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Pressure cooked beef cheeks October 1, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Beef.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before how much I love my pressure cooker. I only got it earlier this year, and I only got it because it was on sale. But I’m very glad I did, as I use it all the time to make a variety of soups, stews and meats. This time, I decided to use it to cook some beef cheeks, using a paste of garlic, ginger, chilis, nutmeg, star anise and coriander seeds.

I smashed most of the ingredients together using my mortar and pestle, and also threw in some turmeric, curry powder and lime juice for good measure.

To prepare the meat, I cut it into chunks and browned it using the pressure cooker’s saute function. I removed them from the cooker and then added the spice paste to cook it slightly. After it was fragrant, I added the pieces of  beef cheek back in, along with a small amount of beef stock and some chopped pumpkin pieces on top. I don’t have a separate steaming basket for my pressure cooker but find if I leave the vegetables in large enough pieces, they’re pretty easy to remove at the end.

I sealed it up and brought it to pressure. I should add that the other great thing about new pressure cookers is that I’m not afraid of the pressure stopper suddenly shooting off and spilling whatever I’m cooking all over the stove. Hurrah for safety!

I left it for about 1.5 hours and then it was time to check the meat. The pumpkin was well and truly done, so I removed that and set it aside to mash. And as for the meat…

It was beautifully tender, falling apart at the touch of a fork. It had a hint of that gelatinous quality which I like so much in pork heads,  but was definitely very beefy. I served it with the mashed pumpkin and some of the reduced leftover liquid turned into a sauce.

Best of all, there was only one pot to clean up and I didn’t have to wait for hours and hours for my beef cheeks to be thoroughly cooked!

While not yet at the level of pressure cooker evangelist, I am definitely a convert to its charms.

Beef barbacoa tacos May 6, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Beef.
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Here’s something else I made before we moved – beef cheek tacos. Naturally when I bought the beef cheek I had no plans for a specific recipe, but after looking around online for a bit, tacos sounded like a nice idea. Tacos (and Mexican food in general) are very popular at the moment, and it seems that new Mexican restaurants or food trucks are popping up every week. I’d like to say that I’m tapping into Melbourne’s culinary zeitgeist , but really, I liked the idea of slow cooking the beef cheeks, and wanted to try out my new tortilla press.

I followed the Homesick Texan’s recipe for lamb barbacoa, at least in relation to the marinade/sauce. I started by toasting both ancho and guajillo chiles in a skillet, before soaking them in water until they were soft. I added garlic, some coffee, cumin oregano and the chiles to a blender and pureed everything together.

From here, I deviated from the recipe and browned the beef cheek, still whole, until it had a nice crust. I then added the chile mix and some chopped onions, as well as a bit more water, before letting it boil.

After it had boiled, I put it in the oven on a low temperature for a couple of hours so it could get tender. In the meantime, I made the tortillas. I used corn flour (masa harina) and water to mix up a dough, then was very excited to be able to use my tortilla press to make perfectly flat, round tortillas.

Not surprisingly, using a tortilla press was a lot easier than trying to roll them out or flatten them with other implements. The lack of gluten in this flour makes it hard to manipulate – it tends to break and shear off, and does not stretch at all. Having said that, the masa harina does make very tasty tortillas!

Once the meat was ready, and could be pulled apart with forks, I cooked the tortillas in a small frying pan. They only took a couple of minutes per side, and I toasted them until they were soft and pliable. Then all that was left to do was assemble the tacos for eating.

I put some of the beef and the sauce on the tortilla, and squeezed some lime juice over to add some brightness. I sprinkled a mixture of basil and coriander over the beef, and served it with a simple salad.

A very nice use of beef cheek, regardless of if Mexican food is popular or not. The beef was soft and tender, and still spicy and tasty from the chile/garlic mix. This was in some ways a farewell to our old living location and I was very glad to be seeing it off in style, since many great meals had been prepared there.

Osso bucco buns March 7, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Beef.
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So naturally after we had a very hot weekend and I made whitebait, the next weekend was cold and rainy. It therefore seemed appropriate to get some pieces of meat requiring slow cooking, and simmer them slowly for several hours until they were soft.

I decided on osso bucco, and began by browning the beef osso bucco pieces, before adding beef stock, onions, tomatoes, celery, carrots, rosemary, salt, pepper and bayleaves. I let everything simmer together before turning down the heat and letting it cook slowly.

Normally, when making something like osso bucco, once the meat is simmering away, you can use the time for other things, like solving murder mysteries (if you are Nero Wolfe). However, this time, I knew I’d have to spend the time making steamed buns which I was planning to stuff the osso bucco into when cooked. I used the steamed bun recipe from David Chang’s Momofuku pork buns, and began by mixing the flour, yeast and other ingredients together. Incidentally – the recipe calls for rendered pork fat or vegetable shortening; I used duck fat because that’s what I had on hand, and it worked fine.

I let the dough rise for about an hour, then punched it down and rolled it into balls. I left them to rise for another 30 minutes or so.

When they had risen appropriately, I took each ball, flattened it and stretched it into an oval. I got a chopstick, dipped it in the duck fat, and folded the dough over the chopstick. I placed each bun on a piece of greaseproof paper and loaded them into the steamer.

I thought that they looked like they were smiling at me! At least they were happy. I let them rise for the last time in the steamers, and then began to steam them. Having only two steamers, I had to steam the buns in batches. Each batch took about 10 minutes, and once they were ready, I immediately removed them to cool while I steamed the next batch. Incidentally – the steamed bun recipe said it would make 50 buns, and I got 50 exactly.

When the last bun had come out of the steamer, the osso bucco was ready, almost falling off the bone. I chopped up some radishes and parsley to act as garnishes, and then set up a filling station to make up the buns.

I scooped out some of the marrow (the best bit) and spread it on a bun. I added some pieces of meat, and some of the vegetables and liquid it was stewed in, then garnished it with the radishes and parsley. There were quite a few to make but luckily I had enough meat to fill about half of the buns.

I thought this was a very nice way of enjoying osso bucco. Adding some of the cooking liquid ensured they were juicy, and the radishes and parsley helped cut through the thick flavours of the osso bucco and bone marrow. While I am a fan of the original pork buns on which this was (somewhat) based, I also very much enjoyed this variation.

Making bresaola December 1, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Beef, Charcutepalooza.

Back to do some more curing and back to my trusty work fridge to hang my meat in. This time I thought I’d try making bresaola, as I’d not tried curing any beef before. There are so many delicious options when curing pork it can sometimes be difficult to move beyond it!

It took a bit of work, but I was finally able to describe to the butcher which cut I wanted, and I began the two week process of curing it in the fridge. I used a mixture of salt, sugar, curing salt #2, thyme and pepper, massaged it all into the meat and left it in the fridge for a week, flipping it regularly so the liquid was distributed. After the first week, I rinsed off the cure and reapplied a new batch, again returning the meat to the fridge.

After another week, it was ready to hang. I rinsed the cure off, patted it dry then tied it quite tightly. I couldn’t find any netting to use, which would have been my preference. Anyway, at least it looks like my meat tying skills are getting better!

I took it to work the next day to hang in my fridge. As before, I added a bowl full of water with salt in it to try and increase the humidity. Throughout the drying time I also used a handheld fan to increase air circulation, and opened the fridge door to also try and let more air in.

I admit I didn’t check on it as frequently as I should have (certainly not every day!) and was also more lackadaisical than I probably should have been about start- and end- weights. I decided it was done primarily on touch – when it felt firm and not at all squishy, I thought it was worth sampling.

The photo makes it look like it’s still raw, but rest assured, it was nicely cured! I got a smattering of dry white mould on the outside, but not a full covering. However, considering I didn’t rub or spray it with any sort of mould product,  I was quite pleased with my white mould! As for the all important taste test: I found this similar to pancetta, but with a deeper and fuller taste. I was pleasantly surprised with how well the thyme came through, and thought this was a great match with the beef.

While just eating the bresaola was great on its own, I decided to use it in a salad. I chopped up some apricots (first I’ve seen for a while!) and tossed them in balsamic vinegar.

I spread them on a baking tray and grilled them for a few minutes. To be honest, I got sidetracked sampling more of the bresaola and overcooked them a little bit…

I tossed the apricots with pieces of the bresaola and added some endive. I dressed the whole salad with more balsamic vinegar and some olive oil. It became a late afternoon snack!

I really enjoyed the salad. The sweet but charred apricots, the salty bresaola and the bitter endive were such a nice combination. Naturally I have much more bresaola left, so will be making more of this salad in the future.


Glutinous Rice Bundles June 12, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Beef, Pork.
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Inspired by our recent overseas trip, I’ve been cooking some of the things we ate while travelling. As I mentioned, one of the highlights of eating in Singapore was going to the Maxwell Food Centre, where we ate Hainanese Chicken Rice, fish stew, handmade noodles and rice dumplings. These rice dumplings were from a stall called Joo Chiat Kim Choo Traditional Rice Dumplings, and they served a variety of dumplings with sweet and savoury fillings. They were delicious and we did sample quite a few!

When we got home, I learned that these glutinous rice dumplings are traditionally made for the Dragon Boat Festival, but in Singapore (and some other areas) these dumplings are available all year. I decided to make a savoury form of the dumpling, using glutinous rice and mung beans, with a variety of fillings including pork, marinated beef and pickled duck eggs.

I started the day before, by soaking most of the ingredients to rehydrate them. The dumplings are wrapped in bamboo leaves, which I purchased at my local Asian Supermarket (to the great excitement of the owner when I explained what I wanted them for – she gave me a demonstration on how to fold them up right there in the store!). These need to be soaked, as did the mung beans and the shiitake mushrooms I used as part of the filling.

To make each dumpling, I folded a bamboo leaf into a cone, and then added a few spoonfuls of the rice/mung bean mix. Then I added some of the filling – a few pieces of pork, some slices of duck egg, and so on – before grabbing a second leaf to wrap around the whole parcel, sealing it in.

At this point I was lucky enough to be able to hand each parcel off to H, who tied them with string to ensure they wouldn’t come undone. Then it was just a matter of rinse and repeat until we ran out of mixture!

When they were all prepared, I put them all into a saucepan (OK, there were so many I needed multiple saucepans) and simmered them for about 2 hours. I topped up the water every now and then to ensure they were covered.

To serve them, I simply cut open the packages and pulled the bamboo leaves off, and added a few fresh herbs.

Although they weren’t as good as the ones we ate in Singapore, I really enjoyed these. The combination of the rice and mung beans was more flavoursome than I was expecting, and the fillings were delicious. In particular, I loved the addition of the pickled duck eggs which provided elements of saltiness between the rice.

These were a great experiment and learning experience for me, which I would not have done if we had not eaten the dumplings in Singapore. So I must be thankful not only for visiting Singapore and eating amazing food, but also because it has taught me a new way of preparing this food.