Rain rain rain, it has been nearly two weeks now and it doesn’t look like stopping. The Tevere river looked ready to burst its banks on Saturday and the whole city is soggy and long faced. Anyone who knows Rome can probably imagine the lethal combination that is, abundant rain and an ancient city built on seven hills, yes, puddles of small lake-like proportions. The ancient cobbled streets which weave so enchantingly through the city are not so charming in this weather, they are slippy fellas, capable of taking out a motorino, ankle, old lady or clumsy english girl quicker than I can eat a chocolate truffle (and that is quick). If you know any Romans, you can probably imagine how utterly horrified and vocal they are at the very unRoman weather.
As well as my bruised ‘cobble fall’ posterior, I am also soggy and long faced, but I do have a very good recipe for you.
This beef is the unquestioned star of my recent braising phase. The well marbled flank simmered away in red wine and stock with bay leaves, cloves and onions did have a decided advantage in the braising stakes in that it is something I remember sentimentally and mouth-wateringly from my childhood, thus it has a deep rooted ability to comfort and reassure me.
This is David Tanis’s recipe from his book ‘A platter of figs‘, a book I have been longing to own, I now do and it exceeds all my extremely high expectations, it is a perfectly formed little masterpiece of a book, the man rocks my cooking world.
The recipe is perfectly simple, you need patience, if fact, ideally you need 3 days. Yes, 3 days.
I kind of paused when I realised this, but the reality was quite lovely. I began cooking and seasoning on thursday, braised on friday and scraped and reduced on saturday morning, By saturday evening we had the most divine braised beef for dinner, a panful with a full deep roundness which had emerged while everything mellowed and wallowed for 2 days
It goes like this, a large flaken steak is well seasoned and left to rest overnight. The next day it is browned, so its juices caramelize, it is then simmered in stock, red wine with an onion, a large carrot, a stick of celery, bays leaves, cloves for about two and a half hours. During this time the meat becomes meltingly tender and the gravy deeply flavoured and complex. You allow the pan to cool overnight. The next day you can scrape the grease off and then remove the piece of meat while you strain the gravy and reduce it slightly to create an even thicker and richer gravy. Finally you reunite meat and gravy before allowing it to rest for a couple of hours. Once you are ready to eat you gently gently re-heat everything in the pan, Finally, you slice the beef thickly, plate up and spoon over a warm blanket of thick, rich gravy.
Please try this recipe, it is just plain fantastic, deeply satisfying to make and even more satisfying to eat. David Tanis suggests celeriac mashed potatoes to accompany the beef, I took his advice and can confidently agree with his very fine self that it is a pretty glorious pair – in his words, ‘ a classic and mutually beneficial combination, celery root sweetens the potatoes and the potatoes lend a creaminess to the celeriac.’
I also made some braised lentils, not that we needed them, but, I am in a braising frame of mind and more importantly, we had a small Sicilian vegetarian in our midst.
You will have left overs, lucky you, you get to appreciate the meat after yet another day mellowing and wallowing, it will be even more delicious. You could also use up the celeriac mash to make some some fried potato cakes to accompany it.
Braised beef with celeriac mashed potatoes.
serves 4 with leftovers
- 1 kg peice of well marbled beef flank or 2 fat chuck steaks
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- olive oil or lard
- 2tbsp good butter
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1 tsp paprika
- 6tbsp tomato paste
- 200ml red wine
- 1,5 litres chicken stock
- 2 large onions peeled and halved
- 1 large carrot peeled and cut in half
- 1 stick celery cut in half
- 2 bay leaves
- sprig of thyme
- about 5 cloves.
- 1 celery root (about 700g grams)
- 1.5kg of starchy potatoes
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 150g creme fraiche
- 150ml whole milk
- 150g good butter
- handful of finely chopped celery leaves.
(thursday) Season the beef with plenty of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper and refrigerate overnight.
(friday) Allow the meat to reach room temperature and set the oven to 325°f or 160°c.
In a large heavy based pan, I use my large enameled le creuset, warm energetically about 1 inch of your lard or olive oil and then brown the meat very well over a medium-high heat, about 8minutes on each side. A good brown is essential for a good braise. remove the meat from the pan and set aside.
Pour away any remaining fat from the pan and return it to a low flame, Add the butter and flour, mixing well with a wooden spoon to encorporate the flour. Add the tomato paste, paprika and red wine, stir and then add the chicken stock, stir and then bring to a gentle boil.
Add the meat, onion, bay leaves, thyme, cloves, carrot and celery to the pan and then, finally, the meat. Bring the pan back to a gentle boil and then slide the pan in to the oven for 2 and a half hours.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight.
(saturday morning) The next day you will have a layer of greasy fat on top of the braise, remove the meat carefully and set aside. Scrape off the layer of fat and then strain the sauce. Over a happy flame bring the sauce to a fast boil and allow it to reduce and thicken.
Reunite the meat with the sauce and allow to rest until you are nearly ready to eat.
(saturday night) Reheat. slowly, slowly, the meat in its sauce, remove the meat to a carving board and cut into thick slices.
Give each person a slice, a good spoonful of gravy and a genorous serving of celeriac mashed potatoes
Celeriac mashed potatoes
Peel the celeriac and potatoes and cut them both into 2″ chunks.
Put the chunks in a large heavy bottomed pan and cover with cold water and set aside.
About an hour before you are ready to eat, add salt to the water and bring the pan to a lively boil, boil the vegetables for 15 – 20mins or until the celeriac root is soft and the potatoes easily pierce with a knife point.
Drain the vegetables in a large colander and reserve a cup of cooking water.
Put the empty pan back on a low flame (it will still be warm,) add the milk, allow it to warm a little and then tip the vegetables back in the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and mash the potatoes with a hand masher. Add the creme fraiche, celery leaves, butter and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, beat everything together.
Put the pan back on a low heat, stir well and add a little of the reserved cooking water if you think the mixture is too thick.
Serve alongside the meat