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Archive for the ‘Meat’ Category

Braised short ribs

Christmas is the one time that I willingly eat roast turkey. I, like most people I’m sure, find it bland and dry and about as far from celebration food as it gets. But tradition being what it is, there’s usually no evading at least some turkey along the way. In an effort to avoid roast dinner every night for a week I’ve made it my mission to introduce a hearty casserole on Christmas Eve to warm us up after a bracing walk over the cliffs and along the beach. I like to think of it as a little stroke of genius since I can make the casserole in advance and keep it chilled on the backdoor step ready to be quickly reheated while you (delete as applicable) do last-minute wrapping/bake more mince pies/prep that darn turkey/snuggle up on the sofa and watch Elf for the hundredth time. These braised ribs are downright comforting, they will make you feel snuggly and warm, particularly if you serve them spooned over a bowl of hot, creamy polenta or mash. As part of a larger meal I served the stew with slices of crust baguette which we used to greedily mop up the meaty, wine sauce liberally dotted with smokey bacon, chunky carrots and buttery chestnuts.

Browned ribs

Part of what makes this dish so good is that the meat is cooked on the bone which my prefered method for casseroles and stews; the bones add so much extra flavour and richness to the overall dish. Short ribs or Jacobs ladder are becoming easier to get hold of round these here parts, there are all of two place I can get them in the vicinity of Exeter! But worry not, shin would make an excellent substitute here. If you succeed in getting short ribs they often come in one large piece, ask your butcher to cut them across the rib into smaller sections. They take a long slow cook to become extremely tender, you’ll know they’re done when the meat slides cleanly off the bone leaving you with hunks of beautifully tender beef. In the last hour or so of cooking (their not terribly fussy) the chestnuts go in to warm through and soak up all the flavour of the beef, wine, garlic and herbs. Retaining their gentle sweetness, chestnuts are a great addition to a winter stew and, for me, particularly Christmassy.

Braising

Braised short ribs with chestnuts and red wine

Serves 4–6

  • olive oil
  • 1.2kg beef short ribs
  • 150g smoked streaky bacon, diced
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 carrots, sliced into thick wedges
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 500ml red wine, I used Merlot
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 200g cooked chestnuts
  • 15g butter
  • 200g mushrooms, quartered

Heat a little oil in a large, heavy pan over a low-medium heat. Fry the bacon until golden then add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cover and cook gently for 15 minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the flour and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat up and add more oil to the pan. Pat the short ribs dry and brown them in batches. Take your time to make sure they get really dark brown. Remove to a plate.

Pour off the fat in the pan and add the wine. Bring to a boil and scrape up all the crusty bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the beef stock, vegetables, bacon and tomato paste stirring well to combine.

Put the ribs back in the pan tucking them in amongst the vegetables. Tuck in the rosemary, cover loosely and simmer on the lowest heat for 4 hours adding the chestnuts in the last hour.

The ribs are ready when they are tender and fall off the bone. Remove from the heat and skim off any excess fat. (At this point the stew can also be left to cool then chilled overnight which makes the fat easier to remove and allows the flavours to meld.)

Fry the mushrooms in butter and stir into the stew just before serving. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.

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Today I’m dedicating this post to a very special sauce, something I think pasta must be proud to wear and something I think all cooking fans should be able to make well. Traditionally reserved for special occasions or Sunday best, a good ragù requires love and attention but won’t mind if you enjoy a glass of wine and a good book while you tend to its needs. During my time in Italy I ate some spectacular ragùs and it seems that every cook has their own special twist. One particularly fond memory I have is of sitting in a cozy restaurant in the hilltop town of Urbino on a bitterly cold January day. We sat huddled around a table trying to warm up our frozen hands and tucked into large plates of paparadelle with deeply flavoured wild boar ragù. After that meal I felt revived and full, ready to venture back out into the icy wind. Duck ragù feels doubly special for me since, in my kitchen, duck is reserved for special occasions and is a rare treat. It’s also something I feel a bit afraid of cooking in case a make a mess of things and spoil such lovely meat. My mum objects to eating duck on ‘moral grounds’ ever since she adopted a Mallard as a child; growing up I shared her view until I discovered how tasty they are so now I’m making up for lost time!

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Somerset, the county next door (or up North as we say down here in South Devon) is well known for producing excellent cider which is so good it has spawned its own genre of music, Scrumpy and Western, wherein bands sing odes to their favourite drink. Although there are not as many as there once were, apple orchards are a common sight and in a fair few of those you’ll spot pigs merrily roaming under the trees munching up the long grass. Those happy orchard pigs make for super-tasty pork as they fatten up on sweet apples. So it’s no wonder that Somerset is home to many a good recipe combining pork and apples. (more…)

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I usually find that when you buy ribs, even from a good butcher, they come with terrible cooking instructions that result in tough, chewy meat and a wasted opportunity for a great cut of meat. Because ribs are mostly made up of bone and muscle they are more suited to a low and slow cook rather than a quick flash on the barbeque. Taking several hours to cook your ribs at a low temperature make the meat meltingly soft and moist, and if you finish them off on the barbeque or under a hot grill you still get a crispy edges and sticky glaze. I’ve tried several different recipes, most involving keeping the oven at around 90°C for much of the day and they’ve all worked out well (this one is particularly good) but now I’m stuck with a tiny combi oven that won’t go below 150°C I thought tender ribs would just have to wait for the shiny new Electrolux to be installed. And who knows when that may be? (more…)

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When I lived in Italy I shared a flat with my good friend from university and two lovely Italians. Over the year there was a lot of cultural exchange as the Italians introduced us to the best of their country: gelato, good coffee, piadine; and the Brits tried to dispel the myth that our food is terrible. We baked hearty cottage pies and stuffed our suitcases with crumpets, cheddar, Marmite and all the necessary items for a proper cream tea. For her birthday our Sicilian flatmate wanted a taste of home and decided to make arancini, deep-fried rice croquettes, a speciality from her home island that often feature at special occasions. She called her mother to get the family recipe and then we gathered round our dining table for the afternoon while she patiently taught us the correct method to make them. (more…)

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If I could jet off anywhere in the world I think near the top of my list of destinations would be Vietnam. I’d love to ride a scooter around Ho Chi Minh City and take a boat trip around Ha Long Bay. Unfortunately it’s going to be a long time until I can realise my dream so I’m making do by trying my hand at Vietnamese style cooking. This week I’ve been preparing lots of summer or salad rolls for my lunches; they are not only delicious but light, healthy and refreshing: perfect for a hot, muggy day. You can use any vegetables you fancy to make up the little bundles of salad wrapped in delicate rice paper but something raw and crunchy is preferable along with fresh herbs. You can also add meat such as spicy roast chicken and shredded pork, prawns or even tofu or nuts for a protein boost.  (more…)

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For several years before I got married, my mum and I took summer holidays together, sometimes inviting my brother or my now husband to join us for a week or two. Our holidays always went along the same lines, observing our family traditions. We would rent a gite somewhere in rural France – Lac d’Annecy, Brittany, Normandy, Corsica – and spend our time visiting nearby markets, walking, having long relaxed breakfasts in the morning sun and cooking the sort of dishes that she and I love. Stuffed tomatoes is one such dish and would appear at least once or twice per holiday in various guises.

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