now, what to do with that delicious, top quality steak? I've already written a detailed post on how best to cook pretty much any steak, but here's another lovely option: Herbed Garlic Butter.
Cook your steak as per that post, but you can flag the garlic at the preparation stage. The Herbed Butter will do all the hard work for you. Eye fillet steak will require less tenderising than other cuts as well, but a little bit of a bash never hurt.
Herbed Garlic Butter
100g soft, salted butter
2T fresh thyme leaves
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4T freshly grated parmesan cheese
Combine all ingredients in a mortal and pestle, or you can probably use a hand blender.
Scrape the butter onto a dish to pop on the table when the steak is served.
Be sure to fry a few mushrooms and onions around the side of the pan with the steak.
Scoop the butter onto the steak, along with the mushrooms and onions. Serve with oven-baked fries, eggs and a little green salad, just for colour.