Meet Kyle Snow, regular steak lover and self-proclaimed meat man. During this Christmas season, he offers up some much-needed guidance on what to explore at your dinner table.
Christmas is a time for family feasts with roast-laden tables, but far too often we have to give a stellar review for Aunty Sue’s dried out turkey roast. If you are Aunty Sue or have her ear, here is my breakdown on what makes for a great Christmas Roast.
We could all talk for days on our favourite elements of the perfect Christmas lunch, but for the sake of brevity, I have chosen to leave out the hams, potatoes, and turkey in order to focus on the beef roast.
Don’t be intimidated by the varying fancy names given to meat cuts by butchers. As a butcher myself, I can say that once we have broken it down, a lot of the extra name calling comes for the sake of convenience. As in “Oops, what was this piece again? Let’s call it a bladiblah and make it sound fancy.” The best cuts of meat are a language spoken by all and selecting a roast depends more on the where of the cow, than the what.
When considering the cut of meat for a roast, try to select something close to the hoof or horns of the cow, as these areas contain the highest levels of collagen in all cuts. Think of collagen as the glue that holds muscles together, with a fillet containing the lowest amounts and roast cuts containing the most. When a cut with collagen is slow cooked it will break down into gelatine and add beautiful juiciness and flavour to the roast. Butchers in Nairobi are getting better and better at selecting the different cuts according to their uses, so ask for a cut like brisket, flank roll, or my personal favourite, the topside roast, which is cut from the cow’s upper leg.
The next cut up from the topside roast is the rump, the first primal steak of the cow’s back end. Some places in Nairobi are now ageing these cuts in order to enhance the flavour and increase the tenderness of that cut. As with everything, the right artisan makes all the difference, and as the consumer, you should guide the butcher to get you the specific cut you want. A good butcher will appreciate your input. Additionally, many of us are good cooks and can roll cheese and herbs into the roast for you, or even season the cut, leaving you with the simple task of cooking.
Get the right cut, put it in the oven on a low temperature and then pour yourself a nice strong gin and tonic and enjoy the next 4-5 hours with your family in the sun. When dealing with oven temperature, somewhere below 200c but above 140c should be just right depending on the size of the cut. Add some beef spices and vegetables like carrot and onion around the cut that will evaporate their liquids and share flavours with the roast, leaving the cut flavourful and juicy. Ensure that the roast is covered with foil or in a good pot and you can check it every hour or so, making sure that there is still enough liquid to keep the cut tender and moist.
If you are in the Gigiri side of town, visit my butchery called ‘The Local Grill’ in Village Market, where the cuts are aged and specially made to order.