If you have the opportunity to cook a joint of water buffalo, go for it without a second thought – beautifully succulent, tender and full of wonderful meaty flavour, water buffalo is both as delicious as roast beef and considered far healthier.
Last Sunday, while in Winchester we popped over to have a look at the farmers market where I caught sight of a stall selling Broughton water buffalo. I have eaten buffalo burgers before, but when I laid eyes on a 3kg topside roasting joint, I knew I had to give it a go. So, having walked down through the streets of Winchester cradling it like a baby, and then making the drive home, I spent the next few days planning how to cook it.
Water Buffalo is considered a healthier alternative to beef, with a similar meaty flavour. It is considerably leaner and contains less cholesterol. One problem, because it is so lean, you risk drying out the meat when you cook it. To counteract this, I decided to play with the way I would normally roast a similar size beef joint. I wanted to brine the buffalo for at least 24 hours, before smoking it at 135C, followed by a reverse ‘dirty’ sear – direct on the red hot charcoal. A similar technique seen in a ‘dirty’ twist to roast beef. I also sprayed the meat regularly with a water/olive oil/cyder vinegar mix to keep it moist.
Finally, I added a baste right at the end, giving it a delicious variety of flavours to go along with the natural taste of the meat and the beautiful sear from the charcoals.
A few vegetables caramelised in the juices of the cooking meat provided the perfect sauce to compliment such a dish.
All I can say is WOW – if you have the chance, give water buffalo a go!
My photography is improving but still indebted to my wife for the beautiful shots.
Since it was a 3kg joint, I decided to have a couple of rugby mates over for the cook.
3kg topside water buffalo
for the brine:
4 litres water
1 cup salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp dried rosemary
5 cloves garlic
for the baste:
1 fresh chilli, deseeded
2 cloves garlic
for the sauce/gravy:
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot
1 tsp red currant jelly
250g vegetable stock
for the spray:
splash of cyder vinegar
splash of olive oil
24 – 48 hours before you want to cook, throw all the ingredients for the brine into a large pan over a gentle heat and stir until mixed through. Leave to cool. If you have a smaller joint, you won’t need as much water but maintain the ratio of water to salt and sugar.
Submerge the buffalo in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
When you are ready to cook, remove the buffalo from the brine, pat dry and leave to come up to room temperature.
Meanwhile, light up your Joe and bring it to 135C ready for an indirect cook – coals banked to one side. Place the accessory rack on the lower setting with one halved cooking grate on the higher setting on the side opposite the coals.
Peel the shallots and garlic, cut them in half and roughly chop the carrots. Throw them all into a shallow roasting dish and lay a few shavings of butter over.
Lay your meat on the grill, placing the dish full of vegetables underneath on the accessory rack. Make sure the dish is directly beneath the buffalo.
If you have a temperature probe place it into the meat now; since buffalo is such a lean meat, it is very important not to overcook – no more than medium rare. We were looking for 50C before a reverse ‘dirty’ sear.
Every 30 minutes or so, spray the meat to keep it moist. I would recommend the Le Creuset Oil Sprayer.
Prepare the baste by throwing all the ingredients into a mixer and blend.
When the internal temperature of the buffalo hits 50C…
…take it off the grill. After around 3 hours.
A few minutes before the end of the cook, I opened the bottom vent a little to gently bring the temperature up ready for the sear.
You could probably get away without a sear, but if you can it adds so much to the cook I would always go for it. If you do choose not to sear, make sure you wait for an internal temperature of 52-55C.
Open the bottom grill full and stir up the coals leaving a flat surface.
Lay your buffalo directly among the coals.
After 3o seconds to a minute, turn the buffalo over, basting the seared side. Repeat until the whole joint has been seared and basted.
Don’t forget to baste the final side once you’ve taken the joint out of the coals.
Wrap in foil and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Take your roasting dish full of caramelised vegetables and empty it into your mixer. Add the stock and red currant jelly and blend into a smooth sauce. Pour into a pan, and simmer until you have your desired thickness. I did the whole thing in my thermomix. Rinsed out the earlier baste – didn’t mind having a little extra flavour for the sauce – and then heated the ingredients while blending.
When you can no longer contain your excitement, remove the meat from the foil and thinly slice to serve with a generous quantity of sauce.
Works perfectly as the centrepiece of a proper roast. We chose a little more decadence and went with dauphinoise potatoes and a baby leaf, tomato and avocado salad.
Between 3 of us rugby players, my wife and son, we ate 2 kg of water buffalo. The rest went into the fridge and over the next few days was thinly sliced for sandwiches, diced for a stir fry and roughly chopped for a buffalo risotto. Who would have thought one large joint could provide so much joy for so long!
A few more photo’s from the cook – searing in charcoal always provides that wow factor: