There are many things which makes life a little easier; ready made stock is one of them. Great stock can make or break a dish. The right one enhances, fills and rounds the flavour. Knorr has been working with a number of bloggers globally with their products, and although the campaign has attracted some criticism – with claims that bloggers are being bought or bribed, I am happy to fly the flag for some Knorr products and their stock pots and bottled Touch of Taste. I wrote, even ranted about it, my thoughts are here, and another rehash is not needed. My main criticism of the range is that there is not a free range chicken product. Hopefully with time, and if enough people ask one might be forthcoming – consumer demand is key to any business.
I rather like my Asian fusion versions of classic Western dishes. This time last year I made an Asian version of the classic beef Wellington, the mushroom duxelle included shiitake and was flavoured with miso, sesame, soy sauce, cumin and star anise; instead of puff pastry I used crispy, crunchy filo. Served with a maple mash it was a delicious success and enjoyed by all.
When my box of ingredients to make a boeuf bourguignon arrived, I knew I wanted to do something a little different, and so this Japanese inspired beef casserole or a boeuf à la Japonaise is what came out of my slow cooker. Sake, soy sauce, miso and star anise all combine to give an unmistakably oriental touch to a classic Western dish, still comforting, certainly different but not startlingly so.
Keep an eye on the flavours when cooking this; both miso and soy are fairly salty so it didn’t need any more salt. Star anise is very aromatic – and wildly varies in strength – I found that the flavour suddenly seemed to “cook out” so maybe try adding a few hours into the cooking? If you do not have any sake – or are unwilling to buy a bottle (but please do, it was delicious served with the casserole) – a dash of white wine with some rice vinegar or mirin (if you have it) will do. If you do not have a slow cooker then make this in a casserole in the oven – cook for 2 and a half hours on a low heat so it is gently bubbling.
I used shallots, celery and leek in this as they were the vegetables that came in my seasonal box – unless you really love them, life is too short to peel umpteen shallots – chop an onion and use that. The leek is not essential – leave out – or use extra onion or celery.
Recipe: Japanese Beef Casserole – Boeuf à la Japonaise
Serves 4 with some leftovers
2 tbs sesame oil
10 shallots – or as many as you can stand peeling – or one onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic – roughly chopped
2 sticks celery – finely chopped
1 leek – sliced into 0.5 cm pieces
800g beef – brisket / stewing / shin – cut into 2.5cm cubes
2 tbs flour
1 mug beef stock – I used a Knorr stock pot
2 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs sake
1 tbs miso – I used brown rice miso from Clearspring
1 star anise
Pour the sesame oil into a large frying pan and fry the shallots (or onions), garlic, celery and leek for a few minutes until softened, transfer to the slow cooker pot or casserole dish.
Fry off the cubed beef in batches – there should be space around each piece so it browns properly. Once browned add to your cooking pot. When frying off the last batch of beef add the flour, this should absorb all the remaining fat. Cook for a few minutes and transfer to your cooking pot.
If necessary deglaze the pan with some of the stock. Pour the stock, soy sauce and sake over the beef and vegetables. Add the miso and star anise and stir well. If necessary add a little water so the beef is almost covered.
Slow Cooker – Cook on high until simmering, and then turn down to low and cook for 6 to 8 hours until the beef is tender. If the casserole needs thickening prop the lid of the cooker open with a wooden spoon so some liquid can evaporate.
Oven – Cook for two and a half hours at 150°C / 300°F / GM 2.
Serve with green vegetables and miso mashed potatoes.
One of the more interesting and different samples to come my way in recent weeks has been some fresh wasabi, grown in England by the Wasabi Company. I still remember my first wasabi experience very well – I was in my first job and wishing to appear super sophisticated I went to Pret and bought sushi for my lunch, and thinking the green paste in the tray was some sort of avocado I spread a huge blob on my Maki roll and took a big bite. My attempt as sophistication quickly vanished as my sinuses were instantly cleared and then went into meltdown and my eyes and nose started to run. It was also pretty darned painful.
Apparently there is much wasabi fraud and much of the wasabi sold contains as little as 5% wasabi – bulked out with horseradish or mustard. Pure wasabi is a pretty pastel green not the avocado green which fooled me the first time I tried it. It is tricky to cultivate – rhizomes take up to 2 years to grow. To get get the best from it it needs to be freshly grated (it loses flavour after 15 minutes), my kit came with a wasabi grater and brush.
A 50g rhizome costs £15 and is about the right amount for 6. Wrapped in a damp cloth it should keep in the fridge for several weeks. It came beautifully packaged in a box together with a grater and brush. A perfect and unsual present for anyone intersted in food.
Recipe: Miso Wasabi Mash
Instead of butter and pepper & salt I added milk, a spoon of miso and some freshly grated wasabi to my potatoes. Delicious.
Many thanks to Knorr for my seasonal box of ingredients and to the Wasabi company for my wasabi kit.