Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Chinese style beef shin

I've been going through an anti-cooking phase. I'm sleeping really badly at the moment which has resulted in me having pretty much no energy to do anything at all, including eat properly and look after myself. It's probably all a bit of a vicious circle, but I just can't be bothered to fix it. My healthier, more-balanced eating is taking place when others cook for me.

I've just been up in Newcastle visiting my little big sister and her three kids. This is my sister, Chris:

On Saturday night, Chris and I went out for a civilised dinner with my friend Sue (regular readers will remember Sue from my holiday posts.) What was meant to be a civilised dinner ended up with us going to the Pitcher and Piano on the Quayside, which is one of the most godawful places in the world. But funny. Sue and Chris did much dancing. I spent a large part of the evening smoking in the "b@stard cold" to quote a Geordie lass that spoke to me (she was wearing v little, I was wearing a lot.)

Anyhoo, the descent into boozing and dancing left my sister feeling a touch delicate on Sunday morning and left her reluctant to handle the raw meat for our slow-cooked dinner that she'd promised me.

Chinese beef shin (serves 4-6 depending on hunger levels)


1.25kg beef shin
Vegetable oil
2 onions
3 garlic cloves
50g peeled ginger
Stalks from a bunch of coriander
2 tsp Chinese 5 spice
3 star anise
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
100g muscovado sugar
50ml light soy sauce
50 ml dark soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato purée
600 ml chicken stock

Firstly, trim the beef shin of as much fat as possible. There's quite a bit of it in parts and, frankly, I'm fat enough. Cut it into bite size chunks like so:

Brown these off in a little oil in batches, setting them aside for later.

While the meat is browning, peel and roughly chop the onions, ginger and garlic and put them into a food processor with the coriander stalks and whizz it into a paste.

Wipe out any excess oil from the frying pan and put the paste into the pan with a good slug of water. "Fry" this off so that the onions soften and it smells pretty ace. The water should mostly evaporate and it will look like this:

Transfer the paste to a casserole dish and throw in the 5 spice, star anise and the peppercorns and cook for 1 minute. Add the sugar and tomato purée, cook out for a couple of minutes and then finally add the light and dark soy sauce.

Return the meat to the pan, cover with stock and bring to the boil. Put it in the oven at about 120-130c for 4 hours.

Normally when I have some cooking hours to kill, I watch a film or have a snooze. Yesterday, I showered and got ready to go to the cinema with Chris and the kids.

Part way though my shower, Fin (Chris' 4 year old) barged into the bathroom (no lock, I'm not just weird and forgetful) and refused to leave until I shouted "GET OUT!" repeatedly. I returned to my bedroom and found him sulking in my bed.

After a bit of coaxing, we had a lovely chat, talking about Christmas and such-like, and then the following happened. Fin leant forward and blew a raspberry on my naked arm, looked up at me angelically and said:

Fin: You're a fat guy.
Me: Oh......well yes. I guess I am.
Fin: I'm a thin guy.
Me: You are. You're very lucky.
Fin: So I'm a thin guy and you're a fat guy......Why are you a fat guy?
Me: Well, I eat too much.
Fin: Ahhhh! So you're Mr Greedy!!!
Me: Ummm. Yes. I also don't exercise.
Fin: (nods) Because you're too fat.

It's possibly the most refreshing conversation I've had in years. He's saying what he sees, is being bluntly truthful and it's great. And it made me laugh. It made Chris cringe her ass off. It's also made me go: "OH HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!! I'm a freaking lard-arse, I MUST FIX THIS IN JANUARY!!!!" Which is no bad thing.

Anyway. Once the cooking time is up and the beef is falling apart, remove the meat and keep warm.

Fish around in the sauce for the star anise and throw them away. The sauce needs to be reduced by half which you can do while you're cooking rice and stir frying veggies - we had peppers, baby sweetcorn and mushrooms with soy sauce and pak choi stir fried and finished with sesame seeds and a dribble of sesame oil.

Add the meat back to the thickened reduced sauce and serve (I know, I will never be a food stylist):

Incredibly easy and so tasty. The meat really takes on the Chinesey flavours. I'm going to try it with pig cheeks next time, simply because I prefer them and I think that they would work brilliantly in this, possibly better even than the beef.

So there we are. Something to eat, but only if you're a fat guy.*

* it's actually not really bad for you at all!

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