First of all, I apologise for the lack of blog love in the past fortnight. Yup, it’s the same old excuses – busy busy busy and my kitchen libido has taken a nose dive again yaddi yaddi ya. And of course, football rules my life and man oh man, these 4AM World Cup games were a killer on ye olde body clock.
It has also been a difficult few days, with the most screwed up end-of-the-week ever. Bad news came pummelling at me in one shitty heap and though I put on a brave front to the world, it still hurts and aches like buggery inside. As they say, “when it rains, it pours” (you know, I’d love to clobber the fool who came up with that stupid phrase). So more apologies if this post doesn’t, well, sound like my usual self.
This battered old soul is now crying out for comfort in all shapes and forms. A part of me seeks the company of awesome friends for laughs and distracting conversations. Another part of me heals by donning the trackie pants and settling down to trashy dvds* with my faithful man and canine. And of course, I cook**.
*Rumours that I’ve watched and enjoyed a Kevin Costner movie are all false. By that, I mean it’s shamefully true.
Thyme heals all wounds (snap!)
Winter is still raging in Aussieland and my local butcher is now my new best friend because I just can’t get enough of meaty stews and braising anything and everything in sight (all loved domestic pets are exempt of course). Hearty slow-cooked meals are what I turn to for maximum healing, especially if it has been cooked in something alcoholic. Which is why I’ve been disposing of my recyclables in the dead of night so nobody can see how many empty glass bottles are in my possession (red wine? What red wine?!).
Simple is good as this beef and red wine pot pie proves. Tonight it was served alongside cabbage that was braised with caramelised carrot, celery and onion, garlic, bacon, caraway and fennel seeds and a splash of red wine vinegar. The recipe comes from Adrian Richardson’s Meat: Delicious Dinners For Every Night of the Week.
Who’d ever thought cabbage could be so delicious when caramelised in butter?
One should never underestimate the power of braised meat too soothe, comfort and heal. I know this post was a little bit more melancholy as usual but I assure you that I’ll be back to my bouncy, inane self soon enough.
Beef and Red Wine Pot Pie
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
1.7kg boneless beef shoulder or chuck, cut into 1 – 1.5cm cubes
Seasoned flour (for dusting)
30ml olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
600ml beef stock
375ml red wine – use a nice, gutsy cabernet or shiraz
10 sprigs of thyme – tied with kitchen twine
3 fresh bay leaves
200g butter mushrooms, chopped
20g plain flour (optional)
30ml red wine vinegar
375g butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 Tbl milk
Dust the beef cubes in plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper and shake off the excess. Heat oil in a heavy based casserole pot over medium heat and brown beef cubes in batches, stirring to prevent the flour from catching and burning on the bottom. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
Add a splash more oil and add the veges and garlic and cook for around 5 minutes or until softened.
Add stock, wine, herbs and the browned beef cubes and season lightly with sea salt and black pepper (it’s always best to do most of the seasoning after everything’s cooked and liquid has reduced). Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours. Add mushrooms and cook another 30 minutes or until meat is tender.
If it’s still a little liquidy, place flour in a small bowl and add enough braising liquid (about 40ml) to make a thin, smooth paste. Add to casserole little by little, stirring, until it’s smooth and thick. Season to taste, add vinegar and cool. Once cooled, spoon into a 1.5 – 2L capacity pie dish, removing the bay leaves. Alternatively, you can spoon into individual pie dishes or ramekins.
Preheat oven to 180C. Roll pastry to 3mm thick and place over filling, with edges overhanging. Press with fork tines to seal edges and trim excess with a knife. Brush with the eggwash and bake for around 20 minutes or until pastry is golden. Serve with braised cabbage.
Adapted from Adrian Richardson’s Meat
3 Tbl olive oil
150g thick-cut rashers bacon or pancetta, sliced into batons
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
1/2 Tbl caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
600g Savoy cabbage, thickly sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and sauté the bacon until it’s crispy. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels.
Lower the heat and add the butter to the pan. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, caraway seeds and fennel seeds and sweat for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft, but not coloured.
Add the cabbage to the pan, cover with a lid and sweat for around 5 minutes or until the cabbage begins to soften. Season then increase the heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the pan juices have evaporated (it took mine around 15 minutes but I wanted it browned and nicely caramelised).
Stir through the fried bacon and parsley and serve. If you wish, you could also add a splash of lemon juice or red wine vinegar. The slight pickle-ly tartness would brilliantly to cut through the salty buttery richness.