Working additional ingredients and flavours into butter is a relatively easy job. Ensure your butter is taken out of the fridge before you want to use it, so that it is no longer so stiff that you cannot work with it, but also not too soft. It should still retain a little chill, so that one can almost whip it slightly, aerating it in the process. Thereafter one can actually go to town in terms of what you want to add to your flavoured butter (also referred to as compound butters), from the more classical combinations such as fresh herbs, salt and pepper, to boundary pushing flavours such as cocoa or activated charcoal.
Even though butter is a relatively expensive product these days, it would be justified for this recipe to buy a good quality butter, as the more affordable ones sometimes are already quite aerated and have a higher moisture content. In South Africa not many butter manufacturers produce an unsalted version, which tends to be the option preferred by most professional chefs because of their high fat ratio, one can make a compound butter with any type of butter. Adding non-liquid flavourings such as chopped herbs and ground spices poses minimal risk. It is when one is forcing a relatively moist ingredient such as papaya pulp into the butter that one risks splitting the butter. In this instance the butter may well benefit from being slightly warmer (and thus softer) than normal, even though the resulting butter will initially be fairly soft until it firms up in the fridge again. If one is going to shape the butter, such as rolling it into a log (an excellent hostess gift when wrapped in parchment paper and a piece of raffia string) or even rolling it into old fashioned balls, be sure to chill it a little before moulding.
The papaya lends a delicious meaty earthiness to the butter that works great with savoury ingredients in a steak sandwich, but one could also omit the seasonings, lemon and herbs and add a bit of sugar for a sweet version that could be delicious on a freshly baked scone.
Ingredients for 4 portions:
- 80 g drained Neofresh Papaya purée – see note below
- 125 g softened unsalted butter
- 10 ml salt
- 3 ml freshly ground black pepper
- 7 g thinly sliced chives (about 4 tablespoons)
- The zest of one lemon, plus the juice of ½ lemon
- Other steak sandwich ingredients:
- 4 fresh ciabatta buns, sliced open (and toasted if you wish)
- 1 large piece of rump steak or other meat/cut, pan-fried to your desired doneness, sliced
- 2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
- A selection of fresh green leaves, such as rocket or small cos lettuce leaves
- 4 slices of sharp cheese per sandwich
Whip butter until fluffy and pale in a mixer with the paddle attachment, or with a wooden spoon by hand. Mix in the remaining ingredients. If the mixture looks as if it may be separating, just warm up the bowl ever so slightly, so that the fats and liquid can emulsify again.
If the butter is of a good working consistency, use it immediately, alternatively chill briefly. This butter would however need to be brought to room temperature for it to not crumble. Spread the cut sides of the ciabatta generously with the butter and lay the remaining ingredients on. Wrap the sandwiches up if you are making them for a picnic, they should stay deliciously fresh for a couple of hours.
Note: The overall moisture content of papaya purée may be too high to incorporate directly into butter. To make the heavy papaya purée, peel and de-seed a thoroughly ripe, aromatic papaya. Blend the papaya flesh in a food processor, liquidizer or with a stick-blender in a tall jar, to get a smooth purée (strain through a fine sieve if you are uncertain that your purée is lump-free). Line a sieve with a clean, rinsed layer of high-quality muslin cloth. Pour the purée onto the muslin, cover with plastic wrap and leave overnight in the fridge for the liquid to drain out and the papaya purée to become thick and jelly-like.