I’m not ashamed of admitting that for 40 years of my life (which, at this point is all I have) my knowledge of red meat was equal with zero. Well, the first 15-20 years doesn’t really count…. unless, if you were born in Argentina because then the wisdom of red meat is born with you in your veins. But I was born in Hungary and what I have in my veins is err….. perhaps paprika. Therefore I actually believed that a difference between fillet and fillet is just made up, created by red meat snobs.
There’s a Argentinean beef restaurant in North London. All sounded very exotic to me and I went there once, even I didn’t believe that the meat would taste any different, and I had fillet and chips for a fortune. Well, it didn’t taste any different, it wasn’t any tender than at any other places which made my belief stronger about this whole “good meat – not-so-good-meat” nonsense.
But then we went to Argentina.
Northern Argentina’s traditional meat is llama or alpaca and it was more available and cheaper than beef but as we were making our way further south llama meat disappeared and cow meat became readily available. So in the first few weeks of our visit in Argentina we just did what we always do when it comes to buy beef, aka having no clue what we were doing, we just went for the most lean-looking reddest meat, chucked it in the frying pan and chewed on it looking at each other like “hm, what’s the big deal?”
2-3 weeks in our trip here we met a South African family. And they do know about meat and BBQ so we were about to learn something. One day we popped out shopping together for the BBQ we were planning to do for that night, and Louisa and Graham explained the difference between the cuts and recommended us to by Lomo (fillet) which to me just looked like a big, fatty and gristly chunk of meat. The butcher, before weighing it skilfully cut the fatty white bits off then handed the 800gr pure fillet to me (it was nearly a kilo and cost around $15!)
Back at our campsite, Graham made the fire with the charcoal, told me to cut it in two halves and season the chunks if I wanted to. So I just sprinkled some sea salt and crushed black pepper on both sides and handed to him to take care of the rest. Now, this was wonderful; tender and juicy, medium/well-done and we had it with a simple salad. From this point we were hooked and had lomo every evening for the following days. Wow man, we were beefed out after about 4 days but we learnt the South African way of BBQ fillet
Once we got to Northern Patagonia we visited friends and stayed at their house for 3 weeks. We offered our help and got involved with some jobs around the house. We went shopping together and got know the local butcher (when he recognised us he got out the freshest cuts out from the fridge), we learnt which vendor to go to for smoked trout or homemade cheese, and organic honey and herbs, and back at the house I helped and learnt more tricks in the kitchen. Once a week it was asado time. Asado is the Argentineans way for BBQ. At of course we got the best Lomo from our butcher.
The way how our friends prepared and set up the BBQ was pleasure to watch. They collected the dry cedar -that has lovely aromatic smoke. Then they set up the fire on one side of the fire pit and fed it when needed meanwhile we were all sitting around drinking cold beer chatting. Once some pieces of glooming coal were ready with a fire-poker they selected out a few tiny pieces and moved them over to the other side of the pit, placed the grill on top of it and put the seasoned Lomo in one piece on it. They cooked it very slow, adding or take away small pieces of coal when it was not enough or too much making sure there was no (or just 1-2) grease-juice drippings on the coal -which create flame that burns the meat. They also made sure the they were turning the meat often. Like this, it took around 1,1/2-2 hours to slow-roast the fillet and it was exceedingly beautiful, soft and tender like butter, yet moist and juicy. It was the best fillet I have ever had. Absolutely Devine.
But I think what made it also the most memorable dinner we’ve had is the loving and wonderful people we had the good fortune to spend 3 weeks with.
But actually, after our 2 months of experience in Argentina with lomo, I came to the conclusion that while we are on Argentinean soil, cooking Argentinean beef fillet, in any way (BBQ, frying pan or in the oven) it is pretty much impossible to ruin it.
(I should start taking photos of all these)