When I was offered 50 to organise a Big Night In by Money Supermarket, my first question was: Whats the catch? Well the catch was that I had to mention Money Supermarkets Big Night In. So, there, Ive done it twice. Obligation met. Onto the fun stuff.
As a reluctant housedad, 90 per cent of my life is spent indoors. Nights are, more often than not, In, and very rarely Big. But even the worst hayfever sufferers wouldnt sneeze at 50 and so with a little imagination, a lot of preparation, some thoughtful ingredients-sourcing, a calculator and a Sous Vide water bath, my wife and I decided to go to Glastonbury to watch The Rolling Stones from the comfort of our living room.
OK, we still had to scream upstairs to tell the kids to go to sleep every five minutes, but it turned into one of the biggest and best nights in weve had for a long time. If theres no such thing as a free lunch, there apparently is such a thing as a free dinner!
Grilled halloumi with chilli, garlic and lemon dressing (Cost: 4)
48-hour Sous Vide Welsh Wagyu Silverside Beef on a bed of homegrown salad and freshly picked new potatoes with mustard-mint sauce (Cost: 17)
Homegrown strawberries dipped in 70% cocoa chocolate (Cost: 1.50)
Arabella South African Chenin Blanc (Cost: 8.99)
M& S Barolo (Cost: 17.99)
TOTAL COST: 49.48
Couldnt be simpler: a portion of haloumi cost 2.99 from M&S. Carve it into 1cm-thick slices, then drizzle with a little olive oil. Heat a ridged grill pan and cook the haloumi slices for 1-2 mins on each side, until you get the attractive scorched lines. Once cooked, toss in a dressing made with 3 tbsp olive oil, juice of half a lemon, finely chopped flesh of 1 red finger chilli (not the seeds) and 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves.
Beef was always going to be the focal point of this meal. But what beef? And how to cook it? The worlds tastiest and most expensive beef, Wagyu, was the luxury option. The first time I tried it was at Jason Athertons Maze Grill for my birthday, where one rib-eye steak cost a wallet-busting 110. Ive managed to source cheaper Wagyu from Australia since then, but even so, one sirloin steak still set me back 30.
The answer was to go for a cheaper, tougher cut but to cook it long and slow in my trusty Sous Vide water bath to break down the connective tissues to a achieve a big flavour result that was also extremely tender.
But where to source it? There is a chap in Wales called Ifor, who is one of the only farmers in Britain to breed wagyu (also known as kobe) cattle. He sells his beef through Alternative Meats, and although some cuts were beyond my BNI budget, a 1kg cut of silverside would set me back just 12.95. Bargain!
When it arrived, I couldnt believe the marbling and immediately carved off a thin slice to pan-fry for a minute-per-side to test its tenderness. It was magnificently juicy, extremely beefy, but as I expected a lot tougher than more expensive cuts.
Which brings us to the Sous Vide. This method of cooking involves sealing your ingredients in a vacuum pack and then immersing it in a water bath set at a very low temperature. More tender cuts need relatively short cooking times, but tougher cuts such as silverside need to be cooked for one, two or even three days at 55C to achieve supreme tenderness. This very gentle, slow cooking gradually breaks down the collagen the connective fibres that make the meat tough. However, it can also result in quite dry meat something that isnt a problem with wagyu, which stays very moist because of the magnificent web of marbling that runs throughout the muscle.
After the cooking time, remove the vac-pack from the water bath and snip open. Drain out the juices and pat the beef dry. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sear the beef all over to brown it (just to make it more attractive).
When youre ready to serve, use a very sharp knife to carve into very, very thin slices.
To make the sauce: put 1 tbsp grain mustard, the juice of half a lemon, 20 mint leaves and 2 egg yolks into a blender and whiz for a few seconds. Slowly pour in 4-5 tbsp olive oil and continue to whiz, stopping when you have a dressing the consistency of double cream.
Serve the beef slices on a bed of salad leaves and boiled new potatoes (both picked from my wifes roof terrace garden), with the sauce drizzled over.
These strawberries come from my wifes roof terrace garden. Simply melt some dark chocolate and dip the strawberries in the chocolate. Put on a sheet of baking parchment until the chocolate sets. Biting into the bitter crisp chocolate to get to the juicy sweet strawberry flesh is pure decadence.
AND THE ENTERTAINMENT¦.(I CAN GET LOTS OF) SATISFACTION!!