beef

Beef tagine

beeftagine2

I’m a bit late to the game on the ras el hanout front. This ingredient has always seemed a bit too ‘Yotam Ottolenghi’ for me (meaning that it can’t be found easily in suburban Nottingham). But Tesco now stock it in their own brand spice range – a sure sign that it has entered the realms of commonplace.

Anyway, my sister gave me a little bag of it to try recently and so I set about finding a recipe.

Ras el hanout is a North African spice mix which translates as ‘head of the shop’ – as in the best spices the shop keeper has to offer. I have no idea exactly what was in my little unmarked bag, but according to Wikipedia, cardamom, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dried ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn and paprika are all commonly used.

I’m not sure why this recipe (a bastardised version of one of Jamie Oliver’s*) uses additional cinnamon, cumin, paprika and ginger if the ras el hanout is likely to include these already. Purists would probably insist of making up their own spice mix from scratch in any case, as with garam masala, curry powder, jerk seasoning, five spice and the like.

All I can say is that the final dish was delicious and very easy (if time consuming) to make.

When I was frying off the beef my son asked me if I was making mince pies. I can see why he said this because the cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in the spice mix does make it smell very Christmassy. I’m being a complete Grinch about Christmas at the moment so this is probably about as festive as my recipes on this blog will get this year.

*the original recipe can’t be trusted in any case. The comments section on Jamie’s website bought my attention to the fact that he uses teaspoons of spices in the TV series but tablespoons on the web.

Beef tangine

Serves 4-6

  • 1kg lean stewing steak cut into large (approx. 2.5 cm sq) chunks

For the marinade

  • 1 tablespoon of ras el hanout
  • 2 teaspoons of ground or whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

To cook

  • A little oil
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • A knorr vegetable stock pot (or equivalent vegetable stock cube)
  • 1 ½ cans of water
  • 100g of dried apricots cut into quarters

To serve

  • Toasted flaked almonds
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Couscous (recipe here)

Place the beef in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients and mix them in with a wooden spoon or massage them in with your hands. Cover and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

When you are ready to cook, heat a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat and brown the meat all over. It is worth taking the time to make sure you get a really good dark brown colour on both sides as this helps with the final flavour. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches depending on the size of your frying pan.

Fry off the onion in the same pan until brown.

Place the beef and onion in a lidded casserole dish along with the can of tomatoes, apricots, chickpeas and stock pot/cube. Cover with 1 and a half tins of water (using the tin from either the tomatoes or chickpeas to measure). Bring the mixture to the boil on the hob and then cover.

Place in an oven preheated to 180oC for 1 hour.

Then reduce the temperature to 150oc and cook for a further 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Make sure to check the pot at regular intervals (about every 30 mins) to give it a little stir and add a little extra water if the sauce is becoming too dry.

Just before serving mix in a good handful of chopped, fresh coriander.

Serve over a steaming bowl of cous cous or rice and garnish with more coriander and lightly toasted flaked almonds.


PS. If, unlike me, you are feeling the yuletide spirit then you may like to try one of my Christmas recipes from previous years.

Bread sauce
Easy chocolate biscuits (decorated for Christmas)
Homemade mincemeat
Christmas fudge
Mincemeat filo cigars and no nonsense mincemeat tart
Christmas pudding
Prawn cocktail

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Yakitori (and other barbecued delights)

yakitori2

As regular followers of this blog will know, we are a family obsessed with all things Japanese. So when we light up a BBQ you won’t find boring old beef burgers and sausages. It’s yakitori for us.

My five year old son mentioned eating yakitori in his school diary and had to explain exactly what it was to the class. His teachers must think we’re a right bunch of pretentious ponces.

However, although yakitori sounds fancy and exotic, it’s really just little bits of chicken on a skewer (a kebab basically) brushed with a special sauce. The recipe comes from this book.

Harumi

Yakitori sauce

  • 100ml of mirin
  • 3 tablespoons of sake
  • 100ml of soy sauce (preferably Japanese)
  • 50g of caster sugar

Mix all the ingredients above together in a pan and then simmer over a medium heat until the mixture thickens (don’t let it thicken too much however or you’ll have soy sauce flavoured caramel). Set aside until you are ready to use.

Thread small cubes of chicken onto skewers. Season with salt and pepper then barbecue until cooked through.

Once cooked and still hot, brush liberally with the yakitori sauce and serve straight away.

NOTES:

Store any leftover sauce in a clean jar in the fridge. It keeps very well.

You don’t have to use chicken. You can use the sauce on other meats such as beef and pork. Or try with fish or vegetables.


Another recipe I’ve tried recently is this from James Martin. He uses beef foreribs which he cooks in the oven, however I’ve adapted it to use brisket (cheaper and easier to get hold of) and then cook it on the barbecue.

Barbecued brisket with a sticky bourbon glaze

I don’t have a photograph of this dish – sorry. It’s tasty but not very photogenic, if you want to imagine what it looks like then just think of black squares. There’s not even a picture in the ‘Saturday Kitchen at Home’ book it comes from.

For the brisket

  • a large piece of rolled brisket (approx 1.5kg)
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped

For the glaze

  • 175g tomato ketchup
  • 150g chilli ketchup
  • 110ml dark soy sauce
  • 175g honey
  • 4 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of bourbon

First place the brisket in a large saucepan with the peppercorns, bay, parsley, onion and carrot. Fill the pan with water to just cover the brisket. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours with a lid partly on. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface.

When cooked and tender leave the brisket to cool in the stock. Drain, unroll, cut off most of the fat and cut into large wedges. You can save the stock for soup or risotto.

Place all the ingredients for the glaze in a pan and bring to a simmer. Take the chunks of brisket and dip in the sauce to coat.

Barbecue the pieces of brisket until warmed through basting with more sauce halfway through.

NOTE:

Just like the yakitori sauce, you can store any leftover sauce in the fridge in a clean jar.

Jamesmartin

Poor old James Martin. I like his recipes but he’s totally demeaned himself with those deeply embarrassing ASDA adverts.

Brisket Madras with red lentil dosa

madras brisket with dosa

I’m extremely lucky to have some brilliant butchers close by and my favourite* has just had a refit. They’ve moved their butcher’s block into the centre of the shop which is a stroke of genius from a business point of view. Last week I didn’t go in meaning to buy a giant piece of brisket but when I saw it beautifully rolled on the slab next to a sharp knife and a smiley butcher ready to cut it to any size I wanted, I just couldn’t resist.

I then got home and tried to work out what on earth to do with it. In the end I remembered a delicious beef Madras curry that my husband had once cooked for a dinner party and decided to use those flavours with the brisket. It worked really well and my whole family, especially the children, loved it.

To go with the curried brisket I dug out an ancient recipe for red lentil dosa from my file of cut outs. I’ve had it so long that I could only just make out the faded type. Dosa are a type of Indian pancake made from fermented rice and lentils. They don’t contain any flour and so are perfect for anyone with a gluten or wheat allergy.

*Coates Traditional Butchers, Bramcote Lane, Wollaton

Brisket Madras

  • About 2kg of unrolled beef brisket

Spice paste

  • 20g of ginger, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 25g of ground coriander
  • 6 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • ½ a teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (or more if you like it hot)
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons of distilled white vinegar

Sauce

  • 1/2 a tablespoon of ghee or butter
  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A knorr beef stock pot (or similar stock)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • Water to cover

Trim the excess fat from the piece of beef brisket and cut the string to unroll it if you’ve bought it rolled from the butchers.

Place all the ingredients for the spice paste into a small bowl and mix until smooth. Spread the spice paste all over the brisket, cover and leave to marinade in the fridge overnight.

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Take a heavy casserole dish with a lid, add the ghee/butter and heat to a medium high heat. Sear the brisket for a couple of minutes on each side. Throw in the sauce ingredients, add enough water to cover the meat and bring the liquid in the pan to the boil. Cover with a disc of baking paper (touching the surface of the meat and liquid) put the lid on and cook in the oven for 5-6 hours until the meat is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it covered with the meat inside for a good 30 minutes. Remove the beef from the pan and shred, removing any big lumps of fat. Add the beef back to the pan and give it a good stir to coat with the curry sauce.

You can serve the brisket warm or cold.

NOTE: This does make an enormous amount and fed our family of four generously for 4 meals. The first night we had it wrapped in a red lentil dosa (see recipe below). There were two meals with rice and we also ate it in home-made baguettes (my husband’s idea – a bit weird but delicious).

Red Lentil Dosas

Makes 8-12 dosa (I made 8 that were 22cm wide but if you use a smaller pan you will obviously make more)

  • 300g of rice
  • 100g of red lentils
  • 500ml of warm water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 4 tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander
  • Oil for frying

Place the rice, lentils and water in a bowl and leave to soak for 8 hours.

Pour the whole mixture into a food processor and blend until you have a smooth batter. Pour into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave to ferment for 24 hours at room temperature.

When you are ready to cook, stir the salt, turmeric and coriander into the batter.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium high heat and smear with a little oil. Add a ladle full of batter and smear around with the back of a spoon to fill the pan. Cook on one side for a couple of minutes until set. Drizzle a little more oil around the edges, then flip over and cook on the other side for about one minute.

Keep the cooked dosa warm in a low oven, wrapped in a damp tea towel whilst you cook the others. Serve warm.

NOTE: These are lovely filled with the curried brisket (recipe above) but they also go well with others curries and make a nice alternative to rice.

dosa cooking

Frying the dosa

Brisket

brisket

I love beef brisket. Not only is it economical and full of flavour but it’s also very forgiving. You just have to cook it nice and slow for at least 4 hours and it always turns out fine (unlike topside where there’s always a risk that it will be overdone and tough or underdone and the kids won’t eat it).

For years I’ve been cooking brisket in the same old nice (but boring) way.

  • season and sear meat
  • chuck in onion/carrot/garlic/herbs
  • cover with red wine and beef stock
  • cook on low for a whole afternoon

But then along came the lovely John Whaite who changed my outlook on this humble cut of meat. His ‘Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket’ is brisket with pizzazz. The technique is similar to mine, but with the addition of a few new exciting flavours you get a lighter, sunnier kind of dish – one that you serve with flat breads and spicy coleslaw rather than Yorkshire puddings and potatoes. There is obviously a place for both but it’s good to have another option, especially in the hotter spring/summer months when a traditional roast doesn’t really suit.

John Whaite’s Anglo-Vietnamese shredded beef brisket (from the Telegraph online)

  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5kg unrolled beef brisket (my joint was actually only 850g but I still used the quantities below and it was delicious, my butcher only sells it rolled but I just cut the string and unrolled it)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into 8 pieces
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and gently crushed
  • The peel from 1 clementine (I used orange peel because that’s all I had)
  • 3 star anise flowers
  • 8 green cardamon pods, bruised
  • 300ml of red wine (I used cheap rioja)
  • 250ml of beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce (I used 1 tablespoon because 1 teaspoon seemed like child’s play)
  • A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 140oC fan.

Rub salt and pepper on the entire surface of the meat and sear it in a heavy casserole dish with a lid over a medium-high heat for a minute on each side.

Throw in the other ingredients and bring the liquid in the pan to a boil. Cover with a disc of baking paper, touching the surface of the meat and liquid. Put the lid on and cook in the oven for 4-4 ½ hours, until the meat is tender.

Remove the pan from the oven, but leave it covered with the meat inside for a good 30 minutes.

Remove the beef from the pan and shred, removing any big lumps of fat. Then pass the cooking liquor through a sieve before returning to the pan along with the shredded beef. Scatter with freshly chopped coriander before serving.

I served mine in a tortilla wrap (bought I’m afraid) with an Asian flavoured coleslaw (basically red cabbage, onion and carrot with leftover gyoza dipping sauce chucked over the top).

Best burgers

burgers

It’s been a busy week so I’m not going to babble on – I’m just going to tell you about this brilliant burger recipe (similar to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Bloody Mary burgers in River Cottage Everyday).

There’s nothing like a good burger and I always make my own because then you know exactly what you’re eating (not that I have anything against eating horse but I’d rather choose to do so). You do need decent quality steak mince though, preferably from a good local butcher.

If you’re not from Nottingham then you can skip this part because this is where I do a shameless plug for my two favourite local butchers. But this is only so that plenty of people use them and they don’t close down.

Coates Traditional Butchers – Bramcote Lane, Wollaton
http://www.coatestraditionalbutchers.co.uk/

Meat 4 U (don’t be put off by the terrible name) – The Square, Beeston

Burgers

Makes 6-8 large burgers

  • 1 kg best steak mince
  • ½ onion grated
  • A good handful of breadcrumbs (these produce a less dense burger with a softer texture but if you don’t have any to hand it won’t hurt to leave them out)
  • 1½ tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoons of strong horseradish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 6-12 dashes of tabasco sauce (to your own personal taste)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Take a large mixing bowl and add in all of the above ingredients. With your hands mix together, scrunching up the ingredients until they are evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for at least 30 minutes so that the flavours mingle.

Divide the mixture into 6 – 8 portions (depending on the size of burger you want) and with your hands mold into burger shapes about 1 ½ cm thick. If you press the mix down inside a large circular pastry cutter you get a nice uniform shape but I don’t worry too much about this.

Ideally these should be cooked on the barbecue but it’s not quite the weather for that yet, so set your grill to its highest setting and cook the burgers for between 4 and 10 minutes on each side. I like them pretty well done (to recreate that charcoal barbecue like taste) so I cook for 10 minutes each side (as you can tell by the photo). You can reduce the time if you like them rarer (and this is fine as long as your mince is good quality) to 4 minutes on each side.

How you serve your burger is up to you, but for me it has to be a soft white cob with polish ketchup, mustard and gherkin.

Note: I like to make plenty of these as they are great sliced thinly the next day and eaten cold in a sandwich. This is a bit like a beef version of haslet and is delicious with mustard and mayonnaise.

Thai marinated steak

thai steak and rice

I’ve been eating lots of very basic food in January – baked potatoes with cheese, home-made wedges with a fried egg on top, dhal (as in my last post) – that sort of thing. There’s not been much meat involved which is fine but I can’t keep it up for any extended period and it’s not long before I crave a giant juicy steak.

This is a perfect recipe for a spicy, meaty, Friday-night feast. I wouldn’t use cuts like sirloin or rib-eye (which in my view are best simply cooked with no sauce or marinade to hide their delicate flavour), but it works tremendously well with rump steak which is cheaper and a little less flavoursome. Do still try to buy decent rump steak from your butcher if you can, or the best that the supermarket has to offer.

Served with salad I wondered whether this recipe might be good if you’re cutting out carbohydrates, only then I realised that the dressing has 2 teaspoons of sugar in it (which of course is the most evil carb of all, or so I’ve been reminded almost every-day this year). Perhaps though you could use some sugar substitute which I’m sure they sell in Holland and Barrett.

This dish also works well as a dinner party starter. Steak is really difficult to cook for a larger group (unless you have multiple griddle pans) but with this recipe one large steak, cut thinly, can stretch to serve up to 8 people as a starter or as one of a number of dishes in a banquet.

Thai marinated steak over rice or salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4-8 as a sharing starter

  • A large piece of best rump steak (enough for two as a main course)

Marinade

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • A small bunch of coriander stalks
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 fresh red chilli, or 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar

Combine the marinade ingredients in a mini chopper or food processor and blend well. You can also do this in a pestle and mortar. Spread the mixture over the steak and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours.

When you are ready to cook the steak, remove as much of the marinade from the steak as you can while you heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat. You will not need to add any additional oil if you are using a griddle but if you are using a frying pan then add a tablespoon of oil to the pan before adding the steak.

Cook the steak for about 3-4 minutes on either side. Keep the heat really high and don’t move the steak around the pan during cooking and turn just once.

Remove the steak from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest while you make the dressing.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together and stir well.

With rice

If you are serving with rice then cut the steak up into thin strips, place over the cooked rice (to cook see my post Nice Rice) and spoon over the dressing. Add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.

With salad
Make a salad using one small soft leaf lettuce, ½ a cucumber (chopped into small chunks), a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved) and 4 spring onions (chopped). Slice the steak thinly and place over the prepared salad. Spoon over the dressing and add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.