Lauraine Jacobs

Food Writer and Author of Delicious Books

Lauraine’s blog

3 July 2013


This story was published in my FOOD column in the Listener last week with the genius recipe for Angus Eye Fillet of Beef.

New Zealand grows grass in abundance; grass that feeds cattle and sheep to make our processed beef and lamb world-class. So it’s disturbing to hear that farming forecasters this week predicted that the impact of this summer’s long drought will result in a $1 billion loss to our economy.

In such a difficult season, North Auckland farmers, Chris and Karryn Biddles overcame the lack of growth in their paddocks, producing consistently tasty tender beef to win the 2013 Steak of Origin challenge. This competition organised by Beef and Lamb, the marketing arm of our meat industry, aims to find the most tender and tasty sirloin steak in New Zealand. It is open to beef farmers, retailers, wholesalers and foodservice suppliers.

The competition process involves an initial assessment of the sirloin steak at Carne Technologies in Cambridge, where each steak is aged for three weeks before being tested for tenderness, pH, marbling and % cooking loss. The most tender sirloin steaks went on to tasting tests, and at the Grand Final the judging criteria for the twenty finalists included measuring aroma, texture, flavour, tenderness and juiciness.

The Biddles have been regular winners with their beef, having been named NZ Producer of the Decade in 2012. Their farm, Te Atarangi Stud is at Te Kopuru on the stretch of coastline southwest of Dargaville. Chris Biddles credits his wife Karren for finishing the cattle to what he calls ‘rising health’ by moving them around every day or two to eat the best of the grass. The northern kikuyu grass, regarded as a nuisance by many, combined with chicory and plantain grasses makes for delicious steak that’s not too fatty. What surprised many other farmers was the winning entry was an Angus/Jersey cross. Biddles commented that some stud breeders around New Zealand “don’t approve of dairy cross beef.” It would seem, however that the proof is in the eating.

I asked the Biddles about their own favourite choice cuts of beef, and they agreed the front end of the animal is the tastiest. Those cuts, for Karryn’s long slowly braised casseroles with garlic, onions and vegetables, are firm family favourites.

The celebration prize-giving dinner was hosted by the Beef Expo in Feilding and served in the exposition hall by caterer Hester Guy and her team from Palmerston North. Lowing cattle and the accompany smells added to the country atmosphere. It was beefy meal with a tasting platter of beef treats, followed by marshmallow-soft eye fillet from the competition entrants.

Hester Guy offered some handy hints to accompany the following recipe she served; “This is a useful combination as the ingredients can be cooked in advance and reheated. Watch the juice from the beetroot though, as if there is too much juice it flows over the plate and makes the beef look extremely rare! Sometimes you may have noticed foil corrodes when used as a cover for foods to go into the oven. I will usually cover a dish with baking paper or greaseproof first to stop this happening.”


  • 4 medium beetroot
  • 4 red onions
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1kg eye fillet of beef

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wash the beetroot and simmer in plenty of water until tender enough to peel, (about an hour depending on the size of the beetroot.)
Meanwhile peel the red onions, leaving the root end attached. Cut each onion into 6 wedges. Toss into a roasting pan with 2 tablespoons balsamic and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes until the onions are tender but not too darkly caramelised. Keep aside. Peel the beetroot, cut into segments and toss in second roasting pan with remaining balsamic, olive oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper to season and some of the thyme leaves. Roast for about 15 minutes, tossing a couple of times. Allow to cool. Combine the beetroot and onions in one pan, tossing carefully and cover with foil. Reduce the heat in the oven to 160°C and reheat for 15 minutes when ready to serve with the eye fillet. To cook the eye fillet, season with a little extra olive oil, salt and pepper and the remaining thyme leaves. Heat a heavy frying pan and sear the meat on all sides. You may like to add a little extra olive oil to the pan. Once the meat is browned, place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove the beef, cover well with foil and a tea towel so the beef remains hot. Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes, then carve into neat slices and accompany with the red onion and beetroot mixture.

Serve with roast potatoes and steamed green beans. Serve 6. Wine match; syrah

Photo by Elizabeth Clarkson for the Listener

blog comments powered by Disqus