Other than boerewors, beef is not something I braai very often. I simply think most cuts of beef respond better to other cooking methods. And at R140+ per kilo, beef steak – whether it be rump, sirloin or fillet – is not something I’m overly keen to feed the masses on.
But last time I checked, a cow consisted of more than just fillet or rump. In fact, there are loads of other fascinating bits that do not get the attention they deserve. Take flank. Which bit is it? You can check out a piccie here, but basically it’s the underneath bit of a cow, close-ish to the ribs. You get your thick flank and your thin flank, I won’t bore you with the details.
With loads of connective tissue and a course texture, this is a cut I would associate with low, slow and preferably wet cooking – like stew or pie fillings. But the Americans barbeque flank beef steak. Millions of them can’t be wrong, so off I went to the butcher in search of flank. The pleasant chap at Werda in Southfield, Cape Town indulged me – not only with 1.3kg of flank for just R90, but with his time, chatting up a storm about his passion for more unusual cuts.
Back home, I got my sharpest knife out and went to work trimming off some sinew. I encouraged the flank into submission with my meat mallet and into a very simple marinade it went. It’s a bit of work, but at this price, I am happy to add 10 minutes to my prep time.
I threaded the flank steaks onto skewers and braaied them fast and very hot (we’re talking just six minutes), basting liberally with a cheeky Sriracha-spiced sauce. Then I went all South American on the crowd, serving my flank steak skewers with warm soft-as-cloud tortillas, a little tomato and corn salsa and some crema (Mexico’s quite runny version of a crème fraîche).
Do yourself a favour, look up your nearest real butcher, have a bit of a natter about alternative cuts and braai something different for a change.
All you need is…
FOR THE BEEF
1kg beef flank
half a cup Worcestershire sauce
2 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 tbs olive oil
two thirds of a cup tomato sauce (I prefer All Gold or Heinz if you can’t find it)
2 tsp Sriracha hot chilli sauce (Woolworths and other big supermarkets stock it)
1 tbs oreganum leaves, finely chopped
FOR THE SALSA
2 cups ripe red small cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
half a cup frozen corn (defrost by pouring some boiling water over it)
half a cup red onion, finely diced
half a cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
4 tbs fresh lime juice (NOT bottled)
pinch of salt
deseeded mild red chilli, chopped (optional)
FOR THE CREMA
cup of crème fraîche
cup of fresh cream
1 teaspoon salt
store-bought tortillas, for serving
Using a sharp knife, remove any obvious sinew from the flank or flutter your eyelashes becomingly and ask your butcher to do it for you. Cut meat into longish strips. Flatten strips a bit with a meat mallet. If you don’t have one, just give it a few hard whacks with a rolling pin. Place meat in deep bowl and pour over the Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, garlic and black pepper. Mix through to coat the meat, then cover and place in the fridge for at least four hours and as long as overnight. Turn meat from time to time.
Combine all the salsa ingredients and set aside. Combine all the crema ingredients and set aside. Remove meat from marinade and strip down with your fingers to dry it a bit. Using a thread-and-needle sewing action, thread meat onto skewers (if you’re using wooden ones, soak them in water for at least 15 minutes). Mix the leftover marinade with the tomato sauce, origanum and Sriracha. Place skewers onto a very hot braai, painting with this basting sauce. Do NOT overcook this cut, medium-rare is the most you should aim for and if it’s thin, that’s only about three minutes per side.
Serve skewers on a large tray (with a sharp knife for cutting the steak into strips), some tortillas (warmed on the braai of course), the salsa and the crema and let everybody build their own perfect braai bite.