23rd April 2011
Dinner Without Flora
So for her last night on earth, er I mean in my flat, Flora demanded a warming stew for dinner at 9 pm. Precisely at 9pm. On the table.
So I made a nice beef daube for 9pm. Precisely. Too bad she didn't turn up.
Other plans apparently. Though she did offer me a present. I hope it's not another fucking duck.

Oh, just one thing worth noting -
Despite how marvellous it tastes this casserole gives me the most astonishing squits. Strange really - it was definitely properly cooked and everything, but there seem to be certain combinations of fat which just give me the runs. Probably you'd be fine. Probably Flora would have been fine.
I have the same problem when I make real French Mayonnaise with egg yolks and virgin olive oil. Straight through me!
If I use whole egg, or add in some other oil then everything's fine.
It's probably just me.

Beef Daube
main meat
Beef Brisket Daube style stew with star anise, soy sauce and fish sauce
Now this stuff is rich. And I'm talking black treacle, crude oil, and Marmite rich. So you won't eat much of it and you will need something starchy and absorbent to contain it.
I made up some dumplings with mine, but a good dose of mashed potato really helps.

It's also bloody salty. And I'm talking Tom Kitchin salty. So despite what John Torode says, given the richness of the sauce I really don't think you need to add any more salt. To anything. Though perhaps the fact that I couldn't find a pig's trotter and had to use a smoked hough didn't exactly help.

The brisket is pretty damn gorgeous though.
The whole thing takes about 3 hours to cook, 4 hours to make.
Which is long enough to fiddle around trying out a new Beetroot Rösti version to go with.

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 190°C (Gas 5). Trim excess fat from the brisket then cut it into big chunks, at least 2" cubes. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan or casserole dish and fry in batches (without filling the pan) until well browned.
Set aside.
John suggests seasoning the beef really well first, but I think you could skip the salt. I also used flour for the seasoning and I was happy with the result, but the sauce is already pretty rich - do you really need it?
Chop the vegetables into not too-large pieces, maybe ½".
Heat some more oil in the casserole. Add the star anise, the onions, then the carrots, then the celery and fry until just soft. Add the crushed garlic, stir through, then add the port and the red wine. Bubble the liquid until it is reduced by half.

Add the brisket and the pig's trotter to the casserole and cover with the stock. Return to the boil, skim if necessary, then add the soy sauce, stout and fish sauce.
Cook covered in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat is very tender.

Take out the casserole now, and strain it. Return the liquid to the casserole together with the trotter, and reduce it until the sauce thickens. Adjust the seasoning.

Lift out the trotter and keep the meat (apparently it goes well on toast). Return the other ingredients to the sauce, add the dumplings (if using) and return the casserole to the oven for a final 30 minutes.
Serve with mashed potatoes.
The brisket really does turn meltingly soft, but it shrinks quite a lot so don't be afraid to cut big cubes, and you really can use 2kg!

side ingredient
Old fashioned suet dumplings. Perfect for stews. Good with a hint of herbs.
Dumplings. Old school.
Pick your herbs.

Makes 8 smallish dumplings

Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the suet, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Gradually add sufficient water and mix with a knife to form a soft, pliable dough. Divide and shape into 8 balls somewhere between walnut and golf ball sized using floured hands.
Add the dumplings to your stew, cover (though you don't have to in the oven, but you'll get crispier dumplings if you don't) and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the dumplings are swollen, light and fluffy.
I have made these with butter before when I didn't have any suet. They weren't quite as good, but maybe I need to work on the proportions - I used 50/50 chilled butter to flour.
You can use any herbs you fancy; sage, thyme, tarragon or lovage maybe. Or spices, or mustard, or spinach, or mushrooms, or tomato purée/sauce, or grated cheese ... or Bacon! Everything tastes better with Bacon!
Whilst you can use wholewheat flour (with baking soda) I personally don't think they taste very good.

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