6/05/2008 05:25:00 PM

Porterhouse in the front, 2 fillet steaks at the back.

Marge: Homer, I have to go out to pick up something for dinner.
Homer: Steak?
Marge: Money's too tight for steak.
Homer: Steak?
Marge: Eh, sure... steak.

No such problems for us recently! Yes, steak is expensive. And no, we don't have it that often. However, thanks to a very generous gift of top quality steak, we might have even had a bit of a beef overload.

2 weeks ago on Friday, we headed down to Vlado's Restaurant with a family friend for a massive meat-fest. (Click here for a step-by-step rundown of our previous visit.) It is an absolute paradise for meat lovers.

Clockwise from top left: char-grilled steak; "Vlado Junior" preparing the meat; desirably rare steak; meat fridge and prep area.

At the end of the evening, we were delighted when Vlado presented us with a foil-wrapped package of raw steaks to take home! How generous! I just knew I had to do something special with them. Of course, the day after a feast at Vlado's, there was no way I could eat another steak (in fact, I can't eat much at all the day after a feast at Vlado's), so I waited until Sunday before cooking them.

I decided to do Nigella's steak slice with lemon and thyme, from Nigella Express, AKA Nigella's "tender rump". For this, you quickly griddle a steak, and then marinade it in a lemon-oil-thyme-garlic mixture while it's resting. Simple, yet special. And, because the steak is sliced thinly, rather than served to you in a huge slab, I thought it would prevent a feeling of steak overload. However, when I unwrapped the foil package, I saw that Vlado had given us one sirloin and 2 fillets. I knew that the sirloin would be great for the tender rump treatment, but I thought the fillet could be put to better use. That's when I thought - carpaccio! Back in my early dinner party days, I'd often do a carpaccio/tagliata cross, inspired by a recipe from Jamie Oliver's The Return of the Naked Chef. His recipe uses a beef fillet, coated with a herb and spice mixture, which is seared and then thinly sliced. Back then, neither budget nor knife skills allowed me to do that recipe, so I'd always use rump steak, cook it medium rare, slice it reasonably thinly, and serve it on top of a pile of rocket. But now, with a super-sharp santoku knife and a real beef fillet, I knew I could try making proper carpaccio.

I wasn't sure if my parents would like a whole pile of almost-raw meat, so I only used one of the fillets for carpaccio. I got out my mortar and pestle, and bashed around a mixture of coriander seeds, peppercorns, chopped rosemary and salt, which I then pressed around the outside of the fillet. I seared it briefly on all sides, and let it rest. As for the tender rump, I used the sirloin and the remaining fillet, which I sliced in half lengthwise.

Clockwise from top left: Crusted fillet, seared carpaccio, steaks resting in marinade, meat frying in the pan

I decided to fry the steaks in my Le Crueset black enamel frypan, (similar one here but in a different colour), rather than my cheap-ass teflon griddle pan, so that I could get the pan up to a nice high temperature and get some serious crispy caramelisation on the steaks. Mmm... crispy.

Carpaccio. For the dipping sauce I used a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil. It was a good combination, the flavours being reminiscent of Japanese beef tataki.

I was surprised by how much my family liked the carpaccio! It really was delicious - the meat was meltingly soft and amazingly complex in flavour. (There's a great article here about how Vlado selects, stores, ages and prepares his beef.) The meat was sliced very thinly, and in small pieces, so there was no need to be worried about the rawness overpowering the dish.

Below we have some broccolini - Nigella's suggested accompaniment for the tender rump. You boil it briefly and then toss it in the dressing that the beef has been marinading in. The flavour was great, but I found the dressing a bit too oily for my taste, and would prefer a more astringent accompaniment to the rich beef. Next time I will increase the lemon-to-oil ratio.

Now, the tender rump! I know this isn't the prettiest presentation. Normally I'd be inclined to strew the meat over a pile of rocket, or place it on a bed of rice on a platter, but we were hungry and I was in no mood for further faffing about.

With the rice and the broccolini, it formed a very satisfying dinner. I think it would be quite healthy too, if eaten in sensible quantities - lots of iron from the meat and the broccolini.

Thank-you Vlado for the amazing meat! I can only hope that I did justice to his wonderful steaks.

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  1. This is horrifying for me to express this, as a vegetarian of nearly 12 years, but that looks absolutely amazing. And how lovely of them to provide such sustenance!

  2. Thank-you! That means a lot! You've been vegetarian for 12 years? Well done, that is a huge achievement. Respect.

    Yes, Vlado was very generous with us that evening. Whatta legend!

    xox Sarah

  3. Sarah, that looks fantastic! You definitely lived up to Vlado's thoughtful gift, of course!

  4. The steak looks fantastic Sarah, especially the carpaccio. But why did Vlado just give you some raw steaks? I don't get it. Did you talk to him about steak or something during the night. My work mate has been there many times and never got raw steaks to take home.

  5. Hi Lisa - Thank-you!

    Hi Thanh - I'm not quite sure why he gave us those steaks. We were very surprised too. My Dad has been there a couple of times without me, and is a bit of a regular, but we still couldn't figure it out. (Not that we were complaining!!)

    Maybe the steaks were approaching their use-by date and Vlado needed to get rid of them? LOL.

    xox Sarah

  6. WOW. Who is this Vlado fellow and how can I make friends with him? I love that you have a Simpsons Quote tag...I just love that you quote the Simpsons LOL. That steak looks stunning, (all of it!) I haven't had steak in forever :(

  7. Hi Laura -

    Vlado is the steak king of Melbourne! He's a really lovely old Croatian guy. Really sweet just like a teddy bear, hehe.

    Did you check out the article I linked in the blog? It was so interesting, and he's so passionate about his job. Here it is again. :o)

    Thanh - I was just thinking about it; I think in general that when restauranteurs/cafe owners give you gifts like that it's really awesome for customer relations. For instance, if Vlado is selling 100+ steaks a night, giving away 3 might not be a huge financial loss to him, but we (the customer) see it as a really generous gift, and are more likely to return and be loyal to that restaurant. (Not that I'd need extra encouragement to go to Vlado's for steak!!!) Same goes for the occasional free coffee or extra cookie at your favourite cafe or something like that. What do you think?

    xox Sarah

  8. I totally agree with you Sarah. Any free gift from a restaurant would be greatly appreciated. Usually you get a free thing if you say talk to the waiter and say that you really like their coffee blend. They might then give it to you for free since you really appreciate it.

    But I've never heard of anyone getting a free raw steak. Even a free coffee is rare. I've only ever got a free glass of wine, and that's becaues I was so clumsy and knocked over my own glass.

    You really have to ask them why they were handing out free raw steaks. Maybe it was nearly past its used by date. But I doubt that very much as they would be turning over meat so quickly there. Or maybe Vlado junior fancies you. Hahahaha. And this is his gift to you.

  9. Hi Thanh,

    BUAHAHAHA! I thought flowers were a traditional way to woo women! I've never heard of steak. Imagine for Valentine's Day receiving roses, chocolates and a big ol' hunk of steak!

    I've spilled my wine in a restaurant too. So embarrassing!

    I wonder if my dad was talking to Vlado about how much I love cooking? Dad's pretty friendly and chatty. Come to think of it, last time we went Vlado gave me a take-away container full of his cabbage salad because we raved about it to him. It's sooo yummy!!

    Even though it's great to be friendly, I wouldn't purposely start chatting to waiters/restauranteurs just to get free stuff; not my style. But it's cool when you do get a little surprise!

    xox Sarah

  10. Maybe steak is the new black for wooing people.

    I wouldn't talk to staff just to get free stuff. But if I am really appreciative of something or inquisitive, I would talk to them about it. If they are then nice enough to give me some freebie, I would be very thankful.

    I'm pretty sure your dad must have mentioned something about steak to the staff. Otherwise I think it is rather strange that they should just give you a free steak.

    If you ever go back, if you can find out why you got a free steak, that would be really good.

    Now I really really want to go to Vlado's. That's been on my list of places to go to for ages, but just haven't found the right group of friends to go.

    By the way, I'm going to Bistro Guillaume next Saturday. Any recommendations for entrees and mains?

  11. Hey Thanh,

    Ooh Bistro Guillaume!! Well, firstly, I'd avoid any of the desserts apart from the lemon tart and maybe the petits fours and coffee.

    I loved my terrine, and the scallop entree was INCREDIBLE! I had the steak frites with bearnaise for my main and it was just perfect. Hope you have a good time!

    xox Sarah



My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.