Sussex Steak with Port and Porter

When I started this blog I promised to give recipes with beer as one of the ingredients. There’s not been enough of that, so here’s a great dish for winter evenings – Sussex Steak.

K&B PorterPort and porter are an old combination, known in Ireland as a “corpse reviver”. In 2000 John O’Hanlon, born in Kerry, South West Ireland but now brewing on a farm in Devon, used this idea to produce a new style of bottled beer, containing two bottles of port to every 36 gallons of a “stout” that is really the strength of an old-time porter, to make O’Hanlon’s Original Port Stout. The beer won a top prize in the Campaign for Real Ale’s Champion Winter Beer awards for 2002. This dish is also an old one, and why it is called Sussex Steak no one seems to know. However, the long, slow cooking makes for beautifully tender beef, and delicious gravy. To make it a bit more “Sussex” you could use Harvey’s Imperial Russian Stout, from Lewes, the county town, as the “porter” bit, but any strong porter or stout will do.

This would never make it into a Delia Smith cookbook, because it’s too easy to get wrong: if the steam level inside the dish drops while cooking, you’ll end up with steak like boot leather, so as the instructions say, no peeking: trust your oven.

1kg (2lb) lean rump or chuck steak, sliced 2.5cm (1in) thick
Flour and seasoning
1 large onion, sliced
30ml (1fl oz) mushroom ketchup
100ml (3 fl oz) port
100ml (3 fl oz) porter
(or substitute 75ml port and 125ml O’Hanlon’s Original Port Stout)

Season the flour, rub into the sliced steak. Lay the steak flat in an oven-proof dish.
Layer sliced onion on top, mix and pour in the ketchup, port and stout.
Cover as tightly as you can, using layers of and cooking foil tied round the dish with string.
Cook in oven at 135C (275F) for three hours. Do not be tempted to peek while the dish is cooking: it relies on the tight seal to keep in the steam from the port and porter, which tenderise the steak to perfection.

Serve with mashed potato, steamed green vegetables of your choice and field mushrooms baked for an hour with butter in a sealed dish.

0 thoughts on “Sussex Steak with Port and Porter

  1. Martyn, excellent recipe and the perfect season for it. I used to have a collection of English recipe books (I still do but I haven’t kept it up, I mean). In these books are a number of recipes for beef cooked in some way with beer. They seem to predominate in the south including Sussex, but that may not mean anything. E.g., Dorothy Hartley, who was from the north, gave a recipe in her 1950’s Food In England for beef stewed with ale – and first marinated in it – that she said would render a “mammoth” tender!

    I’ve made for years a dish somewhat like yours except I use a half of beef brisket, whole, but the braise otherwise is similar with wine vinegar subbing for the mushroom ketchup. It is really good and the better the beer and port, the better it is. I have done it with Imperial stout and it is amazing done that way.

    English cooking really did have a repertoire of beer dishes, and it was more than Welsh rabbit. I can think off-hand of certain hot pots (the north again), certain cakes, also the rolled beef dish called beef olives. Beef seems to have been the main meat used, and venison of course (venison, beer, and sugar of some kind). Pork was used too sometimes, e.g., a loin roast – you could use shoulder or hand of pork – rolled in seasoned flour and powdered ginger and braised in good beer. Beer and rabbit was an old country dish, it is as English, or was, as it is Flemish.

    The English had things that were as good as the French and Italians had, but these latter vaunted their good things more. The traditions were partly lost in England, therefore, but that is changing.


  2. Gary, I’ve long felt that a country’s food and its drink evolve alongside each other, so that French food evolved to be partnered with wine, and English food evolved to be partnered with beer.

  3. I fully agree. English beer goes so well with so many English foods, from cheddar to Cheshire cheese to English sausages to venison – and it cooks well with many of them, too.

    By the way, I forgot a key ingredient in that pork dish: brown sugar. You make a flour mixture of salt, pepper, ginger and brown sugar. Roll the roast in it. Pour a cup of good beer on it. Cover and braise until done. Dead easy and super-good. I cannot recall now where I first read this, possibly one of Jane Grigson’s books.


  4. I shall try this recipe, thank you. I had a Corpse Reviver this evening – a pint glass, about an inch of not particularly expensive port topped up with Meantime London Porter.
    Interesting experiment, although the head comes out a most unattractive pinky grey colour – but I think I’d probably rather have the porter and port seperately……
    Nice to try these things though

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