What´s better than wagyu?

“To enjoy cooking and then eating the meat of animals that have been well bred, well fed and, above all, well cared for, is simply a privilege,” JOSÉ PIZARRO.

There is no animal in Spain better cared for than the black-footed Ibérico de Bellota pigs. They roam the dehesas, the sparsely wooded pasture lands that can only be found in the south-west of Spain, dotted with oak trees and aromatic herbs typical of Mediterranean forests.This myth of black pigs roaming in green meadows under oak trees might seem endearing but if the truth be known, now on the other side of the river Guadiana in the Algarve ,bordering the Aalentejo, one Portuguese producer is continuing this tradition but in a terrain that remains "almost useless for anything" fertile, sustainable producer Rui Jeronimo of Feito No zambujal says that his pigs, (around 150 of them )- live in "an extensive regime", fed on grains crushed on the spot, grass, garden compost, fruit and vegetables and the acorns of holm oaks.The pure bred black pigs roam the barren ground outside looking for the acorns, beans, herbs and wild flowers that give them their distinctive flavour. The producer says that for about two years he learnt techniques "in a small pueblo in the Serra da Huelva", exchanging experiences and "earning great respect and admiration for those people".
The pigs are instantly recognisable, with skinny legs, black hides, long snouts, floppy ears and black hooves.In the dehesas or selected terrain, each pig grazes on a completely natural diet of berries, roots, wild mushrooms and, most of all, the bountiful acorns that drop down from the trees; the name ‘Bellota’ means ‘acorn’. At minimum the pigs each guzzle 3kg of acorns a day, going up to 7kg a day during la montanera, the acorn-foraging season that lasts from September to March. The acorns flavour the tender meat, lending a nuttiness and a richness to every bite. These fatty pigs are nicknamed ‘olive trees on legs’ due to the large amounts of fat they can store. With all the walking to snaffle up acorns, the fat is developed in the muscles and cells rather than collecting in a thick layer on the surface, leading to marbled meat that is extremely tender and flavoursome when cooked.These animals are wild, quite similar to wild boars. During their second montanera, the pigs will eat only grass and acorns for the last 60 days of their lives. Then, the pigs will have fattened sufficiently to be ready for a final weigh-in, at which they must weigh at least 145kg, before being slaughtered. Butchery is largely cultural. In Spain, there are four cuts from the shoulder region of the Iberico pig - secreto, pluma albanico and presa. Presa : thick and juicy, leaner than the pluma or secreto, is one of the most precious cuts. It’s very, very popular in restaurants thanks to the amazing quality of the meat, but equally simple to cook at home. Such is the quality of the meat that minimum intervention is needed - it is simply seasoned with olive oil, salt, pepper before being seared on a hot grill, and the briefly roasted in the oven,followed by a long resting time, leaving the presa pink in the middle.

There’s nothing more satisfying than a perfectly seasoned piece of cooked meat that just melts in your mouth and incites your taste buds.

Along with its second to none flavours, Iberico Presa stands out from other pork dishes as it is typically cooked to the perfect medium-rare instead of well done.a cut of presa usually comes some where in between 800 grams and kilo so is ideal for 4 people.At Christmas when there were just two of us we were able to get two meals out of it. For Christmas dinner I cooked it as I have outlined above with traditional trimmings

The best way I have found to cook this delicious cut is to sprinkle with flor de sal and olive oil to baste the meat, and seal it in a smoking-hot frying pan for 4 minutes on each side, to get a gorgeous golden-brown crust. Then transfer to a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, wrap in tin foil and let rest for another 15 minutes. The residual heat will continue to cook the meat while it rests. It will be juicy and bursting with subtle acorn flavour, ready to be sliced across the grain and served with warm potato salad padron peppers and roasted pumpkin slices.

For the second serving I very quickly seared it on a very hot griddle and seved it with Café de Paris butter.The first first time I tried Café de Paris butter, it simply blew my head off. The complexity of flavours, its silky richness and how well it paired with a grilled steak, made this dish one of those dishes that sticks in your mind forever. You hardly see Café de Paris butter served in many restaurants these days. Perhaps it is better that way, so it keeps its retro status. Making Café de Paris butter at home is so easy and it will pair well with your favourite cut of meat. Presa pairs incredibly well with the butter and breaks the norm of using beef. The butter can be made in advance and it is typically flavoured with a mixture of herbs, spices, and other condiments such as mustard, anchovies and Worcestershire sauce.

Presa Ibérica with Café de Paris Butter

  • 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 garlic clove, finely chopped
    1 shallot, finely chopped
    2 brown anchovies, drained and finely chopped
    1 tsp of baby capers, rinsed and drained
    2 tsp Dijon mustard
    2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    Zest and juice of half a lemon
    ¼ tsp paprika
    ¼ tsp curry powder
    Pinch of cayenne pepper
    1 tsp of finely chopped thyme
    1 tsp of finely chopped tarragon
    1 tbsp of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
    Salt and pepper to taste
Start by making the Café de Paris butter. Use a food processor to beat the butter for 3 to 4 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the garlic, shallots, anchovies, mustard, capers, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, lemon zest and spices. Blend until well combined. Stir in the finely chopped thyme, tarragon and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the butter mixture along the centre of a piece of grease proof paper to form a log. Roll up and twist ends to secure. Place in the fridge for 1 hour or until firm.To cook the presa ibérica, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium sized frying pan and fry the presa for about 5 minutes on each side. You might need to turn it on its side, if the piece is too thick. Presa should be served medium rare. Once cooked, allow the piece to rest for 2 minutes on a wooden board before slicing.
Pre-heat your grill on the high setting. To serve the dish, slice the presa ibérica and arrange on a warm plate. Season the presa slices with sea salt flakes. Slice from the Café de Paris butter log some thin butter slices and place over the presa. Place the plate under the hot grill until the butter melts. Serve with a lamb’s lettuce salad and some sautée potatoes or thin fries.


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