Slow-cooked Wagyu Beef Stew

Shananigans was 3 months old on Friday 27th October. To celebrate we got a new logo, designed by our son Shane at Enter the Panda Ltd.

(update to blog design coming soon to tie in with the logo) and then we took ourselves off to Savour Kilkenny to take part in Foodcamp.
It was a day of firsts – my first presentation to an audience of the story of the blog and my attempts to create authentic Chinese cuisine using the best of Irish ingredients, my first time to have a dish I had cooked tasted by anyone other than my family and close friends and, surely, the first impromptu tasting of a Chinese wagyu stew on live radio in Ireland.

Anne Neary defends her theft of my stew to Sue Nunn!

The recipe that follows is for the dish which was tasted live on air on The Sue Nunn Show on KCLR by chef Anne Neary of Ryeland House Cookery. She “stole” a plateful when my back was turned during the interview – all part of the fun at Savour Kilkenny! I also served it at the Foodcamp long-table lunch and about 40 people must have tasted it in all.
Anne made all the appropriate noises (link to podcast to be introduced in evidence!) and I got similar positive feedback at the Foodcamp lunch even though I felt compelled to warn everyone that the dish was spicy and would normally be served with rice and a cooling cucumber side dish, or perhaps with root vegetables through it.
The recipe came about as a result of the on-going challenge from @Pat_Whelan of James Whelan Butchers to come up with Chinese recipes for the Irish wagyu beef from his Garrentemple herd. I have already made a Garrentemple Shabu Shabu hotpot and Wagyu Steak Naoki Style. Pat was keen to show me that wagyu is not just about expensive steaks – there are cheaper cuts to be worked with which could be overlooked. So he sent me a large piece of wagyu chuck beef to experiment with. What better way to spread the Twitter love than to share the results with  the enthusiastic food-lovers at Savour Kilkenny.
Long, slow cooking is not all that prevalent in Chinese cuisine but it does exist. The Hui, the ethnic Chinese Muslims who are scattered across China, have traditionally prepared big pots of slow-cooked stew and served it as a topping for noodles. Some of the dishes I saw prepared in restaurants by the Muslim Uighurs, when we visited Shan’s family in Xinjiang Province, were cooked in this way When I was thinking about what I might do with the beef, I was hankering for the flavours of Urumqi with their Turkic and Arabaic influences and the scent of the spices of the bazaars always present in the evening air.
I eventually found the basic recipe I was looking for in Fuchsia Dunlop‘s  seminal cookbook on Hunan cuisine, the province Chairman Mao Zedong came from in Southern Central China. Her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook tackles the cuisine of a region whose people love their food hot and is packed with easy-to-follow recipes and insights into the region. I based my stew on her red-braised beef topping for Changde rice noodles, adapting it to suit wagyu beef and longer, slower cooking.
One thing I’ve noticed is that, for stews and the like, the Chinese always boil their meat in water for a few minutes first. This seems to be based on the belief that this will eliminate impurities and bad odours from the meat but it also has the effect of making it even more tender.
Shan came up with the Chinese name for this dish which translates literally as “Red Slow Cooked Beef. “Men” means “slow cooking, simmering to lock the flavour in”. I like the Chinese character to express this which is the second of the four characters below.
Shananigans Red-braised Wagyu Stew – hong men niu rou – 红焖牛肉

Wagyu stew ready for the slow cooker

(Serves 8 to 12 people)

  • 2 kg wagyu chuck steak
  • Wagyu beef dripping – about 8 tbs when melted
  • About 3/4 of a jar of Laoganma* chilli bean sauce
  • 2 small red onions, sliced
  • A chunk of unpeeled fresh ginger – about 4 cms – cut into thick slices
  • 3 large pieces of cassia bark
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • 4 tbs Shaoxing wine
  • 4 tbs dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Sichuan pepper
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 10 – 12 cardamon pods
  • 2 – 3 bay leaves
  • Coriander leaves to garnish


  • 2 – 3 carrots and
  • 2 – 3 parsnips or
  • 1 daikon radish/ Chinese turnip

To serve:

  • Boiled rice
  • Shan’s bashed cucumber – Pai Huang Gua – see recipe in earlier post

Preparation and cooking:

  • Cut the beef into large cubes – with wagyu there is virtually no trimming required and no waste.
  • Place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming off the mucky froth that rises to the surface. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and leave aside in a colander to cool and lose any excess liquid. Strain the remaining cooking liquid (through muslin if possible) into a jug or pot.
  • Heat the wagyu dripping in a large, deep saucepan over a medium heat – if there is too much just drain off the excess into a bowl. You can use it again.
  • Add the Laoganma chilli bean sauce to the dripping and stir, over medium heat, until the sauce and oil have combined. Add in the red onion, ginger, cassia bark, cinnamon, star anise and stir fry until you release the heady aromas of the spices and the onion begins to soften.
  • Then turn up the heat and gradually add in the beef, stirring constantly until all the beef is coated with the rich red sauce. Swirl in the soy sauce and the Shaoxing wine and stir to mix, then add sufficient of the reserved cooking liquid to barely cover the meat. Reserve any remaining liquid.
  • Add the bay leaves and the remaining ingredients – Sichuan pepper, fennel seeds, cloves and cardamon – tying them in muslin if you have a small piece or bag to hand, but don’t worry, you can strain them out later if you wish.
  • Bring to the boil, then transfer immediately to a slow cooker and cook on “low” for about 6 – 7 hours. Check the beef for tenderness after 6 hours, keeping the time you have the lid off the slow cooker to a minimum.
  • When the beef is cooked to melt in the mouth tenderness, allow to cool then refrigerate over night.
  • The next day, remove and discard any excess fat that has set on the surface – it will be a bright orange colour.
  • Remove the meat from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and place, along with the larger spices and ginger slices, in a large cast-iron casserole dish or saucepan. Strain the remaining liquid, to remove any smaller seeds and bay leaves, and return it to the pan.
  • Check the seasoning while it is heating and balance if necessary with soy sauce and Shaoxing wine – I found the rich intense flavour from the long, slow cooking was just right. Reheat thoroughly over a moderate heat and serve garnished with fresh coriander.

*available in all Aisan supermarkets, the Laoganma sauce is made with black beans, chilli and Sichuan peppercorns. The literal translation of it’s name is “old dry mother sauce”. The photo below will help you recognise the label but be careful to get the one that does not contain MSG – the newest bottles have the ingredients listed in English on the rear. If you are unable to find the Laoganma label you could substitute Lee Kum Kee chill bean sauce made with broad beans which may be easier to find but it will not give the same richness of colour or flavour.
I love the deep red colour and the rich, spicy flavour and aromas of the beef. But you can lighten the overall effect of the dish, and add variety in colour and taste, by adding in chunks of briefly par-boiled carrots and parsnips or Chinese turnip, also known as daikon radish, for the last 20 – 30 minutes of re-heating, so long as the pot has reached simmering point. You may need to add additional reserved cooking liquid or water to ensure the meat and vegetables remain barely covered with liquid and to adjust the seasoning to re-balance the dish.
This is a special dish with an intensity of colour and flavour which mellows and deepens with the long slow cooking and the overnight rest. It tastes even better on the third day.
Finding the courage to take this dish out for public inspection, at my first ever public presentation of Shananigans, 3 months to the day after starting the blog, means it will always have a special place in my portfolio of recipes.
While the use of wagyu beef makes this an exceptional dish, the recipe would work equally well with good quality shin beef as the long slow cooking would melt down the fat. If using shin beef in the slow  cooker you may need to allow up to an hour longer to achieve a melt in the mouth texture.
Mashed potatoes can be used as an alternative to rice.
Cinnamon sticks can be used as a substitute for cassia bark.
If you don’t have a slow cooker, simply cook on the hob on a low simmer for about 3 hours. In this case you will need to cover the beef more generously with the cooking liquid and keep an eye on it to make sure the beef is covered with water at all times and doesn’t dry out.
Whichever method you use, I strongly recommend allowing it to rest overnight so that you can remove the fat and ensure there is no oily after-taste in the dish.
The quantity can be halved to serve 4 to 6 people but it may be more efficient to make the larger amount and freeze half if necessary.
Enjoy and if you try this dish or variation of it, please let me know how you get on.

Notes from a Past Life – Chilli steak with just-cooked greens

Back in the day… Back in January 2004 the Celtic Tiger was still roaring. We had children who had never experienced recession. I was working full-time in a job that meant I rarely got home before 9 pm each evening. My adult children were beginning to spread their wings. Claire was in London working with Jamie Oliver, and Shane was in Edinburgh designing websites, almost overlapping with Shan who studied there and who he was destined to meet in Beijing in 2010. To me they seemed far away but, with hindsight, they were so close, barely across the water. We Irish seemed invincible then, confident, adventurous, the world our oyster… back in the day.
Even then I loved to cook and have friends over for dinner, but there was very little time so I was always on the look out for recipes that were easy and fast to prepare. I used to look forward to the Food and Drink section of the Sunday Tribune magazine and I would cut out and keep recipes that appealed to me. A dinner menu, published in that newspaper on the 18th January, 2004 with the headline “Cold Comfort”, was ideal because it didn’t require much more than an hour to put together a respectable meal. That menu, with its starter of Mango Goat’s Cheese and Parma Melts, a main of Chilli Steak with just-cooked greens and Warm Chocolate Puddings for dessert, became my dinner party menu of choice for most of that year and every friend I have ever entertained has been at the receiving end of that mango and goats cheese starter.

Chilli-steak with just cooked greens

I had forgotten all about it, until last Monday night when my friend Brenda asked me to dig out our old recipe for ginger biscuits and I came upon it in a folder at the back of a cupboard. Nostalgia swept over me and memories came flooding back – of the frantic rush to get a meal on the table for guests, of Green & Black’s chocolate simmering in the pot, of peeling mangoes as the juices ran out of them, of the fragrance of cumin from marinating beef. Ah, those were the days…
And as I amused myself reading the article about dank January days and noted that “Pak choi or Chinese cabbage is now widely available in shops and Asian stores”, I realised that the author was one Catherine Cleary. Could it be “our” Catherine Cleary (@Catherineeats), whose restaurant reviews are now the first thing I read  every Saturday in the Irish Times, I wondered. And YES, it was. She tells me she wrote those recipes after their first Christmas as parents when they were in no mood for January denial.
So with her permission and a big thank you to her for many happy dinners with friends, I’m reproducing the chilli-steak recipe below and you can also see my efforts to re-create the other two recipes on the blog.

This is a very simple and light dish with relatively mild flavours. The sour chilli marinade tenderises the beef so that it cooks very fast. What fascinates me is how similar it is to dishes I had in Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China, where Shan’s family live and where the middle eastern influences spill over into the local cuisine and the use of cumin is prevalent. How the world turns full circle…
I made this for dinner today with lovely fillet steak from James Whelan Butchers at Avoca, Monkstown and Irish pak choi and spring onions from Superquinn in Blackrock, Co. Dublin.
Chilli Steak with Just-cooked Greens
Cold Comfort

Continue reading Notes from a Past Life – Chilli steak with just-cooked greens

Wagyu beef Shananigans style – to be created by Twitter

Pat Whelan (@pat_whelan) of James Whelan Butchers set me a challenge on Twitter awhile ago – to come up with a Shananigans Recipe that uses his wonderful wagyu striploin steaks. Now bear in mind what I said when I started this blog. I’m not a trained cook. I can follow a recipe with very specific instructions but creating a recipe? Well I’ve only started that very recently as I grow in confidence to vary the suggestions I get from Shan and others. And as for wagyu beef – it’s like giving a pure gold to a jeweller who has only ever worked with scrap metal.
But one third of the Shananigans crew – my darling daughter @ClaireB_Oz – is home from Sydney for 5 days and wants to taste her mammy’s cooking (“remember when you used to bake us cookies” she is wont to say) and it was too good an opportunity to miss to try and produce something special for her.
Thus began a weekend of somewhat frantic on-line and twitter research – I mean what’s all this fuss about wagyu anyway? I couldn’t even spell it last Friday! – and an increasing sense of panic, as I realised how special it is. I felt that I had bitten off more than I can chew (boom, boom) – the foie gras of beef and I’m trying to give it a Chinese makeover without ever having cooked it as a simple steak.
Twitter friends far and wide were roped in for suggestions, the internet was trawled to produce much conflicting advice and I finally settled on a Sichuan take on a Shabu Shabu style hotpot, for no other reason than I loved the name which is onomatopoeic for the “swish swish” of the meat gently cooked in the hotpot broth.
Well I almost settled, because no sooner had I got a recipe for the broth from Twitter friend and Good Food Ireland member, Audrea of  Tastefully Yours (@ArtisanChutney) and spent nearly a day tracking down a table top hotpot from Table Top Cookware in the UK, (from where the lovely Sophie phoned me on a Sunday morning to say that yes, of course, they could fast deliver it to Ireland), when the other third of Shananigans – Shane, Shan and their foodie friend Carl Hayward in Beijing informed me that their consensus was that hotpot was not a good idea…

Now that’s a serious hotpot!

Carl had a different suggestion – a way of cooking wagyu he learned when he attended a cooking class with, and subsequently interviewed, a Japanese chef, Naoki Okumura, who is the executive chef at the Aman resort by the Summer Palace in Beijing, Naoki practices a fusion style of cooking he calls French Kaiseiki, an approach that combines French techniques with Japanese artistry.
Interestingly enough another Twitter friend @paulshoebox had recommended I visit that restaurant while in Beijing. So I will save some of the wagyu steaks and use them in Carl’s recipe.
Meanwhile I am psychologically committed to the hotpot, if for no other reason than the effort I’ve put into tracking one down. Besides I already have one vital ingredient thanks to Twitter friend @BumblesofRice – muslin squares to strain @ArtisanChutney stock. I’d never have thought of the baby isle in Tesco!
Muslin squares

The stock is simmering away for tomorrow. I only have to stay up until 1 am to mind it.
Tastefully Yours Sichuan Stock Base (courtesy of @artisanchutney)

  • About I kg of short beef ribs/Jacobs’s ladder (available from James Whelan Butchers)
  • 2 red onions peeled and halved
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 large carrot, unpeeled
  • A handful of fresh thyme
  • 10 – 15 sichuan peppercorns
  • About 100 ml of shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp of light soy sauce


  1. Take off the outer layer of fat on the beef because fat boiling in a stock will emulsify and lead to a cloudy texture and an unpleasant taste.
  2. Brown off the ribs in a little vegetable oiI.
  3. Add the onion, celery,carrot, thyme, Sichuan pepper corns, shaoxing wine. honey and soy sauce.
  4.  Mix together and continue to brown all the ingredients.


  1. Fill the pot with just enough cold water to cover all the ingredients – about 3 litres.
  2. Give it a vigorous stir and bring to a gentle boil.
  3. Reduce heat, loosely cover with a lid and simmer for 5-6 hours.
  4. Don’t be tempted to stir the stock as this will only cloud it.
  5. Skim the fat off every hour.
  6. Once cooked strain it through muslin – I found the easiest way to do this was to use a sieve first to discard all the bones and vegetables and then to re-sieve the stock through the muslin.
  7. Refrigerate it overnight and remove the layer of fat that forms. You’ll be left with a gelatinous stock.

Simmering Sichuan stock

@ArtisanChutney says: “This is your base for noodle soup or sauces. This is just a building block so have fun with it. Make it your own. Cooking is all about experimenting.” I’m trying Audrea, I’m trying,,,

I make a special effort to ensure that as many as possible of the vegetable that I use are Irish produce. All the vegetables used over the next few days were sourced with the assistance of Donnelly Fruit & Vegetables and, except where otherwise stated, are supplied by them to Donnybrook Fair, Dublin.

Dishing up Shan's Black Pepper Beef

One of the joys of Chinese cooking is the possibility of dishing up a tasty meal in mere minutes.
In preparation for cooking Shan’s Black Pepper Beef I decided to do some homework on Chinese cooking. Thanks to a blogger/ tweeter friend The Silver Chicken @silverchicken1 I discovered Gok Cooks Chinese – a six week, Channel 4 TV series in which Gok Wan @therealgokwan, a well known fashion expert (who I have to admit I’d never heard of before today – sorry Gok) recreates his family’s recipes and cooks them alongside his Dad, Papa Wan.
So far I’ve only had the chance to watch the first episode on “Catch Up” on Channel 4’s 4oD App on iPad (only accessible in the UK and Ireland) but a few things were obvious – preparation is key – line up your bottled Chinese flavourings, have all the fresh ingredients prepped and in separate bowls in advance and cooking is a cinch. Visit for more details.
It wasn’t difficult to find Oyster sauce and Shaoxing Chinese Rice Wine in Good Food Ireland Member Kate’s Farm Shop in Wexford, Ireland along with all the fresh vegetables I needed and the excellent fillet beef came from Wallace’s SuperValu in Wellington Bridge, Wexford. I used groundnut oil for cooking to give that authentic Chinese flavour but rapeseed or sunflower oil could also be used,

All set and ready to cook

Continue reading Dishing up Shan's Black Pepper Beef

Shan's recipe for Black Pepper Beef

Well man and woman cannot live on fried green beans alone so for our second recipe Shan set out to recreate a dish on the lines of the black pepper beef dish we enjoyed so much on our first night in Beijing in the Sichuan restaurant, Yuxiang Kitchen in Lido Square.

Shane and Shan dish up the beef

The recipe Shan came up with is a little different to the one we had that night but typical of this satisfying and versatile dish.
Black pepper beef (Hei Jiao Niu Liu)

  • 2 green peppers (change one of them to green chilli if you like it spicy)
  • 1 small onion
  • 250 gm fillet beef
  • Asparagus (optional)
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Shaoxing rice wine
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Ground black pepper (about half a teaspoon or more depending on taste)
  • 1 egg
  • Half of a green (spring) onion
  • Ginger (slice a piece about 0.5 cm from a chunk)


  1. Clean and dry the beef and cut it into slices, about 3 cm long and 2 cm wide and 0.5cm thick.Put it into a soup dish.
  2. Cut the green pepper into strips and slice asparagus to similar size; cut the onion to thin slices.
  3. Chop green onion, garlic and ginger into fine pieces. Separate the egg white and yolk and keep the egg white.


Put following sauces into the soup dish with beef:

  • 1 tbs of rice wine
  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Egg white

Mix with your hand (to make sure no slice of beef is folded over on itself and you can rub in the flavour better this way) and leave for 5 minutes then drain it.

  1. Beef: Add oil in wok and put beef in when oil is hot; stir fry beef for about 2-3 minutes till you see the colour of beef change to dark brownish (it should be cooked already), turn the stove off and take the beef out.
  2. Vegetables: Clean the wok and add 2 tbs of fresh oil (you don’t want vegetables to look brown), put finely chopped green onion, ginger and garlic in; stir fry for about 30 seconds or until you can smell the scent of garlic; put sliced onions in and stir fry for another 30 seconds; then add green pepper strips and asparagus slices in; add some salt and stir fry for about 1 minute, then put beef and ground pepper in and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

Shan’s comments:

The finished dish should look refreshing with green vegetables. You can also add a small amount of sliced carrots or change one the the green pepper to half a yellow and half a red pepper to make it even more colourful and nutritious. (Eat vegetable with different colour every day is important as the different colour reflects the vitamins/minerals it contains).
See my first attempt at cooking this delicious recipe at Dishing up the beef.
Second attempt…
I tried this again on 15th September 2012 when I had become a bit more familiar with Chinese cooking.
This time I had only strips of sirloin beef and no onion so I substituted half a leek thinly sliced for the onion and I used one green pepper, one red pepper and a green chilli.
I used light soy sauce in the marinade but I added an extra dash of soy sauce and oyster sure just before serving to darken the colour a bit.
That’s the joy of this dish – you can play around with the ingredients. All my lovely fresh vegetables came from Shankill Market Fresh, a great local shop based at the Barbecue Centre in Shankill, Dublin
The finished dish was very tasty and fast and easy to produce. A grand easy dinner for a Saturday night in and goes well with Gavi di Gavi wine 🙂
Shan’s black pepper beef – 2nd attempt