Monday 4 May 2015

Beef short ribs in barbecue sauce

"I know what I like." People say. But they don't you know. This weekend, three people said to me "I didn't know I liked broad beans." See.

However, what very many people do like is a big chunk of slow cooked beef in a barbecue sauce. That's what I served on Saturday. These are fantastically good. The meat is tender, juicy and very flavoursome. There's no trick to cooking these. In fact, you'd have to be a bit of an arse to get it wrong.

My beef barbecue guinea pigs. Pat's third from left
Talking of being an arse... I'd had a rather un-fun Friday service. For the first time ever I refunded money on a dish. I feel I should admit to this. It'd be absurd to pretend that I don't make errors. The problem was with my cheesecake base - a home baked affair of almonds, flour, sugar, brown butter and a little salt. I served it and then watched one or two guests wince. What?! I tried it - fine. Tried it again. Perhaps too much salt? Again. Definitely too much salt. I told the group my opinion, apologised and removed the dish from the bill. Salt is cumulative on the palate which may explain why I didn't notice when I tried the mix for the base. Most of the group simply ate the topping and left the base. Still, I was hugely annoyed. I'm very proud of my cheesecake.

I tracked the problem to my digital scales. For some reason, if  left unattended for a moment, it was minusing weight! Only a gramme or two, which makes no difference in 250g of flour but a heck of one to 7g of Maldon salt. I'm buying new scales.

The Saturday group were to suffer no such misadventure I was determined. Although they  guinea pigged more than just the beef. I also served a new amuse bouche: minted pea soup with bacon biscuits. Although my mushroom velouté is very well received, it seems a little wintery. The soup was good and the biscuits worked well, a variation of my parmesan thins. However, I want to make them more baconful before I commit to a recipe. I also want to try and use the Phil Howard trick of boiling peas with their pea pods for more fresh flavour. The trouble is, even the freshest retail pea pods are like leather casings of buckshot. Frozen peas are far superior, lest you literally pull the pods and toss into boiling water.

I did warn you... I'm going to turn into a short rib bore. After a successful first time serving last weekend I convinced Pat, this week's host, to try a variation. I must be careful not to call this barbecue beef. There's no cooking over open coals. The only barbecue is in the name of the sauce. Ooh, now. Let's have some fun food etymology. The first printed instance of Barbecue was in 16th century Spain. Barbecue, meaning to cook at height over flame, probably derives from 'barabicu' a word from the Caribbean Taino language but obviously the process of cooking over coals goes back as far as humanity.

The notion of a barbecue sauce - sweet and sour, acidic brown stuff - is much more recent, originating maybe at the end of the nineteenth century. However, it's interesting to note that as far back as the Romans we were basting meats with marinades and daubs that included a vinegary, agrodolce element, often cooked grape must. Many ancient sauces also used fermentations of fish, a tradition that continue to this day. You think not? Check out the ingredients of your Worcestershire sauce.

My sauce, the whole dish in fact, is a version of a Jamie Oliver recipe.

But before we get to that I wanted to include this photo of the group. I took it from outside the house, standing on the decking, mainly because Pat glared at me when I tried a sneaky shot of her. I love the look of this though: the burn of discourse within dark green walls. Brings to mind that wonderful Joseph Wright painting for some reason. Or maybe the colours remind me of Nighthawks.

Slow roasted beef short ribs in a barbecue sauce
Serves ten

Fit your ten seasoned short ribs snugly into a roasting tin. Snug because you don't want too much evaporation. Cover with a double layer of foil and crimp the edges in to seal. Place in a 100°C oven for seven to eight hours by which time the meat will be tender and will be sat in a pool of beef juices and rendered fat.

Remove the ribs to a more shallow oven tray and cover with the foil.

Drain the roasting juices and skim off the fat. This flavoursome lard should be kept for further roasts. Return the fat-skimmed juices to the original roasting tin and add the following sauce ingredients:

360ml tomato ketchup, 300ml stout, 150ml Worcestershire sauce, one tablespoon of English mustard, one tablespoon of malt vinegar, one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, a few teaspoons of Yuzu juice. Two tablespoons of dark soy sauce. A good grind of black pepper. I added the Yuzu juice and soy sauce, feeling the original recipe lacked salt and zing. Tasting uncooked barbecue sauce is tricky though, as the end result will be quite muted after the highs of vinegar and mustard have cooked off. 

Reduce the sauce to a coating consistency. This can take up to half an hour of serious boiling. Brush the sauce all over the meat.

It's at this point that you can pause. The ribs will need another 20-30 minutes in a medium oven, 150°C, to get sticky and bubbly. Wait for your guests to arrive and put them in then. You can always turn the oven off if they take ages over the starter. 

Serve the ribs with a little more sauce dribbled over.

Swede, after the ricer
I served the ribs with mashed potato, (less) mashed swede, roast carrots and buttered spinach. The swede was boiled in small chunks until just tender, put through a potato ricer and mixed with butter, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and some finely crushed coriander seed. Don't use the powder, make the effort to crush your own seeds. The aromatic difference is profound.

If the whole dish below looks a little... school dinners that's because I was heavy handed with the mash. Maybe put the potato under the beef next time? Or maybe dispense with and serve a zingy salad instead?


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