beef

Idaho Stew (Beef Coffee Stew)

Beef Coffee Stew

It was only when I finally moved to Cape Town to be with my partner that I realised I had, in fact, moved in with my own private flavourphobe.

From the very first meal I made us, it was abundantly clear that any thoughts I may have been harbouring about bringing about instant flavour-reform to his palette were a complete waste of time. His tastes preferences were set and I would simply have come to terms with the fact that there wasn’t going to be a belacan-epiphany or a glorious moment of garlic-redemption on the immediate horizon. Regardless how I felt about it, I had made my proverbial table so, for now at least, I was just going to have to eat at it.

For the first few months I dutifully made the plain dishes he enjoyed, but like all good spouses I was really doing what we do best – biding time. An errant garlic clove here, an extra splash of Worcestershire sauce there, little by little I tested the waters and after a while I began to introduce new dishes for his consideration. Some of these offerings were more successful than others, some were downright disasters, although with hindsight the roasted lamb with anchovies was particularly ill considered!

And then I discovered the recipe for this incredible stew.

On paper Idaho Stew fit the bill perfectly; it was a simple, old school beef braise with one small twist – it had coffee in it! It may seem minor now, but please remember that, culinarily speaking, South Africa was a very different place back in 2000. Back then the mere notion of sushi was downright provocative and the thought of cooking a savoury dish with coffee was considered, at best, daring to most South Africans (let alone my dearest flavourphobe)! So yes, back then this humble stew was a risk, but I had to try it, lest I be condemned to making sausage, peas and mash for the rest of my life.

So one night I bit the bullet and dished up my ‘daring’ new stew for dinner. With baited breath I watched as he eyed my latest offering with understandable suspicion. “What is it?”, he asked. “Oh, nothing weird, just a stew” I said, in what I hoped was my most casual voice. “Hmm, okay”, came the reply. Clearly he wasn’t convinced, perhaps the lingering trauma of that damn anchovy lamb was playing on his mind. In spite of his obvious suspicions he took a bite, albeit tentitively and after a moment of furrowed consideration he took another, then another – the stew was hit! It was only once his plate was cleared that I dared divulge the contentious ingredient.

“Coffee? Really? You can’t taste it”.

Wow, he was taking this surprisingly well.

“You can definitely make this again”.

Oh, sweet success!

“But next time may I have it with rice and not mash?”.

Sigh. Okay, so you’re still a freak, but I’ll take the win.

To this day Idaho Stew remains a firm favourite in his limited pantheon of acceptable meals and I still make it often, although he normally refers to it as “his coffee stew” suggesting a secret revelry in the kudos of his expanded palette. These days I usually have a couple of handy portions of this stew in the back of the freezer which I whip out for my partner when we have guests and the menu isn’t to his taste. Unfortunately, this seems to have given his much loved “coffee stew” a bad rep as one of “Brian’s meals”, which is, frankly, simply a byword for dull.

Nothing could be further from the truth! This rich stew is chock full of flavour and should appeal to the whole family…whether or not you dare to tell them that the secret ingredient is coffee is, of course, entirely up to you!

Click here for the recipe

Slow Braised Brisket

Slow Braised Brisket

Ah, slow-braised brisket – could there be a more quintessential culinary expression of Jewish motherly love?

For me, sadly, Jewish food has always been the forbidden fruit of world cuisine, but considering I grew up in a country which doesn’t recognize the state of Israel, it is hardly that surprising that my knowledge of Jewish food isn’t as intimate as I would like it to be!

Unfortunately, like so much in life, what little I do know about Jewish cuisine has been gleaned from that most dubious window into the world: 80s television. As a youngster, I loved nothing more than watching my weekly staple of disapproving 5th Avenue matriarchs and their well-heeled families. Aside from their wonderfully mordant sense of humour, I was always most drawn to the food they ate, marvelling at the mysterious treats they dished up at their vast family gatherings. Matzah balls, brisket, lox and latkes – to my ear they all sounded wonderfully exotic and the characters’ enthusiasm for the food was infectious. Of course, given my complete lack of exposure to all things Jewish at the time, I had no idea that these delightfully brisk people were anything other that well-to-do Americans. The fact that they (and their food) were Jewish was utterly lost on me. I simply assumed that all New Yorkers invariably had amazing apartments, a psychologist in the family and almost always wanted to marry their daughters off to “good boys” and doctors. As a child I did, however, know one thing for sure: more than anything else, I desperately wanted to know what brisket tasted like.

Some 30 years later, I am pleased to say that I have finally tasted the allusive dish and damn it, brisket is as delicious as I had imagined it would be! I was so excited the first time I made brisket, I could scarcely contain myself – 3 hours in the oven is an eternity to wait to taste a childhood dream. Meltingly tender, wholesome and served with a richly flavoured sauce, this is essentially the ultimate pot-roast, but made with a very special cut of meat.

Simple, classic and worthy of its iconic status: whether you know its Rosh Hashanah or not, a good brisket is always worth the wait! 

Click here for the recipe

Waterfall Beef Salad (Neua Naam Tok) น้ำตกเนื้อ

Thai Waterfall Beef Salad (Neua Naam Tok) น้ำตกเนื้อ

Unless you are a Buddhist monk, you are unlikely to ever encounter truly vegetarian food in Asia and like most other regional cuisines, Thai food is no exception. Thai Salads (or “yam” as they are known locally) are often spiked with a sneaky portion of dried shrimps or the meat-to-vegetable ratio is often skewed in favour of the meat.  Ask for a salad in Thailand and chances are you’ll be served something as far removed from what you imagined a salad could, or should, be. That said, yams are utterly delicious and make an essential addition to any Thai-style meal.Aside from my obsession with the classic Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad), one of my favourite yam is Waterfall Beef. Often the first thing people ask about is the dish’s name. “Waterfall” seemingly conjures up evocative images of cascading falls in a topical paradise. Sadly, however, the truth is far less poetic, as the “waterfall” actually refers to beef juices that drip from the meat as it is cooked over hot charcoal. Traditionally Waterfall Beef is eaten with sticky rice, but it also offers a wonderful counter-balance to other, richer Thai flavours, especially when paired with a classic Thai curry like  mussaman or green curry.

Whilst simple to make, Waterfall Beef is not without its pitfalls. Firstly, the steak must never be done past medium-rare and must be afforded enough time to rest before being thinly sliced. Secondly, the salad must be served immediately as the acidity of the dressing will “cook” the beef if left to stand too long. Another thing to consider is the ratio of herbs to meat in the dish. Don’t be shy with the herbs as they are what makes this is a salad – they are not there as a token garnish. Aim for a 40/60 ratio in favour of the beef.

For more great Thai recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

If you would like tips on stocking your Thai Pantry, please click here.

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Chilli con Carne

Chilli con Carne Nachos

Believe it or not, but there was a time when I was completely at sea when it came to cooking and Chilli con Carne was my only lifeline!

Admittedly back in my university days, my Chilli’s “secret ingredient” was a packet of Knorr Chilli con Carne flavouring, but given the dish was also made with cheap soya mince, the dubious origins of its flavour-base was the least of its problems! That said, my Chilli was still the stuff of legend in my digs and its fame wasn’t without merit. In spite of its shortcomings it still tasted pretty damn good, but given my only real competition was marmite on toast, my culinary supremacy was pretty much a given!

Mercifully, my cooking has improved somewhat since those dark days and my Chilli con Carne has since had a much needed makeover. Rather unsurprisingly, the soya mince and glorified packets of MSG have fallen to the wayside and have been replaced with more natural ingredients, but don’t be fooled – this is still good eating, just on a slightly improved budget!

Aside from the exclusion of various e-numbers and MSG, key to the elevation of my Chilli from student fare to tex-mex bliss is the inclusion of some dark chocolate. By simply adding a bit of chocolate, this dish develops a depth of flavour that is hard to beat…give the Chilli sufficient time to mellow and you’ll have an overnight sensation!

There are many ways to eat Chilli. You can simply serve it with some plain white rice, topped with a spoonful of sour cream and snipped chives or you can use it as a filling for burritos by wrapping it up in a tortilla with salad and guacamole.

These days, however, my favourite way to eat Chilli is by making nachos! Simply add the chilli to a pile of tortilla chips, sprinkle with all your favourite toppings and voilà: nachos’fantastico!

Click here for the recipe

Cider Braised Beef Short-ribs

Being half Asian I naturally adore food packed with flavour and usually in my kitchen that means spicy and exotic, but sometimes I crave the simple home-cooked comforts of my mother’s land. It may be the inner-Brit in me, but there are days when you can just keep your kimchi and beef rendang – all I want is toad-in-the-hole or a proper Sunday roast!

Without a chilli nor spice in sight, this dish is the epitome of what I would call real British comfort-food. Made with just a few seemingly unassuming ingredients, this humble stew seems to come out with more flavour than was put in! Uncomplicated and yet rich with depth, this dish is the perfect example of good food, made simply.

Adapted from Leiths Meat Bible, this amazing braise goes well with just about anything. Feeling sophisticated? Serve it with classic mash potato and some sautéed kale with grapes. Feeling rustic? Just grab some fresh crusty bread and mop-up the delicious sauce!

Kimchi and beef rendang? Lord knows I still love them, but when old-school British comfort-food tastes this good, you could be forgiven for never wanting anything else!

Click here for the recipe

Gav’s Glorious Biltong

Other than a good braai, there are few things that unite South Africans quite as much their love of biltong!

BiltongSynonymous with sports, game-hunting, two-toned khaki shirts, the Voortrekkers and all things manly, biltong is arguably South Africa’s most cherished snack. Whether it be wet or dry, pimped with peri-peri or traditionally flavoured, biltong has been adapted to appeal to virtually all tastes…provided they’re of a purely carnivorous nature, of course!

And whilst biltong shops are virtually omnipresent throughout the country, there is nothing more satisfying than making your own! To many a South African man, the ability to make your own biltong and brew your own beer is, perhaps, the very definition of self-sufficiency. I must confess that I’d never really considered making my own until I sampled a family friend’s homemade biltong. And while his biltong was incredibly delicious, for me the real appeal lay in the scarcity of the basic ingredients needed for curing. Like so many things these days, even the most simple food comes with a terrifingly epic list of preservatives and chemicals and sadly biltong is no different. At its heart, biltong is the very definition of basic food preservation and its ingredients should be a reflection of this. To my mind, homemade ultimately to speak to the true spirit of biltong and once you’ve tasted the difference, there is no turning back.

After some badgering for Gav’s amazing recipe and a flurry of online shopping for a biltong maker, I suddenly found myself meandering along the path of South African self-sufficiency…I just need to establish the microbrewery in the laundry and I’ll be set for life!

Click here for the recipe

Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비

Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비A friend of mine once suggested that Koreans have contributed nothing laudable to the modern cultural collective. A tad harsh perhaps, though given the culturally devoid trite that is k-drama and k-pop, she may have had a point. In my opinion though (Psy aside), Koreans get a bad rap and deserve a little bit more credit then they are typically afforded; Korean cuisine is a case in point.

Along with the ubiquitous kimchi, Koreans could also teach the world a thing or two about how to barbeque. Whilst not to everybody’s taste, Korean cuisine has only recently made its mark on the international food scene. Its spicy flavours are gaining popularity at an astounding pace and is the current darling of Asian-fusion cuisine (did somebody say kimchi taco?).

Typically considered the preserve of Antipodean, South African and American cultures, the Koreans are in fact prolific barbequers. Koreans will barbeque virtually anything, but they especially love their beef. Be it sliced steak (bulgogi) or strips of beef short ribs (galbi), the Koreans take great pride in their barbequing traditions, and with good reason – it tastes incredible!

Beef Galbi (Korean Barbequed Beef Ribs) 소갈비So what makes a Korean Barbeque Korean? As with any barbeque, the secret is in the marinate. Sweet and salty, the marinate for galbi is a triumph of flavour, both familiar and exotic. The addition of puréed pear not only adds sweetness, but also helps tenderize the meat.

Whilst the marinate works well with any cut of meat, galbi is specifically made with beef short rib. The way the meat is cut is also slightly unusual, in that it is thinly cut across the grain and along the bone. Each slice of meat should include 3 pieces of bone and can be grilled whole or divided into three pieces and cooked individually. If you can’t source this particular cut of meat, the marinate will also work a treat on pork or any beef cut.

Another thing that sets Korean Barbeque apart is how it is typically served. Apart from the traditional Korean side dishes (banchan) stalwarts of rice and napa kimchi, galbi is normally cut into bite sized pieces, wrapped in a lettuce leaf along with some carrot, cucumber and chilli. It is then smeared with a spicy Korean sauce called ssamjang. Rice aside, this is Banting/LCHF Bliss personified (just leave out the honey/sugar)!

Note: Whilst you can get away with marinating your meat for less time, ideally this marinate needs at least 18 to 24 hours to work its magic.

For more Korean recipes, please click HERE or to find out more about how to stock a Korean Pantry, please click HERE

For more braai/barbecue recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click HERE

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Rendang Daging (Beef Rendang)

Beef RendangSome mornings I wake up with one word in mind: “rendang!”. I think it’s probably just a Malaysian thing, but this is a dish I literally dream about.

Beef Rendang is perhaps the most beloved Malay meal and is often the go-to main dish for many a family feast or special occasion. With its origins rooted in Indonesia, rendang is popluar throughout South East Asia, especially amongst the Malays in Malaysia and Singapore. Although not widely known outside the region, a 2011 online poll by CNN International chose rendang as the number one dish of their ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’. Yes, rendang really is that good!

Rendang, however, seems to appeal the most to expat Malaysians. In spite of its long cooking time, rendang is relatively easy to make and can withstand a certain degree of adaptation – something that is vital given the inherent difficulties in stocking a Malay pantry abroad. On a deeper level, though, cooking up a batch of rendang can sometimes feel like an affirmation of our shared cultural identity; a reconnection to our collective culinary memories, through taste. This is the real reason for rendang’s enduring popularity; for many of us it, quite simply, tastes of home.

Ostensibly a curry, rendang is in fact what is known as a dry-curry. Cooked over an extended period, the aromatic coconut sauce is reduced to the point until it clings to the tender beef. This prolonged reduction creates an intensity of flavour that can only be described as explosive. As with all curries, a rendang benefits immensely from being made the day before serving; a night in the fridge gives the flavours time to develop and mellow. Your rendang will be all the better for your patience.

To discover other delicious Malaysian recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

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Thai Mussaman Beef Curry

Thai Mussaman Beef CurryMussaman Beef Curry is my personal favourite of all the conventional Thai curries that we know and love; I find it has a depth of flavour that is sometimes absent in other Thai curries. In particular, the aromatics in this recipe give a smoky edge to the sauce that takes the curry to a whole new level.

The irony about this particular mussaman curry recipe is that it’s actually adapted from one by a television chef who thoroughly irked me for turning his nose up at ready-made pastes, but I must confess that I found his technique for making of this curry surprisingly authentic. Nevertheless, I still felt the need to tweak it here and there. Of course his version requires the “essential” homemade paste made out of 14 additional ingredients, my does not. Both versions taste wonderful, but only one takes half the effort and expense. I’m Asian and I know which one I’m calling my own.

For more delicious Thai recipes please click here, or if you need tips on stocking your Thai Pantry please click here.

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Cape Malay Bobotie

BobotieUnique to South Africa, bobotie is the platypus of international cuisine. Neither a pie nor a meatloaf, both sweet and savoury, bobotie is a hybrid dish that speaks to South Africa’s many cultures and tastes. Robustly spiced, spiked with sweet raisins and topped with a soothing savory custard, bobotie is deliciously complex whilst being reassuringly rustic.

Almost always served with yellow rice and blatjangs, bobotie is typically most people’s first introduction to traditional South African food. For this reason bobotie has become synonymous with South Africa and is instantly recognisable as being an African favourite.

If you would like to read more about South African food please follow this link or for more South African recipes, please click here

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