Saturday, 25 February 2017
The longevity of onions never ceases to amaze me, although I should know better. Having grown them in the past, when I used to have my allotment plot, the practise of digging up in autumn and laying them down singularly and flat, on top of wooden boxes or flattened cardboard, was a common sight. This would help to cure and protect the onions, as the outer skin hardened and dried, ready to be stored in meshed bags for winter. Making them impervious little blighters really. Wonderful things, onions. These hardened balls of energy, just waiting to be unleashed like that.
However, the surprise only occurs whenever I reach into the corner cupboard of doom, where all the ‘stuff’ gets shoved, to grab a carrier bag and suddenly see a red onion come flying out.
‘Where has that come from?’ I’ll think. And ‘how long has it been in there?’ Along with ‘Hmm, maybe I’ll use that tonight.’
I am of course making this admission in the vague hope that it will sound familiar. I am hoping that I am not the only one who gets haunted and taunted by forgotten vegetables, scattered in the dark recesses of their kitchen. I also hope that on discovering these poor lost souls, lots of you end up cooking them, rather than simply throwing away. Because they will still be good for eating.
If you are undecided on the matter, a great destination for old vegetables is the humble stew or hot pot. Braising in a casserole, along with a cheap cut of meat, some store cupboard ingredients and some time and some care, can result in a dish that is not only tasty and transformative but also less wasteful. And if you discover whole bags of missing treasure, such as slightly wrinkled peppers, lying forlornly at the back of the fridge, then batch cooking is the way forward. Fill that freezer for days when you really don’t feel like slaving away behind the stove. For days dedicated to getting through Gilmore Girls or Game of Thrones or whatever takes your fancy.
This stew, or hotpot as I have named it, uses all of the above: ie onions, peppers and frugal meat in the form of beef shin, which is excellent for this type of cooking. Hard worked muscles always taste best. The slight twists or quirks to this recipe are down to the spices used, which lend a Latin or Mexican sort of flavour and come in the shape of the paprika, cumin and ancho chilli. For the purposes of this particular dish, I suggest popping an ancho in whole. You can chop it up and let the seeds run riot if you like, to add an extra fiery element of heat. But I prefer to leave the pepper to steep in the stock and let some of the ancho’s fruity quality come through.
Either way, you will have to soak it in boiled water first. Three years in a cupboard is a long time for a desiccated chilli to wait. But don’t worry, it will still be up for the job.
This post first featured on Great British Chefs, as part of a collaboration with Love Food Hate Waste.
Beef shin hotpot
50ml of rapeseed oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.5kg beef shin, boned, trimmed and cut into small cubes
300g of cooking chorizo, cut into slices
2 tbsp of plain flour
1 tbsp of sweet smoked paprika
1 tbsp of ground cumin
1 tbsp of black treacle
1 tbsp of tomato purée
1 dried ancho chilli, soaked in hot water
500ml of beef stock
400g of tinned chopped tomatoes, (1 tin)
400g of chickpeas, (1 tin)
Roast squash wedges
1 large squash, butternut or festival, seeded and cut into thin wedges with skin left on
50ml of rapeseed oil
100ml of sour cream
25g of pumpkin seeds
1 bunch of coriander, small, roughly chopped
Basmati rice, to serve
To begin, place a casserole dish or stockpot on the hob over a medium heat and add half of the rapeseed oil. Once the oil has warmed up, add the finely chopped onion, peppers and garlic and stir to coat. Bring the heat down.
Cook slowly for about 15–20 minutes until everything is soft and sweet, then remove from the heat and scrape into a bowl. Give the casserole a quick wipe with some kitchen towel to ensure no bits are left to catch.
Next, place the beef shin chunks in a bowl with the flour, salt and pepper and mix together, so that the meat gets a light and even coating. Return the casserole to the hob over a medium-high heat, add the remaining oil then brown the shin in batches, lifting them onto a plate once done.
The bottom of your casserole will probably be crusted with meaty bits and pieces, so deglaze with a good splash of water, using a metal spoon to scrape and lift everything up. Pour the thickened liquid over the beef.
Add the chorizo slices into the casserole, stirring as they begin to sizzle and release some of their own oil. After a couple of minutes, place the beef back into the pot, along with the softened vegetables, and mix together.
Add the paprika and cumin and stir to coat, then after another 2 minutes add the tomatoes, beef stock, black treacle and ancho chilli. Taste for seasoning.
Bring up to a simmer then cover with a lid, leaving it slightly ajar so that steam can escape and that the sauce can slowly thicken.
After an hour, empty the tin of chickpeas into the hotpot and cook for another 2 hours, or until the beef is very tender. Throughout cooking, return every now and then to stir
To cook the squash, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
Place the squash wedges on a baking tray and drizzle with the oil, mixing together to ensure they are evenly coated. Season with some salt and pepper and place into the oven for 40-45 minutes, turning them over halfway through.
To serve, divide the rice between plates then add a generous helping of the beef shin hotpot. Arrange some of the roast squash wedges on the side and top the meat with some sour cream, a scattering of pumpkin seeds and some chopped coriander.
This recipe caters for 2 helpings, for 4 people. So leave the remaining stew to cool then place into freezer bags to freeze for another day.