The Speciality Food Show is a great place to discover new food producers and identify food trends. The highlight this year was this stand that was showcasing this unusual beef from 16 year old cattle from the Basque country. Being a total Beef Geek, I was drawn to this stand by the aroma of beef frying on the hot plate.
This meat is sold by The Txogitxu Meat company who sources this from small farmers in the region. They currently supply meat to top restaurants in Spain including Juan Mari Arzak’s 3 star establishment in San Sebastian.
Beef from such old cattle is a real rarity here. Most commercially reared cattle for the supermarkets are slaughtered at 1-2 years old as it is not economically feasible to keep them longer. They fatten them up quick and sell them quicker.
In Spain, the most popular cut is the massive T Bone which is cooked whole on a hot plate, with a big handful of salt placed on the meat while cooking to enhance the flavours. This is served whole on the table as a sharing platter. Looking at the hunks of meat on display, you are instantly struck by the thick layer of buttery yellow fat and the dark red colour of the meat and the wonderful marbelling. I got to taste a few slices of this meat and it is tender and had a beefy but not overly gamey flavour.
I even got to take home a massive piece to cook at home. This I cooked on a very hot griddle pan that had been oiled by frying up some of the fat and served it rare. The marbling on the meat and frying in its own fat gave this steak so much flavour. The incredible smell from pan frying that massive steak was like the best perfume ever, if only it can be bottled. Not to waste anything, the fat surrounding the meat, I rendered down into a big bowl of beef dripping.
What’s so special about these 16 year old Basque cattle?
From their brochure, it was not possible to tell what breed they were and all the other questions one would typically ask. I have asked all these questions and more via email and will update this post when I get a reply.
What breed are the cattle?
What are they fed on?
How many heads of cattle ?
Why only old cattle?
What is the difference?
How long is the meat aged for?
About The Basque Country and Cider Houses Siderias
I did some searches online about this old beef and only managed to find one very old article from Time magazine talking about this being a tradition in that area. These Charcoal Grilled T Bone steaks have been served in the Cider Houses (siderias) of the region for the last 300 hundred years. Traditionally, they will shout out “Txotx” when they dramtically pour out the cider from barrels from a height. The “Txueleton”(sometimes chuleton) or the 1kg T Bone steaks are typically served simply charcoal grilled at these siderias.
I have not found anywhere in London that serves this yet but I expect we will be seeing this soon. Meat lovers, you will have try this beef for yourself. You will be amazed.
Would love to find out more and to visit their operations. Next stop San Sebastian.
You can find out more details about the company on their site.