The French cuts of steak are far more imaginative than in England and there is such a wide range. They have chateaubriand, a large cut for several people, tournedos, small compact round steaks cut from the eye of the fillet and closer to the narrow end of the fillet, filet mignon.
Then there is entrecote (literally, ‘between the ribs’). There is also faux filet or contrefilet, the lean eye of meat which runs along the top of the sirloin. What no doubt irks the French is that the steak was introduced to France by the English as the occupying forces after The Battle of Waterloo. Ah well, but at least they have turned them into a real art. Jack, my son, always eats steak frites with a peppercorn sauce when ever we set foot in a French village. From quite an early age he has always loved his steak rather worryingly rare, in fact ‘bleu’. It sometimes was so rare it walked to the plate on its own. Hannah, my daughter always loved jambon frites when she was young, the ham hanging off the side of the plate, and she always had to have mayonnaise with it…oh, and a sirop à la fraise. Odd thing, habits in the young! They always tried other dishes at other restaurants, but stuck to their favourites. I cannot deny that although I do not eat a great deal of red meat these days, a bloody good steak hits the spot. And there in lies the problem. Getting a really good steak is not always easy. A lot of pubs and restaurants in England have become lazy and the steaks they serve are often rather lack lustre or poorly cooked. My faith,however, in chefdom was restored the other day when I had the most magnificent onglet at a Raymond Blanc brasserie in Winchester. This for me is French steak at its very very best. Onglet has a big, fantastic and unique flavour all of its own. Cut from the grass-fed, slow- matured additive-free and carefully aged rib cage, Onglet has an old fashioned real meaty flavour, with a light offaly and gamey tone, which is much prized throughout France and is now getting a foodie following in this country. Seared on a hot griddle – and cut across the grain to shorten the fibres, this is a beautiful delicious and rare cut that just has to be tried. Please, please, please, search it out and buy some! My friends at Parsonage Farm in Hampshire, where I buy a lot of my meat, will certainly cut some for you. Be a devil, and try some.