Quick-fried beef with pickles

Quick-fried beef with pickles

Pica pau


Pica pau means ‘woodpecker’, and you eat this dish with a cocktail stick, picking pieces up and gobbling them a bit like its namesake. My version uses beef fillet; if you ask your butcher to give you the tail ends of the fillet it will be a lot cheaper, without compromising on flavour. I use Ibérico ham for its rich, sweet flavour. You could use other cured hams, but remember to check the salt content, since some types are saltier and less nutty than Ibérico. When I dream of this dish, which I often do, it always comes with a nice ice-cold draught beer.


Quantity Ingredient

For the pickled vegetables

Quantity Ingredient
600ml japanese rice vinegar
600g caster sugar
50g fine sea salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 small head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
2 carrots, cut into 5mm slices
1 onion, cut into eighths

For the pica pau

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon good-quality pork fat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 small long red chilli, deseeded (optional) and halved lengthways
300g beef fillet, rump or sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
150g thick-cut cured ham, ideally ibérico, serrano or parma ham, finely chopped
10 small gherkins, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dry white wine, to taste
a small handful parsley leaves, finely chopped
lemon wedges, to serve
Garlic and turnip green rice with piri piri oil, Piri piri oil, to serve
sea salt flakes
ground white pepper


  1. To make the pickled vegetables — Put the rice vinegar, sugar, salt, bay leaves and peppercorns in a pan with 600ml water. Place over a medium heat and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and bring it to the boil, then add the cauliflower, carrots and onion. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool, along with the liquor. I like to make this the day before I use it. Stored in an airtight container, it should keep for 2 weeks in the fridge.
  2. To make the pica pau — Take a handful of the pickles and cut them into small pieces, then set aside. Melt the pork fat and olive oil over a high heat in a large frying pan. When the fat starts to sizzle, add the garlic, chilli and beef, and season with salt and pepper. Fry quickly for 2–3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the ham, chopped pickles and gherkins, then add the white wine, starting with half a tablespoon and adding more to taste as required, along with a splash of pickle liquor if you like. Fry for another minute. Take the pan off the heat and stir through the parsley. Serve immediately, in the pan, with cocktail sticks. Lemon wedges and a drizzle of piri piri oil are nice additions.
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