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Archive for the ‘Party food’ 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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Apple and mincemeat galette

Mince pies have been filling up the supermarket shelves for the last few months and jars of ready-made mincemeat have sneakily taken their place amongst the baking ingredients ready to jump out and berate you for being completely unprepared for Christmas months in advance. If you’re one of those wonderfully organised souls you’ll have made your own batch of mincemeat several weeks ago. I, on the other hand, found myself baking with the tail-end of last year’s jars until my lovely mum kindly handed me a jar she’d made the other weekend. (more…)

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Devilled eggs

Is it too early to start with the Christmas recipes? I know plenty of other places have got a head start on me but it didn’t seem right to even contemplate these sorts of thing until December. But then realising that Christmas eve is just three little weeks away made me think it was time to post this retro recipe, perfect for any parties you might be planning. Now a lot of folks will say that devilled eggs belong firmly in the 1970s; I remember the cover photo on one of the ancient Fanny Craddock cookbooks that I think my Mum inherited that showed a plate of washed-out eggs presented on a bed of lettuce that looked far from appetizing.  For a long time I felt ever so slightly ashamed for liking devilled eggs as much as I do. If and when they ever grace a buffet table I swoop in and grab a couple before finding a quiet corner to guiltily devour them. (more…)

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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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Hip hip hooray! Today is T and Cake’s 2nd birthday! Wow, where have the last two years gone? So much has happened over that time and hopefully there are many more adventures to come. My new kitchen units have arrived (all 120 boxes) and hopefully I’ll soon be busy experimenting with new toys and fancy settings on the oven. I’ve also had the good fortune to get an allotment which will require rather a lot of heavy duty digging over winter but should provide some beautiful fresh ingredients come next summer. But what is a blog without people to read it? Here’s to you, kind readers. Thank you for stopping by, leaving comments and making this blog what it is. I’m sorry not to be able to share this birthday cake with you in person but we can celebrate in spirit. Cheers!

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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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I love cooking vegetables on the barbeque and, even though I’m an omnivore, I’m quite happy to stick to vegetarian options when we get the grill out. The tendency (for me at least) is to make the most of the occasion and overeat so vegetable based options seem the way to go since they are usually a bit lighter than a slab of meat. I also love throwing halloumi on the BBQ, it’s texture transforms from tough to soft and  pleasently chewy and it’s salty flavour goes so well with charred veggies. It’s worth tracking down good halloumi made with sheep or goat’s cheese which has a much better flavour and texture than the stuff made with cow’s milk but, should you stuggle to find any, the marinating step makes even the mass-produced cheese taste good.

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