Red Braised Beef

It’s all asparagus, artichokes and strawberries round here right now, but the other day I found myself hankering for something slow-cooked and succulent to farewell the winter. Here’s a basic recipe for something delicious to do with any slow-cook beef cut, particularly those on the bone. I used shin on the bone, which I bought from the halal butcher in Sandringham. There are two halal butchers in Sandringham, and I find them good for different things. This was from the one right nextdoor to Khyber Spice; their beef and lamb are particularly good – Yael Shochat from Ima buys lamb there and that woman knows a good bit of lamb when she sees it. I bought about 800g – two pieces on the bone – at about $9/kilo. They’ll cut it up for you if you like but I wanted to try cooking it whole.

Next time I might try the dish with beef cheeks which I see they’ve started to stock regularly at Better Butchers on Mt Eden Rd. They used to order them in for you if you asked, but I guess people had started asking more frequently (maybe in part due to the adoration heaped upon beef cheeks by Eat Here Now‘s Simon Farrell-Green?) because they’re now advertising said cheeks on their outside wall. Good stuff.

I’d had some delicious red braised beef in Singapore – both in the city and at Changi Airport of all places. There’s not many places you could say the food at the airport was anything but pedestrian, but Singapore is one. The ‘red’ in the name seems to simply refer to the rich, glossy colouring of the resulting stew. Different versions abound, but here’s what I did, based on morphing a few different recipes and going by instinct. This might seem weird but I coated the beef in flour after browning it, rather than before – I wanted the flesh of the beef to come into contact with the hot oil and caramelize, rather than the flour, and for the flour to instead thicken the stew more – perhaps I’ll revert to the traditional method next time and see what the difference is. Anyway it seemed to work, as the result was tender with bags of flavour and a bit of heat from the chilli. This would serve four people:

-In a hot pan with oil, brown the whole beef shins (I used two pieces, 800g total) on all sides till aromatic and deep brown.

-Mix ground star anise, cinnamon, ginger, white pepper and a little dried red chilli. Mix about 3 tsp of the spice mix, and 1 tsp sugar with some flour. Coat the browned shins in the flour mix and place in an stove and oven-proof dish with lid.

-Back in the pan, saute 4 fat cloves garlic and 2 sliced spring onions till fragrant then add to the beef.

– Pour over about 1/4 cup dark soy sauce, 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry and 1/2 cup water (or so, adjust depending on size of dish – it needn’t cover the beef though)

– Bring to the boil then simmer for about 10 minutes. Transfer to oven preheated to 160 celsius and cook for 1.5 hours, taking out every half hour or so to turn the beef over and spoon liquid over.

– Take out dish and cut beef from the bone using scissors, into chunks. Leave bones in for marrow. Add desired quantity of carrots (I used organic baby carrots, washed but unpeeled, sliced in half lengthways) and greens of choice (I used purple sprouting broccoli from my garden but kai larn, regular broccoli, kale would be good).

– Cook for another 30-45 minutes until beef in meltingly tender and carrots have cooked through but are not yet  falling apart. Serve with steamed rice.

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