Archive for the ‘Meat (Beef)’ Category

However much you enjoy it, a traditional British Sunday lunch of roast meat, vegetables and accompaniments can become a bit predictable.  It is good sometimes to ring the changes with a slight twist, especially if that twist is a relatively simple one: essential in our very busy Sunday household.  It was the slightly unusual sauce recipe that attracted my attention, which proved easy to adapt.  Designed to accompany expensive beef fillet, I cooked it with a different cut of beef, which slowly roasted while we were out at church.  As I had thought, it was delicious!

The original recipe, Pepper-crusted Fillet of Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onions & Thyme, comes from Delia Smith’s How to Cook, Book 3.  The original recipe was for fillet of beef cooked quickly on the bed of onions which were then made into a sauce.  Using a different cut of beef, which needed a slower cooking time, I prepared and cooked it in my usual way.  (I usually give a silverside or topside joint a slow cooking for Sunday lunch while we are out for the morning.)  Instructions are given below for my version using the cheaper cut of silverside beef (topside beef could be cooked in the same way).  If entertaining and using a finer cut of meat it can, of course, be cooked for the shorter time (refer to the recipe via the link above).  Delia Smith recommends the onions are added right at the start of the cooking time, however if I had done this with the lengthy cooking they would have been cooked to a crisp and useless, hence my adapted version. I also use my own cornflour based method for making the sauce.  Delia suggests the recipe could be accompanied by Potatoes Boulangère with RosemaryIt is difficult though to get away without serving Roast Beef with Yorkshire Puddings plus any usual favourite side dishes and sauces. 

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Roast Beef with Roasted Balsamic Onion & Thyme Sauce
(Serves 6)

1lb 8oz-2lb/680-900g silverside/topside beef (original: middle-cut beef fillet)
a knob of butter (orig: drizzle of oil)
1-3tsp ground black peppercorns (be generous for a hotter flavour)
2fl oz/55ml balsamic vinegar
1 level tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1lb/450g medium sized red onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
For the sauce:
1 heaped tsp cornflour
1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
½pt/275 ml red wine (can be the end of a bottle which has been frozen)

1.  To allow the flavours to develop start the recipe at least 2 hours before cooking, if possible.  Rub the meat with a little butter and grind the peppercorns over the surface of the beef, pressing in well – the more you add the hotter it will be. 

2.  To make the onion sauce mix the sugar and balsamic vinegar together thoroughly in a large bowl and leave it to rest while preparing the onions so the sugar dissolves.  Peel the onions and leaving the root intact cut each one into eight wedges.  Add the onion wedges and a tablespoon of oil to the bowl with the sugar and vinegar and gently toss to coat.  Cover and leave to one side while the meat is cooking.  (Doing this early in the day is a useful time saver for when time is short later in the morning but alternatively it can be done while the meat is cooking.)

3.  Preheat the oven 150oC/300oF/Gas 2. 

4.  Put about 1cm/½inch water in a roasting dish to keep the meat moist.  Place the meat on a rack in the dish, cover and cook for about 2 hours or even a little longer.  Check that the dish is not going dry when you can (if you are out then look as soon as you return).

5.  Remove the roasting tin from the oven, removing the meat and the rack.  Raise the oven temperature to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

6.  Pour off any excess meat juices and fat which can be used either to make gravy (there is usually someone who wants gravy as well as sauce) or to use in other dishes.   It is not necessary to wash the roasting tin, unless it has gone dry and burned.

7.  Spread the onion mixture out in the base of the roasting tin.  Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season well with salt.   Place the beef on top of the onion mixture.  Cover, return to the oven and continue cooking for 20 minutes.

8.  Remove the beef from the tin and transfer to a warm place to rest.  Return the tin with the onions to the oven and cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Depending on size of onion, carefully remove two to three whole wedges per diner from the dish and keep warm alongside the meat.  Finely chop the remaining onion along with any juices from the pan that the meat has been cooked in.  (If needed add some of the meat juice from earlier, but not the fat.)  In a small saucepan mix the cornflour with the Worcester Sauce and the balsamic vinegar to make a paste and then gradually add the wine and finally the chopped onion.  Bring to the boil until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring constantly to prevent it from becoming lumpy.  Turn down the heat and simmer gently until the sauce has reduced by about a quarter.  Check and adjust seasoning as required.

9.  To serve, carve the beef and stir any extra meat juices into the sauce.  Serve garnished with the onions and the sauce poured over, plus whatever accompaniments for roast beef you prefer.


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We love the flavours of North Africa: with ingredients such as spicy coriander and cumin, fragrant cinnamon and orange flower water, hot chilli and ginger, sour pickled lemon, salty olives and sometimes even the sweetness of fruit, although readers of other pages on this site will know that I am not keen on very sweet fruit with meat.  I was delighted, therefore, to be given a Tagine for my birthday: not absolutely necessary to cook the dishes but lovely to look at and use for serving and especially for entertaining.  Along with the Tagine, I was also given a recipe book containing a good selection of ideas for using my new pot.  This was the first recipe that caught my eye: we love beetroot cooked with meat and in combination with orange the dish sounded unusual and delicious. 

This recipe was taken from Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Başan.  I have altered the quantities and proportions a little and have adapted the recipe for cooking in the oven.  (My Tagine cannot be used on the stovetop as I have an electric cooker with a ceramic hob.)  I served the Tagine with wedges of butternut squash oven baked with olive oil and a sprinkling of Ras el-Hanout, a spice mixture which is exclusive to North Africa (I mix my own) along with Couscous flavoured with pickled lemon and fresh coriander.  I often add chickpeas to the couscous mixture but these would also be good added to the Tagine at the same time as the orange segments.

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Moroccan Style Beef Stew with Beetroot & Orange
(Serves 4-6)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil (original uses ghee)
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large red onions, halved lengthwide and sliced
1inch/2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated (amount can be increased)
½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped
2tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
3-4 beetroots, peeled & quartered (uncooked)
1lb/500g lean beef, cut into bite sized pieces
2 or 3 thin skinned oranges, segmented
1tbsp dark, runny honey
1-2 tsp orange flower water
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 knob of butter
2-3 tbsp shelled pistachio nuts
a handful of fresh coriander, chopped (original uses flat leaved parsley)

This recipe can be either cooked on the hob, as in the original instruction, or at Step 6 transferred to the oven and baked. 
If using the oven it should be pre-heated to 160oC Fan/170oC/325oF/Gas 3

1.  Melt the oil in a pan (alternatively a Tagine or lidded casserole dish suitable for stove top use) and stir in the garlic, onion and ginger until they start to colour.

2.  Add the chilli, crushed coriander seeds and cinnamon stick.

3.  Add the beetroot pieces and cook gently for 2-3minutes. 

4.  Add the beef and gently cook for 1 minute.

5.   Pour over enough water to almost cover the beetroot and beef.  Bring to the boil. 

6.  Transfer to a Tagine or ovenproof dish with a well fitting lid and place in the oven.   Alternatively leave in the pan, cover and reduce heat.  Cook for 1 hour, until the meat is very tender.

7.  Add the orange pieces, honey and orange flower water and season.  Cook, covered, for a further 10-15 minutes.

8.  Melt the butter in a small pan and lightly brown the pistachio nuts over a medium heat.

9.  Sprinkle them, with the coriander or flat leaved parsley, over the meat mixture and serve.

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The modern kitchen is likely to contain so many pieces of equipment that it is almost impossible to have them all out and available at the same time: unless, of course, you have a huge kitchen.  My slow cooker has been hiding in the cupboard for a while and had been rather forgotten, until last week, that is, when I needed to cook a ham.  Using the slow method, I thought, would make a change.  As it was still sitting on the counter it seemed sensible to use it for this recipe.  On a busy day it was helpful to prepare the food early in the day, returning later to a hot meal with minimal last minute work.  The instructions below include the (original) stove top casserole method as well as my slow cooker version.

This recipe is adapted, using several substitute/extra/changed quantities of ingredients, from one found in The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook.  The original was called Beef and Haricot Casserole and supplied by Jean Welshman of Malton, East Yorkshire.  I see no reason why almost any bean could be substituted (butter beans or kidney beans are both good), even baked beans at a pinch. I also increased the amount of tomato and added tomato purée to give an extra rich flavour and managed to use some sweet and delicious baby carrots found on our local market.  Once I successfully substituted a pig’s kidney for some of the beef to make a steak and kidney version.  This would not be the same without the wine, of course, but it could be replaced with extra water.  I freeze ends of bottles of wine, both red and white, to use in recipes.  I’m sure some would disapprove, but it works for me even though the flavour is probably not a patch on using fresh.   If I was cooking for guests, however, I would definitely open a bottle!   This casserole freezes well, according to the original instructions, although I have not tried it.  I would however not freeze the dumplings which are easily made freshly when needed.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Beef & Bean Casserole with Dumplings
(Serves 4)

400g/14oz tin haricot beans (alternatively red kidney or butter beans are good)
1tbsp olive or sunflower oil
125g/4ozs bacon, smoked or unsmoked
454g/1lb lean chuck or casserole steak
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
225g/8ozs baby carrots or 2 large carrots
4 medium tomatoes, sliced or cut in eighths
1tbsp tomato purée
150ml/¼pint red wine
150ml/¼pint water, if needed, aprox
½ beef stock cube
1tbsp dried mixed herbs, or 2 tbsp fresh (parsley, thyme & marjoram)
Salt & pepper
1tbsp butter & 1tbsp flour (beurre maine), mixed together, to thicken if needed

1.  If using a slow cooker it should be pre-heated on *High while the initial cooking takes place. This takes about ½hour.

2.  Gently fry the bacon in the oil for about 5minutes and then remove from pan to a dish, leaving bacon flavoured fat.

3.  Chop the beef into 2.5cm/1inch cubes and fry in the bacon flavoured oil until browned.  Place with the cooked bacon.

4.  Peel and slice the onion, dice the garlic and add to the pan.  Fry gently.  If using baby carrots simply top and tail them and clean well.  Larger carrots can be either well washed or peeled & sliced in 1.25cm/½inch rings.  Add these to the pan along with the tomato pieces, tomato purée, herbs and red wine.  Crumble in the stock cube and stir very well.  Return the meats to the pan, bring to the boil, reduce heat and cook for 5minutes. 

Stove top Casserole method:
Turn the meat and vegetable mixture into an ovenproof dish, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper (as an extra seal) plus a lid and place in the oven.  Cook for 1½-2 hours on a gentle heat. 
Slow cooker method:
Turn the meat and vegetable mixture into the slow cooker crock, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper (as an extra seal) plus the lid, turn down to *Automatic and leave to cook for 5 or more hours.  Beans should be heated up before adding to the mixture.  The cooker should be turned up to *High again for the final cooking period, especially if Dumplings are being added.

6.  If you would like a slightly thicker gravy this can be done towards the end of the cooking time using a beurre maine: combine the butter and flour and gradually add to the liquids in the casserole.  Stir in well.  Alternatively, for a mixture that lacks liquid, extra water can be added, or some of the water from the beans, though be aware that this may be salty. 

7.  Strain the beans from their liquid, stir them in and cook for another ½hour. Suet Dumplings should be added at the same time as the beans as they take around 20 minutes to cook.  Season to taste.  

8.  This casserole has a rich gravy so it is easier to serve the meal in bowls.  A green vegetable is a good accompaniment and adds a different colour.  Serve with potatoes or suet dumplings, cooked as part of the dish (see 7 above).  Alternatively, this casserole is delicious with creamy servings of Coleslaw and Potato Salad.  (This last link gives a recipe for Rosy Potato Salad which uses beetroot as well.  You could omit this if you wish although beetroot and beef go well together) .

*NOTE: My Cordon Bleu slow cooker has three settings: Automatic, Low and High. Cooker instructions vary so these are guidelines only.  Please consult the instruction booklet for your machine.

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Chilli con Carne is one of our most popular family recipes.  The name comes from the Spanish chile con carne, meaning ‘peppers with meat’, but it is actually the official dish of the State of Texas in the USA, making it ‘Tex-Mex’ rather than Mexican, as is sometimes thought.  My version is not taken from any particular book but has been adapted and improved whenever I have discovered a new ‘twist’.  Some years ago we had an excellent Chilli con Carne for lunch in a pub, leading me to experiment with adding cumin as well as chilli powder, which adds extra depth to the spice flavours.  More recently I discovered that Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast, adds cocoa powder to her Chilli con Carne.  What a good idea!  Chilli can be added to chocolate recipes, after all, so why not chocolate to chilli recipes?  It really does enrich the sauce and you do not detect the flavour at all.   Smoked bacon similarly adds good background flavour, with diced red and green peppers (capsicums) adding colour, as well as vegetable content.  If you wish to make the dish a little healthier by reducing the red meat content per head, add finely diced aubergine which will cook down to be almost invisible.  The amount of chilli powder to be added is optional, of course.  When my children were young I used to cook the mixture without chill, divide it between two pans and then add the spices later (not ideal, I know).  One pan had the full (adult) quantity of spices and the second had some cumin and a very little chilli, just enough for the children to get used to the taste: one was known as Chilli con Carne and the other as Carne non Chilli!  My ruse obviously worked as we all now eat food cooked in the same pan!  

As with the Lasagne al Forno I posted a few weeks ago, this method is my own tried and trusted recipe and special because it has been adapted and improved .  It is worth making a double quantity as the recipe can be frozen for later use, as can individual portions of leftovers.  Chilli con carne is lovely finished with a spoonful of cool and soothing soured cream.

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Special Chilli con Carne
(Serves 6)

15ml/1tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
½-1tsp (or more) chilli powder, depending on taste
1tsp cocoa powder (optional, but recommended)
1tbsp water
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
125g/4ozs diced bacon, smoked or unsmoked
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, quartered (or larger ones, sliced)
1 medium aubergine, diced (optional)
15ml/1tbsp mixed herbs
500g/1lb minced beef steak
30ml/2tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
150ml/¼pint water (about ½ tomato tin) 
1 red pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 green pepper (capsicum), deseeded & chopped
1 x 400g tin red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
Salt & black pepper

1.  If using aubergine it is usual to sprinkle it with salt, place it in a colander, cover it with a plate and place a weight on top of it for at least 30 minutes, to let the juices can run out.  You can cut out this step if you are short of time: I have never noticed much difference in taste.

2.  Mix the cumin and chilli with the water to make a paste.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan, stir in the spice paste and fry briefly (no more than 30 seconds).  Reduce the heat, stir in the onion and garlic and fry gently for 5 minutes, or until soft.  Add the diced bacon, mushrooms and mixed herbs (at this point the diced aubergine should be added, if using), put a lid on the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

3.  Add the beef mince, stir to break up and cook for 1o minutes, stirring occasionally so the meat cooks through.  Stir in the cocoa powder, tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and water, stir and bring to the boil.  Season and taste.  Reduce heat, cover and cook for a further 10minutes.

4.  Add the chopped peppers and red beans, stir well, cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending  on how well cooked you like your pepper. Check seasoning.

5.  Serve on a bed of white rice or as a filling for a jacket potato, flour tortilla or pancake along with a spoonful of sour cream.  A small side salad makes a good accompaniment along with a few tortilla chips if serving with rice.

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Lasagne al Forno, which I make with my own version of Ragu Bolognaise, has developed over the years. The combination of minced beef with a small amount of diced bacon in a rich sauce, layered with sheets of Lasagne pasta, is one of my daughter’s favourites and regularly turns up as the main course on her birthday. It is worth making a double quantity of this Lasagne.  A second lasagne can be frozen for later use.  (Do this in a foil lined dish.  The dish can be taken from the freezer when the lasagne is frozen leaving just the foil enclosed Lasagne. The foil should be removed from the frozen lasagne before it is placed back in the original dish for defrosting.  Allow to thaw fully before cooking for 45minutes to 1hr as in the original instructions.)

This method for Lasagne al Forno is my own tried and trusted recipe, not taken from any particular book but adapted down the years as I have discovered new ‘twists’ that work well. I expect it will continue to develop, so this page may occasionally be updated.

100_4176 Lasagne al forno

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Lasagne al Forno
(Serves 6)

1 quantity of Ragu Bolognaise (see basic recipe)

200g dried lasagne sheets: about 8/9 sheets, more if you wish (use home made pasta if available)
30ml/2tbsp cornflour
500ml/1pt milk
5g/1 knob butter
5ml/1tsp grated nutmeg
Salt & pepper
25g/1oz Parmesan cheese (or cheddar if unavailable) – more if you wish
1 or 2 tomatoes to slice for decoration
15ml/1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (omit if unavailable)

1.  Follow the instructions for the Ragu Bolognaise

2.  Mix the cornflour to a paste in a saucepan with a little milk and then gradually stir in about ¾ of the remaining milk.  Gently heat, stirring continuously until the sauce thickens.  This can also be done in a jug in the microwave oven, stirring well in between short bursts of heat.  Stir in the nutmeg and season to taste with salt & pepper.

3.  Using an oblong dish first put in a layer of meat mixture, followed by a drizzle of white sauce (2 or 3 tablespoons) and cover with 2 or 3 lasagne sheets, depending on the size of the dish.  Continue adding layers finishing with meat.  Rinse the pan the meat sauce has been cooked in with a little water and gently add these juices around the edges of  the dish.  It is important to have plenty of liquid in the dish as this helps the dried lasagne sheets to cook thoroughly and will evaporate during cooking time so just a thick sauce is left.  Finally finish with a layer of the remaining white sauce, covering as evenly as possible. 

4.  Sprinkle well with parmesan cheese and slices of tomato to decorate.  Bake at 200oC (190oc Fan oven)/400oF/Gas 4 for 45mins to 1hr.  Scatter with chopped parsley to garnish.

5.  Serve with salad or a green vegetable and hot garlic bread.

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The most well known Ragu takes its name from the Italian town of Bologna.  This rich sauce can be served on a bed of cooked pasta: spaghetti, tagliatelle or one of the many shapes.  It can also be cooked as part of the layered pasta dish Lasagne al Forno (literally lasagne cooked in the oven) or spooned as a filling into canelloni: tube shaped pasta.  Pasta is available dried or fresh in the supermarket, but if possible use home made.  Delicious!

This version is my own which has developed over the years as I have discovered ‘improvements’ in recipe books, from dining out and from TV cooks.  I use minced beef (some people prefer diced beef).  Once, having eaten a delicious version in a restaurant who included diced bacon, this has become a regular addition.  I cannot remember where I first heard about starting the recipe by frying the onion, carrot and celery mixture together, but it adds a wonderful flavour.  The Italian word for this ‘trinity’ of vegetables, when it is fried in a small amount of oil, is soffritto: in French the same mixture is called mirepoix.  Heston Blumenthal, the experimental chef, used soffritto when he made Ragu, but added a crushed star anise, more commonly used in Oriental cuisine, as it is a flavour enhancer.  I was not sure about all the additions he made to the dish – there seemed rather too many complex flavours – but the star anise sounded worth trying, though I have yet to sample it. Food writer Sue Kreitzman, always wanting to make dishes a bit healthier by reducing the red meat content per head, suggests the addition of finely diced aubergine, which cooks down to become invisible.  This is a good tip if you are trying to make your meat go a bit further too. The addition of red wine gives an extra special richness to the ragu, but you can leave it out, especially if you are feeding those who do not want the alcohol – even though, of course, the alcohol content will be long gone just leaving the richness of flavour. I always add wine if I have some to hand. Part bottles of wine that have been left over after a dinner can be frozen in plastic containers: it is perfect for adding to recipes, as long as the food will be cooked. The alcohol content means that the wine will not solidify completely and the frozen mush can be conveniently spooned out and used as and when required.

Ragu Bolognaise
(Serves 6)

1 large carrot, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
125g/4ozs diced bacon, smoked or unsmoked
1 small crushed star anise (optional and untried!)
125g/4ozs button mushrooms, quartered (or larger ones, sliced)
1 medium Aubergine, diced (optional)
15ml/1tbsp Italian herbs
500g/1lb minced beef steak
30ml/2tbsp tomato purée
1 x 400g tin tomatoes, chopped
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 small wineglass of red wine (about 125ml/¼pt)
15ml/1tbsp olive oil

1.  If using Aubergine it is usual to sprinkle it with salt, place it in a colander, cover it with a plate and place a weight on top of it for at least 30minutes, to let the juices can run out.  You can cut out this step if you are short of time: I have never noticed much difference in taste.

2.  Cook the finely chopped carrot, onion and celery mixture in olive oil until it is softened.  Add the crushed garlic, the bacon with the crushed star anise (if using) and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the aubergine (if using) and stir in with the chopped mushrooms and herbs. Cover the pan and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

3.  Stir in the minced beef  and cook slowing, turning from time to time, until it is brown.  Mix in the tomato purée.  Chop and stir in the tin of tomatoes.  Cut the peppers into small dice and stir into the mixture.  Stir in the red wine.  Cover the pan and simmer the mixture for at least 30 minutes longer, but more if possible especially if it is being served as a sauce rather than being made into a dish that will be given extra cooking time when baked in the oven.  It is quite common to cook the meat mixture for several hours during which time it the flavours develop as the sauce reduces.  I think that 1hour cooking time is the minimum required for a good and tasty sauce.

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