Beef braised in ale is a true comfort dish: warming, filling. nourishing and delicious, it’s the clichéd ‘hug in a bowl‘ that is always welcome. This recipe from Mark Diacono’s Herb: A Cook’s Companion combines beef cheeks – my favourite cut of beef for braising – with ale and beef stock to create a classic stew, but lifts it above the ordinary with the addition of persillade (a simple mix of parsley and garlic). A little splash of vinegar or lemon juice for acidity completes the magic.
Beef Braised In Ale With Persillade
Persillade is really the DNA of herb combinations, double-helixing its way through so many fine sauces, mixes and dressings. It is nothing more than two marvellous ingredients with a little seasoning, but then so is gin and tonic. Somehow, parsley and garlic chopped together, leaching their qualities into the other, creates an utterly elevating alloy beyond its simple parts. (From there, the zest of a lemon creates gremolata; adding lemon juice/ vinegar and olive oil gives you a basic salsa verde).
- 1 kg 2lb 4oz ox cheeks – I cut them into 4–8 pieces but cut into chunks if you prefer
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 50 g (2oz) butter
- 2 large onions, roughly chopped
- 2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped
- 200 g (7oz) baby onions (or small shallots, peeled and left whole)
- 2 tbsp tomato purée (or paste)
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 30 g (1oz) plain (all purpose) flour
- 330 ml (11fl oz) ale
- 300 ml (10fl oz) stock, beef ideally (or use chicken or vegetable)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
- splash of excellent vinegar or lemon juice
- sea salt and freshly ground
- black pepper
- ½ small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
- 1 garlic clove
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2.
Season the beef with salt and pepper. Warm the oil in a large casserole over a high heat and cook the beef until brown all over. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the butter and the vegetables and cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat until the vegetables soften. Add the tomato purée and garlic and cook for 5 minutes more. Then add the flour and stir well to combine. Add the ale, whisking continuously to prevent lumps, then the stock, continuing to whisk. Return the beef to the casserole along with the bay and sage and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer.
Cover the casserole and transfer to the oven. Braise for 2 hours, adding a little water or stock if the tideline drops below halfway on the islands of meat.
To make the persillade, finely chop the parsley and garlic together, season a little.
After 2 hours of braising, add half the persillade to the beef, then braise for another 30 to 60 minutes, until the meat is extremely tender.
When cooked, remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Season the beef to taste with salt and pepper, then stir in a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice: taste and add a little more if you fancy. Serve with mash or crushed potatoes, topping with the remaining persillade.
We loved this braised beef recipe, and really appreciated the extra punch and freshness added by the persillade. If anything, we’d recommend upping the amount of persillade you make so that you can serve a small pot of it on the table and diners can add extra to their plate, to taste.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Herb: A Cook’s Companion by Mark Diacono from publisher Quadrille (RRP £26). Recipe extracted with permission of publisher.