Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Tuscan Braised Beef

Quite often I like to wander around The Works down the Moor.  It's cheap and cheerful and there's always a few cook books to have a nosey at.  There's rarely anything groundbreaking in there but when the books are three for a tenner, you can't expect too much.

A couple of weeks ago, whilst buying a couple of books for Christmas presents, I dropped on 'Stew!' by Genevieve Taylor.  Unlike the authors of many of the books I've bought in The Works, Genevieve appears to be a real person, one I am now following on Twitter.

The book appealed to me for a few reasons; A) it was included in a three for a tenner deal, B) I like stew and some of the recipes look really tasty and C) Genevieve adds the personal touch by adding a little intro to each recipe.  Essentially it looked like a bargain for £3.33.  If you have missed the bargain you can pick it up for a reasonable price at Amazon.

My first meal out of this was the Tuscan Braised Beef.  It was hardly the most exciting dish on offer (there's Persian chicken and beef rendang in there too), but it looked pretty easy, if a little time consuming.

The recipe calls for 1kg of braising steak, but on spotting an ox cheek at the meat counter I went half and half cheek and braising steak.  This worked well for me as I like to use more unusual cuts and it kept the costs down too.  This wasn't the only change I made, and although I didn't make many, you should check out 'Stew!' for the true recipe.

Beef Cheek

I chopped the meat into bite sized pieces and made incisions in each piece.  I then sliced 4 garlic cloves into thin sticks and stuffed these into the incisions.  The meat was then browned off in butter and oil in a pan and set to one side. 

Beef with garlic

Next came the veg; 1 finely diced onion, 2 finely diced carrots and 2 sliced celery stalks went into the pan with the meat juices.  100g of some gorgeously fatty home cured bacon also went in at this point and everything was cooked until softened.

I then returned the beef to the pan and added 600g beef stock along with a good old squirt of tomato puree, some fresh thyme and some dried marjoram.  I also did my usual trick of sticking in a Parmesan rind for extra richness (this is removed before serving).

Genevieve tells us to cook the stew, covered, for two and a half hours.  I did this, then removed the lid and cooked it for a further 45 minutes or so.  This was because I wanted to cook the meat for as long as possible and I also wanted to reduce the liquid.

Given the use of the beef cheek and the really fatty pancetta there was quite a lot of fat swimming on the surface but I managed to remove quite a bit of it by laying a piece of kitchen towel on top to soak up the fat and lifting it off.  I repeated this a few times....

I served it with some red Brussels sprouts tops, Cavolo Nero (which apparently originated from Tuscany!) and some spinach lightly cooked in a bit of butter and salt and pepper.

It was delicious.  Absolutely fantastic.  The beef cheek was so incredibly tender and next time I won't bother with braising steak; I'll just stick to the cheek.

I'd say there's enough for five servings and as I ate alone tonight, I'll be having this again with Gav tomorrow and the night after I'll do as the Italians do and stretch it out by using it as a pasta sauce.

I'm going to like this book....

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