I buy cookbooks to read, just as much as to cook from them. I know this sounds weird but I am not alone. Publishers have known people do this for many years and style cookbooks accordingly. So I wasn’t that perturbed when I found Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book to be more of a good read than anything else.
I usually try a few recipes out of each book. If one is good enough, it will appear on this blog. Once in a blue moon, I will find a recipe that I will make time and time, again. If this happens, the cookbook is worth its weight in gold.
As Sandra, from Please Pass the Recipe, had mentioned the tomato and oatmeal tart in the tomato chapter in Ms Grigson’s book was an old favourite of hers, I thought I would check it out. Before I knew it, I was absorbed in the tomato chapter. I have a pantry full of preserved tomatoes so I was content.
I started reading a recipe humbly called beef and tomato stew with olives. As I read, the penny dropped (or as my friend from Berlin once said, “The money has fallen from the head” 🙂 (Annelen, if you ever read this, you must forgive me but, geez, it was funny.)
An important point, particularly with cheaper cuts of beef, is to include some gelatinous pork that can be a large piece of fresh pork skin, a trotter, or a meaty hock or several slices of belly of pork. They soothe and enrich the sauce.
Yes, she is right, I thought. I am going to try this.
The temperatures have been hovering in the high thirties here and a big hearty stew would not, normally, have been on the menu but… what the heck. As luck would have it, I had a hock in the freezer. I had bought it late last winter and hadn’t made the anticipated pot of pea and ham soup before the temperatures started to rise. It really was fortuitous because you cannot buy hocks in Perth in summer.
Now, I want everyone reading this in the southern hemisphere to book mark this recipe. I know you are not going to try it in the middle of summer but I want you to try it this winter. It is extremely simple to make and absolutely delicious. I can honestly say this is one recipe we will be making time and time, again. It is more than a sum of its parts. Ms Grigson was so right. Adding the hock is mere genius.
I know a lot of people love their slow cookers and this recipe is perfect for the slow cooker. I have one rarely used (it is just the second time) but it was perfect for the job. There was no way I was going to have the oven on for hours when it was 39°C outside.
These quantities serve 6. It was great with loads of mashed potato.
- 1 – 1½ kg of gravy beef (shin of beef), cut into large cubes
- salt & pepper
- dried oregano or marjoram (Ms Grigson does not say how much but I would say about a ½ tsp)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 – 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 60g butter
- one medium sized hock (or other piece of pork, as suggested by Ms Grigson above)
- 200mls red wine
- 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes (or the equivalent fresh (peeled) or preserved)
- 3tsp dark brown sugar (see below)
- tomato paste (see below)
- 18 black olives
- parsley, chopped
- Season the beef with salt, pepper and oregano or marjoram and set aside.
- Put your pork in your slow cooker or casserole dish.
- Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the butter. When soft and transparent remove from the pan and put in your slow cooker or casserole dish.
- Turn up the heat and seal the beef. Do this in stages so as not to overcrowd the pan. (Ms Grigson said to leave the onions in the pan whilst sealing the beef but I find the onions burn so I removed them.) Remove the meat from the heat and add to the casserole.
- Pour the wine and tomates into the pan and, when they are boiling, add them to the casserole. (Ms Grigson suggests adding a little water or stock, if necessary, to ensure the meat is covered. I did not need to add anything.)
- Simmer gently until the meat is tender. The slower and longer the better. You can do this however you wish. A slow oven would be perfect. I put my slow cooker on ‘slow‘ and it took 6.5 hours.
- At this stage you can either:
Do as Ms Grigson suggests:
Remove all the beef and set aside. Keep warm. Take the hock out and chop up the meat. Add the chopped meat to the beef. Discard the bones, skin and fat.
Put the sauce in a saucepan and boil it down to concentrate the flavours and texture. Taste and add up to 3 teaspoons of brown sugar and some tomato paste, if necessary. (I added 2 teaspoons of brown sugar but did not think the tomato paste was necessary.) Add the olives. Pour the sauce over the meat, scatter with parsley and serve.
Or do as I did:
I separated the meat from the sauce as suggested by Ms Grigson and then put them in the fridge overnight. The next evening, I reheated the sauce. I found that there was no need to boil the sauce down. It was already lovely and rich so I just tasted it, added the olives, sugar, salt and pepper and returned the meat to the sauce and gently reheated it.
Or better still:
Since the sauce was already perfect, next time I may just remove the hock from the slow cooker, taste the sauce, add the olives, season with the sugar, salt and pepper, return the chopped meat from the hock to the slow cooker then serve with a scattering of parsley.
This month, the Cookbook Guru’s is showcasing Vegetable Book, by Jane Grigson.