Storm Eleanor is fast approaching us here in West Cork and we need something for tea that is warming, comforting and easy. Also, importantly this dish will cope well in the event of a power outage. And it is a really slow meal too, so you will build up an appetite as the beef cooks until it melts and just falls off the bone.
I have bought a large piece of shin of beef with the bone in from Walsh’s Butchers in Skibbereen. The butcher appeared from the back of the shop brandishing a whole leg and kindly cut it to size using the electric band saw to dramatic effect. Shin needs to be cooked low and slow – 5 hours is what we are looking at – so plenty of time to spend battening down hatches, checking on the neighbours, or just reading a book in front of the fire. This cut is tough and sinewy when undercooked but given the right treatment is absolutely delicious and much cheaper than other cuts – and lets face it none of us have any money left in January. Shin of beef will easily stretch to two or three meals and the leftovers are great in a sandwich with lots of horseradish sauce or in a puff pastry topped pie with chestnut mushrooms.
And if the power goes off while this is cooking, it will cope perfectly well with being stuck on top of the wood burner or the camping stove to complete. I serve with mashed potatoes, turnips (swede in England) and carrots with lots of butter and white pepper just like my Mum used to make them and some greens on the side (or good old bread and butter if the power goes). So amid the candles and while you are eating with a head torch on this is the food to give you gastronomic shelter from the storm.
Enough for 4 (and some decent leftovers)
- 1.5 – 2kg Shin of beef in one piece with the bone left in
- Whole bulb of garlic cut in half
- I teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- 3 or 4 bay leaves
- Small bunch of thyme
- 3 onions or 6 shallots peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 sticks of celery roughly chopped.
- 1 large carrot roughly chopped.
- I pint of good beef stock
- Half a pint of red wine or one of those huge glasses that they serve in wine bars
You will need a large oven proof casserole that can also go on the hob and a frying pan.
- Pre-heat the oven to 140 C.
- Rub the joint with the allspice and cumin and season with the salt and pepper.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in the frying pan and get the pan good and hot before browning the meat very well on all sides. Don’t rush this as it will give a great flavour to the final dish.
- In the casserole heat the rest of the olive oil and on a medium heat add the chopped vegetables and the herbs and cook until the onions are soft.
- When the beef is almost done add the two halves of garlic to the frying pan until they have caramelised well.
- Now add the beef and the garlic to the casserole and pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and let the wine bubble away for a couple of minutes and then add your beef stock.
- Put the lid on the casserole and place it in the oven.
- Find something to do. A book to read. A DIY job. Tidy the kitchen cupboards. Put the roof back on the shed. This needs to cook for 5 hours and then rest for about an hour, so all that you need to do is sort out the vegetables and either blend the cooking stock (minus the herbs) to make a rich thick gravy, or just serve it as it is spooned over the beef.