Lying in bed last Saturday morning, I was contemplating the facts of my day. I had a few chores to do, but today was not meant to be entirely a day of duty. Rocket had gone off to the England v Ireland Rugby at Twickenham with my brother and so dinner duty would fall to me. I had no intention of a day spent entirely in the kitchen but I was thinking curry – and when I think that, I usually do end up in the kitchen for quite a while….
My sister-in-law, El Porcio, rang for a catch-up and after we had rambled on about our respective holidays and family thangs we ended the call and I had forgotten to tell her that the Chilli seeds she had gifted Rocket last Christmas had blossomed, quite literally, whilst we were away. They were now smothered in flowers soon to be chilli’s and some tiny little green chilli’s had also emerged…
I won’t take you now to the dark depths of my inner mind but this somehow sparked a memory of suppers we have enjoyed in Chinese restaurants in and around China Town, in London and invariably such suppers involve one of those delicious spicy fragrant stews … served with a pile of some sort of interesting greens. Returning to the UK in September has meant that I’m feeling very autumnal…… had been going to do a fish dish but such is the decision making process that a fragrant beef stew it turned out to be.
The only stumbling block was that, although I have a reasonably good palate and could imagine my way around a number of the required ingredients, I’ve never actually seen one of this things being made . I am most definitely not an expert on Chinese cookery (or any cookery for that matter but definitely not Chinese!). I cast around for a while on the ‘interweb’…. but didn’t really see anything that would match that which was in my head. So forgive me for the lack of authenticity, I gathered our pantry of Chinese flavourings and assembled my heart’s desire using what I would describe as a European approach to achieving the end product.
Now, I had no idea how it was going to turn out, but actually I was pleased with the end result. Rocket polished it off when he came home and we agreed it met our Saturday evening craving for spice whilst also being comforting, and different from the norm. (There are lots of ingredients but if you have the standard Chinese bits and bobs in the cupboard … we only had to buy some beef).
The chopping and prep took 20 minutes and the stew does need a good 3 hours to cook through making it easy to go off to do something else. I chose to catch up on my favourite blogs with GBBO on catch-up in the background, while the aroma of all things Chinese pervaded the air….We served the stew up with a pile of Chinese leaves and some plain boiled rice.
I could only get standard stewing steak but having now made it, blade of beef or beef cheek would be a much better option (as they would give a stickier and more gelatinous finish) so I’ve included that in the recipe below, cooking times will depend on the cut but long and low is the essential thang.
Recipe below serves 4
Here is how it came together:
600g blade of beef or beef cheek cut into large chunks
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
5 spring onion whites, cut into 4cm pieces
5 spring onion greens finely sliced
2 inches of root ginger peeled and sliced into small batons
2 cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
1/2 bunch coriander stalks finely chopped.
1/2 bunch of coriander leaves, picked.
3 birds-eye chilli’s finely chopped ( less or more according to taste)
2/3 cup of shaoshing wine (Chinese cooking wine – could substitute sherry).
1/8 cup of light soy sauce
2 teaspoons of dark soy sauce
1 stick of cinnamon
2 star anise
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice
1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1.5 tsps. brown sugar
1 dessert spoon of seasoned flour
500ml beef stock
2 tbsp. veg oil for frying
6 mushrooms thickly sliced
Here is how to prepare the stew:
- Dust the beef pieces with the seasoned flour and fry them in the oil until golden brown, before removing them from the pan and setting aside.
- Add the onions to the same pan and allow them to soften before adding the garlic slices, then add the five spice and stir through the onions before you add the Shaoshing wine and deglaze the pan thoroughly- getting all the meet juices from the bottom of the pan, then reduce the wine until it has almost disappeared.
- Prepare the beef stock and add both soy sauces to the stock, stir well, then pour into the pan with the onions and garlic and add the sugar.
- Add the spring onion whites holding back the finely sliced ones for the garnish, mushrooms, ginger, chilli’s, coriander seeds and cinnamon stick and bring the stock to just about boiling before returning the beef to the pan.
- Bring back to the boil then turn down to the lowest heat possible and almost cover the pan with a lid.
- Leave to cook on for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick, then remove the lid and cook for a further hour with the lid off so as to reduce and thicken, and the beef should be soft but gelatinous – just adjust the time slightly accordingly.
- Garnish with some de-seeded slices of red chilli, coriander leaves, spring onion and some fresh ginger batons. Serve with some simple greens and rice.