You’ve got to love Twitter. This week I ordered a “selection box” of cheaper cuts of meat from James Whelan Butchers to practice what I learned from Paul Flynn at the Tannery Cookery School last week and by attending the Butchery Demonstration at Avoca, Monkstown. So I had ordered a ham hock to make terrine, bavette of beef for stir fries, pork cheeks to try replicate a dish of Paul’s that I love and a Jacobs Ladder – short beef ribs.
Now I’ve only used short beef ribs once before to make the stock for my Wagyu hotpot using a recipe from Audrea of Tastefully Yours but I was curious to see if there was another way of using the cut that would get even more value from this tasty meat. So I put out a Friday afternoon appeal on Twitter and several of my friends came back with suggestions – Aoife, Imen, Helena – all with interesting recipes.
One suggestion caught my eye. It was from Tom Walsh the Head Chef at the Samphire Restaurant at the Waterside, Donobate. I haven’t met Tom and I haven’t yet visited his restaurant but I love his philosophy – classical French cuisine with a modern twist, supporting businesses in the community and sourcing all ingredients locally including meat, vegetables and fish and preparing seasonal menus, making the most of what is available at different times of the year. Samphire, a wild shoreline, vegetable growing on the doorstep of the restaurant perched on the beautiful coastline of north Dublin, provided a name that resonates with the place and the approach he adopts. It’s also one of my favourite ingredients and sums up the search for the authentic and the local which influences my own amateur approach to cooking.
Anyway Tom’s suggestion for the Jacob’s Ladder went something like this:
“Get it into a nice marinade of hoisin with chilli added and some stock. Bed of veg. Nice bit of garlic.”
“Slowly cooked at 120 – 140, covered so it’s basted for a long period until tender.”
“After cooking, can be roasted up to give a lovely robust and meaty flavour, texture. Some fondant potatoes and red cabbage #goforit.”
So go for it I did and, in the process, I came across a recipe for DongPo Pork in Exploring China a Culinary Adventure and I tweaked the braising liquid in that recipe for my Jacobs Ladder.
According to legend, Su DongPo was an important official from Hangzhou who was sent pork by his grateful people. Hangzhou is a city on the Yangtze River Delta about 180 km southwest of Shanghai. It is located in an area of great natural beauty and has been one of the most prosperous cities of China for over a 1,000 years. Being a nice guy, DongPo instructed his cooks to prepare the pork, share it with his workers and serve it with rice wine. Somewhere along the way the message got garbled and the cooks added the wine to the dish. And so this classic dish was born, of which there are almost as many variations as there are Chinese cooks. My version below uses beef instead of pork and a higher concentration of hoisin sauce. It is delicious.
Twice-cooked Short Beef Ribs (Jacob’s Ladder), DongPo Style
Serves 2 – 4
- I kg Jacobs Ladder
- 2 carrots
- 1 leek
- 1 large onion
- 2 sticks celery
- Sunflower oil and a knob of butter
For the braising liquid:
- 1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
- 6 thin slices of ginger, skin on
- 4 whole clove garlic , bashed and skin removed
- 5 tbs hoisin sauce
- 3 tbs yellow bean sauce
- 3 tbs sugar
- 750 ml beef stock
- 300 ml Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
- 2 sticks of cinnamon or cassia bark
- 3 star anise
- White pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees C.
- Remove the outer layer of skin from the short-rib and place the beef in a pot of cold water. Bring to the boil and blanch on a simmering heat for just 5 minutes. Remove and drain then quickly rinse with cold water. (The Chinese believe blanching the meat in this way removes impurities as the scum rises to the surface. I also find it helps tenderise the meat.)
- Roughly chop the carrot, onion, leek and celery and sweat in a little heated cooking oil and butter for 15 minutes, with the lid on, until softened. Add in the ginger, chilli and garlic for the last few minutes to release their aromas.
- Place the vegetables on the base of an oven proof casserole to form a “trivet”.
- Mix the ingredients for the braising liquid and bring to a simmer, tasting the sauce and adjusting the balance of flavours if necessary with hoisin sauce and/ or the sherry/ cooking wine to get your desired sweet/sour balance. You do not meet to add salt as there is enough salt in the hoisin and yellow bean sauce.
- Place the beef on the vegetables in the base of the casserole, pour over the braising liquid and top up the liquid if necessary with stock or water to ensure the beef is barely covered.
- Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours in a low oven. Use a layer of grease proof paper or baking parchment to ensure the beef stays submerged.
- When the beef is cooked and tender, remove it from the liquid and allow it to cool. By this point the beef ribs will be falling away from the meat and can be discarded. The outer fat should retain a light glaze from the sauce which will caramelise during the final stage of cooking.
- Increase the oven heat to 200 – 220 degrees C and brown off the beef For 15 – 30 minutes until the skin is golden and crispy.
- Meanwhile strain the braising liquid, discarding the vegetables, ginger, cinnamon and cassia bark and skim off any surface fat.
- Reduce the braising liquid by about a half and serve as a sauce with the meal.
Serve, cut into thick slices, with spiced red cabbage and fondant potatoes.
The next time I cook this dish, I will turn down the oven even lower and cook it for an hour or so longer. If possible I will cook the meat as far as stage 8 the day before or very early in the day and refrigerate it so the remaining layers of fat get a chance to settle. Meanwhile I will cool the braising liquid and remove the surface fat from it before re-use.
The braising liquid could be frozen for re-use (with diced shoulder of pork for instance) or it could be thickened with a little cornflour when making the sauce but I prefer just to reduce it down to concentrate the delicious flavours and serve it in a jug with the slices of beef.
This dish could be also be cooked as far as stage 8 in a slow cooker. If slow-cooking in this way, reduce the liquid by about a third and cook for 5 to 7 hours on low.
Last night I roasted the meat off at 200 degrees c for about 20 minutes but the next time I will bring the temperature up by 10 degrees and give it about 10 minutes longer (provided the beef has cooled) so that the remaining fat layer have time to render down.
Spiced Red Cabbage
I find a slow cooker is ideal for this side dish which is a slight variation of a recipe I came across in Hamlyn’s Ultimate Slow Cooker but it could also be cooked in a low oven at 140 to 150 degrees C for about an hour and a half. If cooking in an oven you will need to increase the liquid to about 750 ml and ensure it is tightly covered.
- 1 tbs sunflower oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 heaped tsp of fennel seeds, roughly crushed
- 1 tsp dried chillies, crushed
- 500 ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 tbs of Chinkiang or balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbs honey
- 1 tbs tomato purée
- 700 g red cabbage, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 red eating apples, cored and diced
- Small handful of raisins
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan or wok, add the onion and stir-fry for 5 minutes until lightly browned.
- Add the fennel seed, and chilli and give a brief stir to release the aromas, then add the stock, vinegar, honey and tomato purée.
- Add the shredded cabbage, apple and raisins. Give everything a good stir and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to the boil, transfer to a slow cooker and cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours until the cabbage is tender.
I have to admit that when Chef Tom Walsh suggested I serve fondant potatoes with this meal I had to google them first to make sure I knew what they were. I came across this excellent video of Steve Dolby preparing fondant potatoes which taught me all I need to know.
- 4 large potatoes , peeled and cut into a barrel-shapes using a cookie cutter
- Sunflower oil
- A small bunch of fresh thyme
- Chicken or vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- Trim the potatoes as in the video.
- Heat the oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat and fry the potatoes on one flat side for about 5 minutes until golden. Turn them over and fry for another 5 minutes on the other side, shaking the pan gently to make sure they don’t stick.
- Towards the end of cooking time, add in a few knobs of butter and some sprigs of thyme. When the butter has foamed, add in some hot stock to create a “bath” around the base of the potatoes to about a third of their height.
- Place the pan in the oven for about 15 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm before serving.
All in all this was a delicious meal with a great combination of flavours. It is always a great privilege when a professional chef shares ideas with us amateur foodies on Twitter. Thanks for the inspiration and the generousity Chef Tom Walsh and I look forward to visiting Samphire very soon.