When we teamed up with True Aussie Lamb and Beef for a meat cooking masterclass, chef Tarek Ibrahim was the man on the stoves. Here, the celebrated master chef lets us in on his cooking secrets
Your enthusiasm for cooking was so clear at our event. Why do you love food so much?
I grew up in a house full of ladies, my grandmother, mother, two sisters and an aunt, who cooked all day long. All the food was home cooked from scratch, baking, pickling, curing. I learnt from them the value of food and cooking became second nature to me from an early age. My family instilled in me the love of food.
What drew you to hosting this event, and what is so special about Aussie lamb and beef?
I love to be in front of people and be on the stage – there is nothing better than cooking for people you don’t know and watching their reaction. In my opinion, Australian meat is the best in the world. Australia is not a polluted country and there is plenty of room for the animals. The farmers and producers see the safety and quality of their meat as very important. They treat their animals with respect so animal welfare is very good.
Why do you prefer to cook ‘secondary cuts’ like beef cheeks and oyster blade?
Secondary cuts have incredible flavour, and it’s not difficult to make it taste great, especially if it’s cooked over a long period of time. Also, it’s very inexpensive.
How did you set about creating the recipe published here?
I really like simplicity in cooking and not using too many ingredients so people can enjoy what they’re eating. It’s about knowing how to match food together. The cauliflower purée has a very soft and creamy texture and then you have the meat which is sweet and gelatinous. The fried vegetables add crunchiness and the whole dish is a fantastic combination of sweet and salty tastes and different textures.
Aussie Beef Cheeks with Glorified Cauliflower Mash
For the meat
4 beef cheeks, cleaned
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sweet chilli pepper
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
¼ tsp coriander
1 tsp brown sugar
For the mash
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tbsp butter
1 litre full fat milk
1) Place the cleaned beef cheeks in a heavy cast iron pot with all the spices and half a cup of water. Cover and put in the oven on the lowest setting, around 90˚C, for six hours. Check every two hours and add liquid if needed, ensuring it remains around a third of the depth of the meat, until the meat is fork tender. 2) Remove the meat from the pan and cut into pieces around 120g each in size. Leave the liquid in the pot and set aside until needed for sauce. 3) Place the cauliflower florets in a saucepan with the milk, one tablespoon of butter, and some salt and pepper. Simmer until very soft. 4) Once cooked, drain the milk into a jug. Place the cauliflower into a blender and start to blend, adding the milk back little by little to achieve a silky consistency. Blend through the remaining tablespoon of butter to finish. 5) To serve, place a heaped serving spoon of cauliflower purée on a serving plate. Place two or three pieces of meat on top, spoon over the reserved cooking sauce. We served ours topped with deep fried vegetable julienne, dill and chopped chives.