When I first set eyes on this latest painting from the wonderful Bonnie Lalley, I was immediately reminded that I had not made any of my own bresaola for over two years! Not good. The time is ripe for making another – thank you for the prompt, Bonnie! Lemon and beef are such an Italian pairing – they squidge a shot or two of lemon over their carpaccio and their bresaola at will. And basil and lemon are seemingly ever present in any mediterranean kitchen – as essential for summer cooking as a bucket and spade are for a trip to the beach!
Bresaola is an air dried beef, aged traditionally for two to three months. I always use topside – it is possibly the best thing for this cut I reckon. You could use silverside too if you cannot get hold of a piece of topside.
The word Bresaola (formerly Brazaola, Brisaola or Bresavola) has uncertain origins.
Its etymology can be found in words like “brasa” (embers) or “brisa“: “brasa” were braziers used to dry air in the rooms used for seasoning process while the second one, brisa, is a dialect word for “salting”. It comes from a valley called Valtellina in the Northern Italian Alps in the Lombardy region. There are of course similar products around the world – chipped beef in the States, cecina in Spain, dendeng from Indonesia and brési from France.
Bresaola can be traced back to the 14th century in Italy and like so many cured meats, it was mostly farmers and their families who ate it – it was very much a way of simply preserving meat and it only escaped from Italy in the 19th century, first being exported to Switzerland, just across the border. It seems to be available in lots of places now, though I assure you, supermarket bresaola is nothing compared to those you can buy in Italy – or off a deli counter here in the UK. or indeed to your own home made version!
It is served mostly as an antipasti – or with salads – and is often seen added at the last moment to the magnificent pizzas they serve in the Piazza Navona in Rome, with large curly shavings of parmesan and a handful of fresh green glimmering rocket, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
(Now my mouth is watering-enough)
Right, my home cured bresaola is based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s version from his magnificent tome simply entitled, ‘Meat‘.
You will need the following:
3-4kg joint of topside beef
Then for the marinade:
1kg sea salt
12 sprigs of rosemary
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tsps of dried chilli flakes
5 strips of orange zest and 5 of lemon
1 bottle of a decent red wine
Mix together all the ingredients in a non metallic container that will hold the joint comfortably – indeed snugly. Add the meat and turn over to coat it well. Cover and leave in a cool place – a fridge will do if you have one large enough – otherwise an out house is fine. It needs to stay there for 5 days – but twice a day turn the joint over. After 5 days, remove the joint and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Wrap it in a double layer of muslin cloth, tie up with string and hang it in a dry but cool and draughty area, such as an outbuilding or covered porch. Let it hang for at least 10 days. 15 would be even better. You will feel that it has become hard to the touch. Wonderful!
Trim before serving. Take away the outer 5mm from the bit you are going to slice. Slice very thinly across the grain of the meat. It will be browner on the outside than the centre – that is as it should be. It can be hung in a cool place for a month and used as and when you need it. If the weather gets too warm you could pop it in the fridge. Always keep it wrapped in the muslin. Never cling film! It needs to breathe. That is why the stuff you buy from the supermarket in clear air tight plastic trays needs to be opened at least an hour before you serve it.
I made my first home cured bresaola one with my daughter, Hannah, and she loved the whole process. It is a great thing to do – fun indeed for all the family! And richly rewarding!