I saw this recipe on the Food Network Show, Destination Flavour: Japan. Presenter Yoshihiro Narisawa described it as one of the greatest things he’d ever tasted and given that he makes his living from tasting things I figured it would have to be THE greatest things I’d ever taste.
The recipe involves making a leek charcoal by charring leeks over special wood charcoal for 12 hours, the blitzing it to a powder, before using it to coat stove-top roasted Hida rump steak.
All well and good if you live in Japan and have access to the specialist ingredients, not to mention your own brazier.
But I was determined to try it and to that end, somehow re-create it in my own kitchen.
But first, here’s the original recipe, in case you do happen to have a brazier in your vicinity. And you can also watch the video of the masters in action here.
Japanese leeks (negi)
Wagyu beef rump
Salt and pepper
Red wine veal jus, to serve
1. On a wire rack suspended high above a brazier of binchotan charcoal, very slowly dry and roast the leeks for at least 12 hours or until they are a brittle black charcoal. Allow to cool, then grind to a fine powder.
2. Season the beef. Heat oil and butter until in a heavy-based frying pan to about 60°C. Add the beef and slowly pan-roast over low to medium heat, while continuing to nappé (lightly spoon) the butter and oil mixture over the beef, for about 30 minutes or until it is cooked medium-rare all the way through.
3. Roll the beef in the leek charcoal and serve with a red wine veal jus.
Looks AMAZING, doesn’t it?
But can it be achieved at home? I have a Cameron’s smoker and a Sous Vide water bath. Surely with such tools I could achieve something close to the ‘best I’ve ever tasted’ Japanese version
Here’s what I did, and the ingredients I did them with…
750g centre-cut fillet of beef, cut into two 7-8 cm-thick steaks (this one is Aberdeen Angus, sourced from my butcher pal Bob from Barratt’s in north London)
8 tbsp oak wood chips (for the smoker)
3 large leeks, cut into 5 cm-thick rounds
200g unsalted butter
1. To make the leek charcoal. Add the woodchips to the bottom of a smoker. Put the leek rounds on a wire rack and put into the smoker. Close the lid of the smoker and put on the hob over a low heat and smoke for 3 hours. This will impart a very smoky flavour. The leeks will have turned black but they will still be soft because there is still moisture in them.
2. Preheat the oven to 120C/Gas 1. Remove the lid from the smoker and transfer the smoker, with the leeks, into the oven. Cook for 1 hour, then turn the oven off and leave the leeks in overnight.
3. The next day, the leeks will be blackened, charred and brittle. Transfer to a spice grinder or coffee grinder and blitz to a powder. Transfer to an airtight container until you’re ready to use.
4. Meanwhile, vac-pack the beef fillet steaks in separate Sous Vide pouches. Preheat a Sous Vide water bath to 57.5C. Immerse the pouches into the water and leave for 1-2 hours. This will give you medium-rare beef.
5. After 1-2 hours, remove the pouches from the water bath. Snip open the pouches and drain off the juices. These can be added to the red wine jus.
6. Heat a heavy-based frying pan to very high. Sear the beef on all sides until you develop a nice, brown crust. Add the butter and spoon over the beef for 4-5 minutes to continue the browning process.
7. Remove the beef from the pan and leave to rest for a couple of minutes.
8. Scatter the leek charcoal power over a plate and roll each beef steak in the powder.
For the red wine jus
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 chopped shallots
175 ml port
175 ml red wine
1 sprig rosemay
1 bay leaf
759 ml good beef stock
Salt to tase
2 tbsp butter
1. To make the red wine jus, qdd the oil to a small frying pan and gently cook the shallots until golden, approx. 7 mins.
2. Add the port, wine and herbs and reduce by half
3. Add the stock and reduce by half
4. Strain through a sieve and bring back to boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter
5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Serve drizzled over the beef with mashed potatoes and sautéed leeks, if you like.
So what’s the verdict?
‘Unusual’ is the first word that springs to mind. The leek powder added smoky, oniony, bitter notes to the perfectly cooked beef. It was certainly different, and memorable, and an experiment I’m glad I did, but it definitely wasn’t one of the ‘greatest things I’ve ever tasted’. Not even close.
My wife’s verdict was more savage: ‘Why are you giving me steak rolled in fag ash?’