Steaks that really sizzle


Congratulations Horst - half a million steaks is some achievement.

We all trust you get to enjoy quality time during your well-earned retiring years. Mind you those 500,000 steaks that were talked about recently in The Southland Times over the past 38 years - a time when we all enjoyed both his steaks and hospitality at Ainos Steakhouse - don't include the many thousands he also served during his long career, especially during his time at the then-famous Don Lodge.

His reputation as a master of the grill was well recognised by locals and visitors (some of whom stayed at the Don Lodge especially for the steaks you presented). Back then it was Steak Diane, Fillet Mignon, Swiss Steak and the Carpet Bag Steak that won the punters over and then, as always, he had the Midas touch when it came to cooking the perfect steak. A skill he keenly passed on to the young apprentice chefs he mentored during his time at the Don Lodge to 1974 when he took over the reins from Aino at Ainos Steakhouse.

I was doubly lucky with firstly having the opportunity to work with Aino at the Steakhouse when the steaks were first introduced around 1967-68 and then further mentored by Horst at the Don Lodge during the early 70s. While not officially assigned to the Don Lodge back in those days all the Licensing Trust-apprenticed chefs were seconded to other establishments to further their experience - a time I remember well.

Horst had another skill that many of his patrons may not have been aware of. In a small room off the staff dining room at the Don Lodge was a piano and I often had the pleasure of listening to Horst tickle the ivories as he took time out from the stresses of the kitchen to relax, playing the piano with amazing dexterity.

With summer coming on I thought it would be appropriate to remind everybody just how important it is to follow the right procedures in presenting the perfect steak from the barbecue. Horst - thank you from apprentices of the past and your well satisfied guests. As a salute to him I would like to share today simple procedures all should follow to present the perfect steak from the barbecue this summer.

The smell of steak sizzling on the barbecue - it's the indisputable aroma of a Kiwi summer. Below are some hints on how to choose the best quality steak, and then how to cook it!

Look for steaks of even thickness when buying - this ensures even cooking times.

Steaks should be at least 2 centimetres thick. Avoid buying wedge-shaped steaks.

Look for meat that is bright in colour.

Meat should have a fresh smell.

Buy lean meat, or trim well.

Look for the New Zealand Beef and Lamb Quality Mark - it's your guarantee of tenderness and quality.

Remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.

Steaks should be dry and not wet. Pat dry on absorbent paper if necessary.

Season the steaks with salt and pepper just before cooking. Oil the steak, rather than the pan.

Cook over a high heat to brown the meat. Cooking time depends on the heat, thickness of the steak and the cut. Turn the steak only once.

Do not turn the steak with a fork as each time the meat is pierced, juices will run freely and the end result may be tough. Use tongs.

Allow the steak to rest for 5 minutes before eating, to ensure tenderness.

Serve alongside your favourite salad, potato and sauce.

Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout.

The Southland Times