A few weeks back I managed to get some time off and I travelled down to my friend's country pad in Devon to check out his herd of Bickleigh white park cattle and to have a gastronomic weekend enjoying the local and seasonal treats. I always like to cook on the hoof, as it were: planning ahead often lacks excitement. I grabbed a lift down with Ewan Venters of Selfridges who borrowed Marco Pierre White's smart Range Rover, though without Marco's famous assistant Mr Ishi to guide us in.
Brian Boylan, along with his farmer buddy John Lean, has one of the largest herds of rare-breed white park cattle in the country and a couple of times a month I manage to procure a couple of wing ribs – just about enough to serve six double portions, for my Chop House. The rest is sold exclusively in Selfridges Food Hall (0800 123 400) and sells out in no time.
We started off the weekend with a delicious meal of wing ribs and fillet, which was accompanied by local asparagus from Halberton Farm Shop (01884 821458) and finished off with freshly picked strawberries. My contribution to the meal came in the form of some gull's eggs, my home-smoked De Beauvoir salmon and some of Peter Gott's black pudding.
We were also joined by the food writer Aggie MacKenzie who looked after all of our baking requirements for the weekend – from her morning rolls filled with black pudding – which were scoffed in no time – to her amazing shortbread, the recipe for which I managed to prise out of her over a few glasses of wine over dinner.
It all added up to a glorious weekend, surrounded by wild flowers, in secluded Devon, and I was inspired to create these picnic-style recipes using beef. Most food can be transported to a picnic; you don't have to stick with the usual suspects of sandwiches, Scotch eggs and chicken drumsticks. So, here's something a little different.
Green bean and shallot salad with horseradish
Green beans are a great, simple and easy-to-prepare salad ingredient. You can either use the slimline French beans, bobby beans, runners or a mixture of the three. Green beans and cold roast beef (see the following recipe) are a perfect summer combo and freshly grated horseradish adds a great kick.
250g green beans, topped and tailed
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2-3tbsp freshly grated horseradish
For the dressing
1tbsp cider vinegar
4tbsp rapeseed oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the green beans in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes until tender. Meanwhile simmer the shallots with the horseradish in the vinegar and the same amount of water until the liquid has reduced by half. Whisk in the oil and season. Toss the beans in the dressing and season again if necessary.
Cold roast Bickleigh white park wing rib of beef
The wing rib is basically the bit between the sirloin and the forerib. If you can't get your hands on the Bickleigh wing rib from Selfridges Food Hall (because I've nicked it all for the Oyster and Chop House), then a good butcher should be able to supply you with one. A two-bone rib should be enough for 4-6 servings and it doesn't have as much fat surrounding the eye of meat as a fore rib so it's perfect for a cold roast joint.
A two-bone wing rib weighing about 1.5kg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable oil for brushing
For the mustard mayonnaise
4-5tbsp good quality or home-made mayonnaise
2tbsp grain mustard
1tbsp Dijon or English mustard
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Cut the wing rib in half through the bones, then season well and brush with oil. Heat a heavy roasting tray on the stove and brown the beef on all sides. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes for rare and another 10 minutes for medium rare. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Mix all of the ingredients for the mustard mayonnaise and transfer to a serving dish.
Take a wooden carving board and a sharp knife to your picnic and slice the beef when you're ready to serve it.
Beef flank tartare
Most people (and restaurants) are obsessed with using the best tender cuts for steak tartare. Firstly, the really tender cuts don't have that much flavour, and secondly, they're bloody expensive. The natural grain of a flank or skirt lends itself perfectly to the meat being chopped into tartare.
500g very fresh lean fillet, sirloin or topside steak, flank or skirt, finely chopped
2-3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and very finely chopped
50g capers, drained, rinsed and finely chopped
50g gherkins, finely chopped
1/2tbsp tomato ketchup
2tsp Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of Tabasco
1tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
With a very sharp chopping knife, slice the meat into very thin strips along the grain of the meat, and then chop it again as finely as possible. Mix all of the ingredients together and season to taste. You may wish to add a little more Tabasco, ketchup or Worcestershire sauce, it's up to you. Spoon the steak tartare on to a plate or, if you prefer, push it into a ring mould. Serve with a leaf salad and chips, or toast, and a single egg yolk.
Yearlstone and raspberry jelly
Behind Brian's house and over the stream is the Yearlstone Vineyard, the oldest vineyard in Devon. The vineyard was started up in 1976 and is now owned by Roger and Juliet White. We took a selection of the Yearlstone wines back to sample with our picnic and we were most impressed with the 2006 sparkling brut, which would sit happily alongside other international sparkling wines that I've tasted – including some of the great prosceccos.
Anyway, what with me being a jelly freak and always looking for new inspiration, I thought I should go to task and get making a jelly from the local wine and raspberries that Brian picked up from the farmers' market.
150g caster sugar
5 sheets leaf gelatine
350ml 2006 Yearlstone brut or another similar
120g soft fruit such as raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, redcurrants
Bring 200ml of water to the boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved, then remove from heat. Soak the gelatine leaves in a shallow bowl of cold water for a minute or so until soft. Squeeze out the water and add the gelatine to the syrup along with the wine. Stir until fully dissolved.
Put the jelly somewhere cool, but don't let it set. Fill individual jelly moulds, or one large one, with half the berries, then pour in half of the cooled jelly. Put in the fridge for an hour or so to set, then top up with the rest of the berries and unset jelly. This allows the berries to stay suspended and not float to the top. Return to the fridge. To serve, turn out, and offer thick Jersey cream to go with it.
Mark Hix will be at the Taste of London festival ( www.tastelondon.co.uk) in Regent's Park today, where he'll be giving a talk and signing copies of his book, 'British Regional Food', at the Waterstones Book Lounge