Sunday, September 2, 2012

some of the best beef I've ever had

North Devon has always been a place in between with me. Somewhere you pass on through on the way to what I used to think was all the South West had to offer in the way of Cornwall, but I'm dead happy to be labelled a convert in more areas that I'd planned for. Truly brilliant people, quite beautiful places and their beef when it is correctly reared and handled is something utterly incredible.

You know when you've stumbled upon something a little bit special, it clicks effortlessly, feels instantly right and just seems to linger for ever. With proper beef, there constantly seems to be a search and demand for the next best thing; creamy fat, rich colouring, consistent marbling, depth of flavour - and on we could go... So when you find it, you need to do something decent with it.

Now, a steak is a wonderous thing, and I may have waxed on and on many times before of my love for just an unfussed and barely cooked slab of meat. I do more often than not need coaxing away from a primal cut, but the honesty of a harder working piece of the beast cooked slowly and lovingly never disappoints, it really is always worth the effort, and I sometimes kick myself for not doing it more often. Anyway, like all things quite brilliant, this beef has a source, and you can find it all from the amazing Yewdall family at West Webbery farm near Bideford. You can get a hold of Jonnie and Siana with their contact details here and ask them about their beef boxes.

An honest to goodness beef stew

Makes enough for 6-8, with enough  left over for a splendid lunch tomorrow

1.2kg shin of beef
A decent bottle of red wine
50g flour and 50g mustard powder, seasoned with salt and pepper
Beef dripping, or oil
4 onions, sliced
500ml beef stock
50ml each of Worcestershire sauce, HP sauce and tomato puree
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs of thyme
8 big flat mushrooms
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky slices
4 small turnips, peeled and cut into chunks

Trim the beef of its main sinews and cut into large chunks. steep in the red wine for a few hours, then drain and reserve the wine. Toss the meat with the seasoned flour and mustard powder to coat. Heat a heavy-bottomed casserole on a medium flame and add a knob of dripping or a couple of tablespoons of oil. Brown the meat in batches, adding more fat if necessary – be careful not to overcrowd the pan, or it will boil – then transfer to an overproof pot with a tight fitting lid.
Once all the meat is browned, cook the onions until soft and slightly browned. Add them to the beef and then pour in the wine to deglaze. Add the wine, the stock, the herbs and the sauces. Bring to a simmer, then cover and pop into an oven at 140c for at least three hours.
Add the carrots and turnips, and simmer for about another hour, until the meat is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Leave to cool, overnight if possible, and then bring back to a simmer, adjusting the seasoning and finishing with freshly chopped parsley, mashed potatoes and some beans from the garden - a triumph with a story.