Wednesday 18 May 2011

achiote & tequila cured beef w pozole rojo

Image supplied by Ellie

"Paddock to Plate" Beef Degustation

A few weeks ago I participated in a very exciting event organised by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and hosted by Warren Turnbull and his team at Assiette.

A lot of organisations are jumping on the social media band wagon, not understanding the differences between social media and traditional media.

You can’t just broadcast one-way to bloggers and expect them to pick up your content with interest. Blogging is about interacting with your readers and the world, not just a blathering monologue.

Sorry, was I blathering?

The point I’m trying to make here is that MLA created a social media event to draw food bloggers in a fundamental way: they made us the event. Clever.

So, eight bloggers were invited to learn more about beef with the help of a well-known Sydney-based chef, Warren Turnbull of District Dining and Assiette.

Each of us were allocated a cut of beef to create our own recipe and then Warren and his team would transform it into a restaurant dish for a special degustation dinner. Genius.

Beef producer, Alison McIntosh, handed over one of her prized Angus steers and Anthony Puharich, CEO of Vic’s Premium Quality Meat and owner of the fabulous butchery Victor Churchill, made the cuts and shipped them out.

I got given the beef knuckle. I had no idea how to cook a beef knuckle or even what it looked like! I thought it might be something I’d need to braise for hours. Nope!

Luckily Warren explained that a beef knuckle is a big slab of meat, often called a beef round, and is usually slow cooked as a roast.

One of the best parts of the challenge was talking through my ideas with Warren. It was fun to workshop recipes with a chef and even more rewarding to introduce him to some new ingredients (like hominy and achiote).

I think he was pretty excited about the opportunity to experiment too.

I steered him towards a pozole recipe, and he encouraged me to give curing a go. I think we were both happy with the results.

Here’s what I came up with.

Achiote & Tequila Cured Beef Knuckle with Pozole Rojo

Anna's recipe. Serves 8-10.

Achiote & Tequila Cured Beef Knuckle

1.5kg beef knuckle eye, trimmed
330g (1½ cups) raw sugar
100g (1 cup) sea salt
190ml (¾ cup) tequila
1½ teaspoons achiote paste
4 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
½ teaspoon dried epazote (or dried oregano)

Extra for roasting:
1 teaspoon achiote paste
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Grind the peppercorns and coriander seed with a mortar and pestle until coarsely crushed.

2. Add sugar and salt and grind a little. Add oregano.

3. Mix achiote paste with tequila to loosen it up, then add to sugar and salt. Mix until it has the texture of wet sand.

4. Lay a few layers of plastic wrap down, then coat all sides of the meat with a thick layer of the curing mix.

5. Wrap tightly then refrigerate for 24hrs (use a plate in case it leaks).

6. The next day, unwrap the meat and scrape off all the curing mixture. Wash and pat dry with kitchen paper. The meat will be darker and the exterior will have hardened a little.

7. Preheat the oven to 170’C (350’F).

8. Mix together the olive oil and extra achiote paste as well as you can. Rub the achiote oil mixture all over the meat.

9. Place on a roasting rack in a roasting tray. Set aside and allow the meat to come to room temperature.

10. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes for rare, but no more than 1 hour or until the centre reaches 50’C (120-125’F)

11. Remove roast and allow to sit for 20 minutes before cutting. Serve in thin slices.

Pozole Rojo (Red Hominy Soup)

822g can pozole (hominy)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon achiote paste
2 onions, grated
12 garlic cloves, grated
2 chipotles chillies (in adobo sauce)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 litres beef consommé
Pinch of sugar
Salt, to taste

1 avocado, cubed
3 limes, juiced
½ iceberg lettuce, shredded
¼ cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
½ cup diced radish
½ cup crumbled queso freso (or tangy feta)
Thin slices of Achiote & Tequila Cured Beef Knuckle (above)

1. In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add pozole and cook for 15 minutes. Drain.

2. Heat olive oil in heavy based saucepan.

3. Add achiote paste, onion and garlic. Mash paste throughout and fry until mixture becomes dry.

4. Add chipotles and fry a little.

5. Then add tomato paste and fry until thickened.

6. Next add beef consommé and sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

7. Add pozole and simmer a further 5 minutes.

8. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice to taste.

9. Ladle soup into bowls. Pass garnishes separately so people can add to taste.

~ ~ ~

So, how did it look when Warren and the team were done with it?

Much more beautiful of course! It’s actually amazing to see how much skill and artistic talent chefs bring to humble home cooking.

Warren said they stuck to the curing recipe pretty closely, but reduced the tequila. But the biggest difference was the addition of agar agar to the soup broth transforming a warm dish into a cold one served with a thick sauce rather than soup.

The Assiette team were quite nervous that I wouldn’t like it, or that the flavour of the soup wouldn’t be the same, but once you mixed all the ingredients together and started to eat it could have been the very same dish as mine.

It was quite an amazing experience and the best social media PR event I’ve been invited to take part in because we were truly included rather than just bystanders. Kudos to Haussmann Communications for coming up with it and bravo to MLA for having the sense to agree. Take note other PR agencies!

Image supplied by Ellie

The full list of dishes served on the night really showed the diverse ways beef can be cooked and eaten.
- Beef & Ale Pie
- Achiote & Tequila Cured Beef Knuckle w Pozole Rojo
- Seared Sirloin, Buttered Roots, Horseradish & Wakame
- Thai Beef Salad w Mint, Peanuts & Chilli Dressing
- Beef Satay w Spicy Peanut Sauce, Rice Cake & Herb Salad
- Scotch Fillet w Moghrabiyeh
- Pulled Beef & Pine Mushroom Cannelloni
- Braised Beef in Coffee w Brandied Cumquats & Onion Milk
- Slow Braised Brisket w Cauliflower Cream & Pedro Ximenez Muscatels

If you want to see all the dishes of the night, check out these posts on my fellow blogger’s site:
Almost Bourdain
The Food Blog
The Gourmet Forager
Inside Cuisine


  1. So beautiful and creative - I've never had beef knuckle before either. Love the curing, I imagine this must have tasted incredibles!

  2. hanna - thanks. it did taste pretty damn good. almost margarita-like from the tequila salt mix. it's quite a salty meat in the end so you need something strong with it (ie the soup) to balance out the flavours.

  3. I have to agree with you that it was a very well organized event and love the involvement and engagement. Not often we get this sort of opportunity. It was lovely to meet you and taste the wonderful flavours of your outstanding dish.

  4. Ooh I would love to try your dish in the original intended version - I love the sound of your soup. And I agree, best execution of engaging bloggers that I've seen.

  5. ellie - thanks for the images of my dish. i'm so sad you're not blogging anymore.

    forager - it was fun to hang out with you and fouad and i loved your pulled beef & pine mushroom cannelloni, even if you're over pine mushrooms! :)


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