Matambre: Argentine stuffed roast beef
Matambre, an Argentine-style stuffed beef roast, brings back memories of university mates, vacations abroad, and the tantalizing prospect of uncovering family mysteries. Serve with a simple chimichurri sauce.
One may be inspired by the unlikeliest of sources, and sources of inspiration do not come much more unlikely than John Unsworth. John – Jack to his friends – is from Penistone, South Yorkshire. Skinny and pale, dour, but slyly humorous, and given to obsessions over cult movies and the quality of his tea-leaves, he was in many ways a typical Yorkshireman, particularly in his love of pies. Frequent were the conversations around the texture of the perfect lard crust, achieved at such and such pie shop in Barnsley. Sadly for Jack, these ethereal creations traveled poorly, forcing him to seek solace in the arms of Fray Bentos.Skip to next paragraph
We Are Never Full
Amy and Jonny Seponara-Sills (Amy’s American, Jonny’s English) run the food blog We Are Never Full. Through recipes, anecdotes and podcasts, it chronicles their borderline obsession with food from meals made at home to travels studiously built around the search for authentic regional and national dishes from all over the world.
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Like generations of Englishmen before him, Jack leant on his Fray Bentos to get him through lean times, in this case three years of impoverished geography studies at the University of Birmingham. Over lunch one winter afternoon, he paused between mouthfuls of his typical steak and kidney in suet pastry, and, wiping dark brown gravy from the corner of his mouth, informed me that Fray Bentos pies were named for a meatpacking town in Uruguay. Somehow, from that dank kitchen in a cramped, filthy student house in Selly Oak, Birmingham, I was instantly transported to the vast stage of the Uruguayan pampa. It was a mental stretch, but I was able to imagine the sour steam of Jack’s pie as the dust cloud raised by the hooves of countless black steers being driven toward the Uruguay River and their slaughter, and the stained, mold-flecked kitchen ceiling as an endless starry sky under which to dream of that rugged southland.
Jack and I lost touch years ago, though I gather his passion for film remained unabated and when last heard of, he was spending most of his spare time as the projectionist at Penistone’s tiny cinema. The fascination he quite unwittingly awakened in me, took a little longer to realize. During the intervening years until I journeyed there, my imagination was fired and nurtured by the magical realism of Jorge Luis Borges and the tragic strains of Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla.
RECOMMENDED: Are you a real foodie? Take our quiz!
These elements of that barely-known Rioplatense culture ran together with snatches of earlier memories, particularly of the wild soccer genius of Diego Maradona and the peculiar jingoism of the 10-week Falklands War, making the region seem even more exotic, more remote. Nonetheless, such were the echoes of Southern Europe and the apparent homogeneity of the population, that when we finally did visit Argentina and Uruguay, it hardly felt exotic or foreign at all. Such a realization could have been deflating, but instead, aroused a curiosity about how a pair of countries where, by rights, everything should be upside-down could be so comparatively familiar.