The Musette: beef casserole

With the nights starting to draw in and the mercury dipping, thoughts turn to warming recipes. This is another of my one-pot recipes which happily cooks while I’m out cycling or watching live bike racing. If I’ve the time and/or inclination, I might marinade the beef beforehand in the red wine but I find it works just as well without.

You may notice an absence of herbs and spices in the picture of ingredients. That’s because it’s another dish where I would encourage you to use what you have in your cupboard – experiment.

I’m going to ‘fess up. The bottle of wine has a screw top. You may be shocked since I always say “cook only with wine you’d be prepared to drink”. This was a very acceptable red wine – for drinking and cooking – I found in my local branch of Lidl for €2.19 a bottle. There, my secret’s out. I am not, and never will be, a wine connoisseur.

Ingredients (serves two cyclists)

  • 1 beef cheek cubed (approx 400g/14oz of meat)
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil or beef dripping
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 small turnips, finely chopped
  • 12 small carrots peeled and left whole
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 1 tbsp of sweet paprika
  • 1 tbsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp of dried thyme
  • 6 anchovy fillets preserved in oil
  • 500ml (2 cups) of red wine
  • 500ml (2 cups) of beef stock (home-made, tinned or cubed)
  • 1 bouquet garni (fresh or dried)

Method

1. Mix together in a sealable plastic bag the flour, paprika, salt, pepper and dried thyme. Add the beef chunks, seal the bag and shake to coat. This helps to seal the beef and thicken the sauce slightly while it cooks.

2. Heat your fat of choice in an ovenproof casserole (dutch oven) or saucepan on the stove on a medium-high heat. When the fat is hot add the beef in a single layer. Do not crowd the pan. If necessary cook in several batches. You want to sear the meat to lock in flavour, not boil it!

3. Brown the meat on all sides. It should take around ten minutes. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put aside.

4. Add the onion and celery to the pan and cook until the celery softens and the onion is translucent – 10-15 minutes. Add the cubed turnip and whole carrots, the crushed garlic and the anchovies. Don’t turn your nose up at the anchovies, they impart a delicious taste and no one will know they were even there. It’ll be our secret! Break the anchovies up with a wooden spoon, stirring until they melt.

5. Add the bouquet garni, red wine and the beef stock, bring the mixture up to a simmer; add the beef and any juices. Cover the ingredients with a damp, scrunched-up piece of greaseproof (cartouche) – which prevents the dish from drying out – add the lid and pop into a pre-heated slow oven on 140°C/120°C fan/gas mark 1 (275°F/250°F fan) and leave to gently cook for anything up to eight hours.

6. Remove from the oven, fish out the bouquet garni, stir, check the seasoning and serve with your side dish of choice. I served mine with mashed celeriac because it cooks quickly. But equally, you could use mashed or baked potatoes to mop up the delicious winey juices.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. This is a very forgiving recipe. As I said above you can use lots of different ingredients with the beef. Just think about things which go well together. You can make the dish go further with the addition of more vegetables. Anything you add to the casserole which is finely chopped tends to mush down into the sauce while large pieces of vegetables soften but remain whole. For example, I might fry pancetta lardons with finely chopped leeks rather than onions, add a packet of frozen button onions to the casserole and a handful of whole button mushrooms. Instead of whole small carrots, I might use parsnips, cut into finger-sized pieces. Or even add small whole potatoes still in their (cleaned) skins.

2. If you use a more gelatinous cut of beef say, the blade (shoulder), I would advise marinading the meat for 12 hours beforehand in the wine.

3. If you don’t use anchovies, add 1 tbsp of soy sauce or more salt. I sometimes add a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

4. You can remove the meat, whiz up the sauce with a hand-held blender and serve it as that Niçois classic daube with small meat-filled ravioli. Personally I find this too heavy but have happily served it with gnocchi or panisse, a sort of Niçois polenta but made with chick pea flour. I make these up in batches, in a square cake tin and freeze the excess.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (4 cups) of water
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • ¾ tsp of sea salt
  • 285g (2¼ cups) finely ground chick pea (garbanzo) flour

Method

1. Lightly oil a 23cm (9 inch) square cake tin and line with cling film (plastic wrap).

2. Bring the water, oil and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan. Don’t let it boil!

3. Whisk in the sieved chick pea flour and continue whisking, to avoid lumps, until it thickens – about three minutes.

4. Switch to a wooden spoon and continue to stir until the mixture becomes very thick. This generally takes around ten minutes and helps you work up a bit more of an appetite.

5. Pile the mixture into the oiled and lined baking tin, smoothing the surface with a pallet knife and leave it to cool.

6. Once cold, tip out onto a chopping board and cut into servings. These can be the size of fat chips or even larger. In Nice they’re shaped a bit like flying saucers because they pour the mixture into saucers to set. They’ll keep for a week in the fridge but I generally freeze any excess for up to three months.

7. Use enough olive oil to coat the pieces and put them into a medium hot oven at 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F/350°F fan) on a shallow baking tray for 30 minutes to brown, turning them over after 15.

8. Alternatively, you can shallow fry them in a frying pan of hot olive oil until they’re crisp and nicely browned, approximately five minutes on either side. Drain on kitchen paper before serving.

9. They also make rather nice pre-dinner nibbles if cooked in bite-sized pieces and served warm, on cocktails sticks, with plenty of freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

The Musette: sticky, spicy beef ribs

When my friend’s sons come to stay with me I do literally kill the fatted calf and ply them with their favourite foods but then the way to most men’s hearts, whatever their ages, is via their stomachs. Of course, the boys have high expectations because their mother is an excellent cook.

They both love beef so home-made hamburgers, côte du boeuf (roast ribs of beef), tafelspitz (Austrian boiled sirloin of beef) and lasagne Bolognese are all popular but their favourite is my sticky, spicy beef ribs adapted from a recipe for BBQ beef ribs by Michelin two-starred chef Tom Kerridge.

I live in an apartment where BBQs are forbidden, largely because of the fire risk but, while I accept that the deep smokey flavour in the original recipe is missing from these ribs, they are still finger-lickin’ delicious. The dish takes three days to prepare but each stage involves very little actual work on the part of the cook.

Ingredients (serves two teenage boys with hollow legs)

Spice rub:

  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp  ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp dried origano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 x 500g (2lb total) short ribs of beef on the bone

Glaze:

  • 60g/7oz pitted dates, roughly chopped
  • 85g/9oz jar onion relish
  • 150ml (⅔ cup) Guinness beer or similar
  • 1 tbsp hot English mustard powder
  • 2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • 100ml (½ cup) cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar

Method

1. Stir together all of the dry spices and herbs and rub them all over the ribs of beef. Place the beef into a large plastic bag and cover with any remaining mix. Store in the fridge overnight.

2. To make the glaze, place the chopped dates and onion relish into a bowl. Bring the beer up to the boil in a saucepan and pour it onto the dates and onions. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and leave to cool to room temperature.

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the remaining glaze ingredients.

4. When the date and onion mixture has cooled, blend the mixture until smooth and pour it into the rest of the glaze.

5. Take the ribs out of the fridge, wash off the spice rub and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place them into a large casserole dish (Dutch oven), pour over the glaze, cover with a scrunched up damp piece of greaseproof paper (cartouche) and cover with a lid or aluminium foil.

6. Put the casserole into a preheated oven at 150°C /130°C fan/gas mark 2 (300°F/275°F fan) and cook very slowly for four to five hours, or until the beef is very tender and has almost fallen off the bones. The house will smell wonderful!

7. When the beef is cooked, remove the casserole from the oven and leave to cool at room temperature. When cool, place in the fridge to chill overnight. When it’s cold the fat will have set on the top and can easily be removed. It can sit happily in the fridge for several days until you’re ready to finish the dish.

8. When you’re ready to reheat, place the lidded casserole dish back into a pre-heated oven at 120°C/100°C fan/gas mark 1 (300°F/275°F fan) and allow the ribs to warm through for two to three hours, preferably while you’re out riding.

9. Remove from the oven, if necessary, place over a low heat on the hob and slowly reduce the glaze with the beef still in the pan, basting the ribs every 10 minutes. When the glaze is reduced and coats the beef, remove them from the pan and serve with oven-baked potatoes and home-made coleslaw or whatever else takes your fancy!

Sheree’s handy hints

1. My version of this recipe differs from the original because when I first made it I didn’t have all the specified ingredients. I generally don’t tamper – well not much anyway – with recipes from Michelin-starred chefs. However the end result was truly scrummy and so I’ve continued to make them this way by popular demand of the men in my life.

2. However, I would urge you to experiment and find the combination of ingredients which best suits your tastes.

3. If you can use a BBQ, then steps eight and nine should be done on it, rather than in the oven and on the hob.

The Musette: Bosh mezze cake

A crowd coming round on a Monday night? I raided the cupboards and fridge and had all the ingredients for this recipe to hand which I followed to the letter. It was very tasty – nothing left over – but I thought it could be improved upon. So the second time I made it I did improve it, but also learnt a few important lessons!

Ingredients (feeds 8 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 large aubergines (eggplants) cut into round discs
  • 2 fat courgettes (zucchini) cut into round slices
  • 1 small jar grilled artichokes, drained
  • portion Hummus (recipe here)
  • portion Moutabal (recipe here)
  • portion Tapenade (recipe below)
  • 1 flat bread (cut to the size of the cake tin)
  • handful finely chopped coriander (cilantro)
  • portion 100g (1/2 cup) basmati rice (cooked & cooled) or portion mujadara (recipe here)
  • tomato chilli jam (recipe here)
  • portion falafel mix (recipe here)

Tapenade

  • 200g (4 cups) whole black olives, preferably niçoise or kalamata
  • 3 tbsp capers, well rinsed if packed in salt
  • 2 anchovies, well rinsed if packed in salt, roughly chopped
  • 1 fat clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tbsp organic lemon juice
  • 5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Method (for tapenade)

1. Remove the stones from the olives with a pitter or a sharp knife. Put in a food processor with the capers, anchovies, garlic and thyme, and whizz to a rough puree. Squeeze in the lemon juice and, with the motor still running, add the oil.

2. Alternatively, pound the garlic, anchovies, capers and thyme together in a pestle and mortar until smooth, followed by the olives, leaving these slightly more chunky, then gradually add the oil and lemon juice, pounding between pours.

3. Taste, and add pepper and more lemon juice if necessary.

Method for Mezze Cake

1. Put all the falafel ingredients into a food processor, blend to a thick paste and put to one side.

2. Cook the rice or mujadara and leave to cool.

3. With a sharp knife, cut the flat bread to the shape of your cake tin.

4. Cut the aubergine (egg plant) and courgette (zucchini) into to 1cm thick slices and griddle on both sides of each slice until they’re cooked through. I just brush them with olive oil on both sides.

5. Place the flatbread in the base of the cake tin.

6. Carefully and creatively layer each ingredient to build the cake (it’s your cake, add what you want, when you want or see video in link below for guidance! Make sure the top layer is the falafel mixture). I started as per the video with hummus dribbled with chilli jam as per photo above, then added layers of vegetables covered with tapenade and moutabal with my mudjara rice layer in-between.

7. Bake the cake at 180ºC/160ºC fan/gas mark 4 (350ºF/320ºF fan) for 30 minutes until golden on top. Take the cake out of the oven and leave for 10 minutes or so before decorating with a further layer of hummus and some more griddled vegetables (I found that this step isn’t strictly necessary) before slicing and serving.

8. Serve with chopped coriander (cilantro) more chilli jam or whatever else you’d like.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. Feel free to replace any of the home-made components with shop bought ones or indeed replace anything you don’t like with something you do.

2. The first time I made this in a square rather than round tin and it kept its shape so much better.

3. Remember to press all the layers together tightly before adding the falafel layer. The second time I made it I left the mixture as falafel balls. It loooked smarter, didn’t require topping with further hummus but it was a big mistake as the falafel top layer helps the cake keep its shape and makes it easier to cut.

4. As it’s a mezze cake, I generally serve it with some refreshing tabouleh which is heavy on the parsley and mint.

5. The following day, the cold left overs make a delicious wrap.

The Musette: sticky ribs

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 150˚C(300˚F)/130˚C fan/gas mark 2.

2. While the oven is warming, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic cloves.

3. Place a frying pan over a medium heat until it is hot, then add the olive oil, onion and garlic. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onion has softened but not coloured.

4. Add the chilli (if using), fennel seeds and brown sugar and cook, stirring, for a further 3 to 4 minutes until the sugar has melted.

5. Add the tomato ketchup and soy sauce and stir everything together. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens up.

6. Put the ribs into a deep-sided dish and pour over the sauce.

7. Cover the dish with foil and put it into the oven for at least 2 hours, then increase the oven temperature to 180˚C/(350˚F)/160˚C fan/gas mark 4, remove the foil and cook for 30 to 45 minutes more.

8. Once cooked, remove the tray from the oven and let the ribs cool down so they are not too hot to handle before serving.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. You can substitute honey, maple syrup or coconut blossom for the dark brown sugar.

2. If I’m using a bottled rather than home-made ketchup, I’ll also add a tbsp of tomato paste.

3. Feel free to up the garlic and chilli if you enjoy more heat.

4. Depending upon the size of the ribs, you may need to cook them for longer, so that most of the fat has melted.

5. If you want to prepare in advance. Allow the sauce to cool, cover the ribs with the sauce and cover the dish with cling film (plastic wrap) before leaving in the fridge overnight. Remove from the fridge before cooking to allow meat to reach room temperature.

6. The sauce also works well on pork chops and chicken wings.

The Musette: indulgent fish pie

We don’t get many visitors who stay overnight largely because we work from home. My brother-in-law and his wife recently spent a long week-end with us and I much enjoyed catering for them. My sister-in-law is a very skilled practionner of arts & crafts but not a particularly keen cook. I’m the opposite, barely capable of sewing a button back on but right at home in the kitchen. So it was a real treat to cook for them for a few days.

The fish pie is a British classic but all too often the fish ends up completely over cooked, lacking its identity, texture and flavour. In this recipe, I cool the sauce and then add the fish to the cold sauce before baking in a hot oven. This ensures that the fish is not over-cooked. This versatile recipe can be made with whatever fish you prefer. You can be creative with flavouring it, adding your favourite herbs and even some vegetables. You can make and chill the sauce ahead of time, or assemble the pie, minus the topping, and freeze.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 2 large shallots or 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 40g (3 tbs) butter
  • 1 large thyme sprig, leaves only
  • 4 tbsp Noilly Prat, dry vermouth or dry sherry
  • 2 tsp Pernod (optional)
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml (1 cup) fish, chicken or vegetable stock (a stock cube is fine)
  • 200ml (3/4 cup) milk
  • 4 tbsp double (heavy) cream
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 250g (1/2 lb) skinless salmon or cod fillets
  • 180g (6 oz) smoked haddock fillets
  • 200g (7 oz) scallops
  • 150g (5 oz) large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tbsp fresh organic lemon juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Creamed Potato Topping

  • 750g (1 1/2lbs) potatoes, peeled
  • 75g (5 tbsp) butter, cubed
  • 50ml (1/4 cup) hot milk or single cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 75g (2/3 cup) medium Emmental (or similar) cheese, finely grated

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6 (400°F). Grease a shallow (about 2 litre /8 cups capacity) pie dish.

2. Start by making the mashed potato for the topping. Chop the potatoes into chunks and cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain well and push through a potato ricer, or mash until smooth. Add the butter and hot milk or cream and mix until well incorporated. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the egg yolks. Season well and put to one side.

3. Sauté the shallots or onion and celery in the oil and butter with the thyme leaves for about 10 minutes until softened. Add the Noilly Prat and Pernod (if using), then cook for 4–5 minutes until reduced right down.

4. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so. Heat the stock in a small pan or a jug in the microwave. Gradually stir it into the vegetable mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth, and boil for about 5 minutes until reduced by a third. Mix in the milk, lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Season well, then add the cream and parsley and leave to cool.

5. Meanwhile, cut the fish into bite-sized chunks and scatter in the pie dish with the scallops and prawns. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and seasoning. Put the dish on a baking sheet.

6. Pour over the cool sauce and mix well but gently with a fork. Pipe the mashed potato on top or spread and fluff it up with a fork. Scatter with the grated cheese and put the pie immediately in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F), and bake for another 20 minutes, turning the dish if it starts to brown unevenly. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving and receiving plaudits!

7. Serve the fish pie with fresh steamed greens (peas, asparagus, spinach or broccoli are perfect) and a nice glass or two of your favourite white wine.

The Musette: vegan cauliflower korma

This is a creamy, comforting take on the curry-house staple from a Meera Sodha recipe which I’ve adapted – as I’m wont  to do – to my own taste and dietary requirements. Like Meera I had always thought of korma as the curry for people who didn’t like heat or spice but this is a quite different take: less sweet, with warm subtle backnotes.

I made this for supper for some French friends because, even though they might claim to like spicy food, the French don’t do hot and spicy. My friends, like me, don’t eat dairy so this was the ideal recipe for a quick Friday evening supper.

Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists)

  • 200g cashew nuts
  • 1kg (2lbs) approx. whole cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • thumb sized pieces fresh ginger and fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
  • 6 cardamom pods, seeds extracted
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 250ml (1 cup) filtered water
  • 1 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 handful each toasted flaked almonds and freshly chopped coriander, to serve

Method

1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Put the cashews in a heatproof bowl, add freshly boiled water to cover and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, add 250ml (1 cup) filtered water and blend until smooth.

2. Steam the cauliflower whole until you can easily pierce the stem with a sharp knife though it should still be firm, not mushy.

3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame, then fry the onions for 12-15 minutes, until soft and golden. Add the garlic, turmeric and ginger, fry for three to four minutes, then stir in the cardamom seeds, 1 tsp freshly ground pepper, garam masala and rose water.

4. Next add the brown rice syrup, a tsp sea salt and the cashew cream, then cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce turns a rich golden colour. It should be the same thickness as a cheese sauce, if it’s not, add a little more filtered water. Season to taste and turn off the heat.

5. Put the steamed cauliflower into an oven proof dish and pour over the sauce which should easily cover the head of cauliflower. Pop into the oven until it’s golden and bubbling, 30-40 minutes should suffice. To serve, portion into quarters.

6. Toast the almonds for 5 minutes in the oven, finely chop the coriander and scatter over each serving.

7. Serve with a spicy chutney on the side and naan or, if you’re feeling really hungry, basmati rice.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1. I made this firstly faithfully following the recipe but didn’t really enjoy the taste of the oven roasted cauliflower and I wanted it to be more like a mildly spiced cauliflower cheese and also use less fat in the cooking process.

2. I added the rose water and rice syrup because I had them in my pantry but I suspect that while they lend sweet backnotes to the sauce, they’re really optional extras.

3. I thinned the cashew cream with a bit more filtered water rather than non-dairy milk – fewer calories and no loss of flavour.

4. I skipped the toasted raisins in my version because I didn’t like them.

5. The dish isn’t a looker but it’s really tasty. Try it and see for yourself or indeed revert to the original recipe, link above.