Having had an overheated summer and a half working oven, I've really put cooking with the oven on the back burner. I decided to give the old cooker a go and success, she works! Kind of.. So I decided to cook a dish that always gives me comfort when it's cold.
Proper braised beef, not the quick cooked, readily available, over saturated market option at every second restaurant in New York, is a well kept diamond.
Two VITAL non negotiables for braising beef are anchovies and juniper berries. The anchovies soften, dissolve and enhance a strong flavor in all meats, especially beef. Juniper berries on the other hand almost create a nostalgia without even knowing it. The berries when cooked with the beef give a woody, bitter sweet taste that takes you to a time of wholesome, hardy eating. It makes you feel like you're eating around a fire in middle of the woods, on a cold winter night. Over the top? No.
So here's what you need to get started,
1 Pound of Topside Beef
1 Brown Onion
5 Garlic Cloves
3 Bay Leaves
½ TSP Cayenne Pepper
½ TSP Chilli Flakes
3 Parts Red Wine
1 Part Beef Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 TBSP Butter
The quantities above will vary depending on how many people you’re cooking for and or taste preference. I personally like my wine darker, garlic and anchovies more plentiful and the robust heat from the cayenne.
Two notes before cooking;
Dry beef with a paper towel before browning – the beef won’t brown as nicely
2. It is important to smash the juniper berries and garlic cloves to release flavors
Start by browning the beef in a pan, making sure all sides are sealed and well browned. After, keep the pan hot and pour one cup of red wine over it. The wine hits the heated pan and collects all of the wonderful flavors. Pour the stock immediately into a baking pot and the follow with the rest of the above ingredients. Dice the carrots and onions as you like.
I’d like to say three hours is fine for braising, I baked at 350F and achieved a wonderfully soft meat. If you've got time, continue to bake until the meat melts. It’s also important to make sure that if you’re cutting the beef into cubes that each piece is of equal size, to help braise at an equal rate.
Back in Sydney I used to buy whole topside, cut through the middle and stuff it with watercress, mustard seeds and garlic, it was a dream in a tagine. Cooking meat in a tagine makes for amazing braising. One of the best culinary investments ever made!
After an hour and a half, bake your accompanying vegetables. I chose baby beets, potatoes (skin on), carrots and garlic. Covering all the vegetables in hot mustard seed oil and salt, bake for an hour and a half, the potatoes respond really to baking when the skin is intact with a little olive oil and the beats and carrots keep their sweetness in the center and are wonderfully soft on the outside.