Marinated beef skewers, Espetada

Marinated beef skewers

Donald Russell, an online butcher based in Aberdeenshire recently sent me some  of their diced beef and pork (pork recipe to follow) for review.  The meat was delivered in a polystyrene box packed with dry ice to keep it frozen in transit and it did a very good job. Donald Russell has a wide variety of meat available, delivered to your door, with plenty of recipes on their website to tempt you too.

A couple of years ago Mr OC reached a milestone birthday and our good friend Tony bought him a rotisserie  barbecue for making souvla and souvlaki. We have used it as much as the weather allows us too ever since. So I was really pleased to receive this meat for review. This beef recipe is my interpretation of the espatada that we eat when we go on our holidays to Madeira. Espatada, is cubed beef rubbed with garlic, salt and bay leaf, cooked over coals on a skewer or a bay leaf twig and then hung on your table and served with cornbread which soaks up the delicious juices. I have to have espatada at least twice on holiday. Then I cook it whenever the occasion arises when we are at home and the rotisserie can be fetched out. This time though, because the weather knew I wanted to cook this beef for review it decided to rain most of the week. This beef was, therefore, cooked at the top of the roasting oven of the Aga, which is as close as I can get to grilling meat in an Aga. It does a perfectly decent job and the beef was delicious.

440g diced beef steak
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
juice and rind of ½ lemon
1-2 tbsps olive oil
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1-2 bay leaf crumbled

Soak some wooden skewers in water for at least 1 hour to prevent them burning or use metal skewers.


Dry your diced steak with kitchen towel and place into a glass bowl or a freezer bag. Glug in some olive oil, the rind and juice of the lemon. Sprinkle over the chopped garlic, salt, bay leaf and a touch of pepper. Mix the marinade well into the beef using your hands or by shaking the freezer bag. Leave to marinate for at least an hour and preferably three.

Thread the meat securely onto the skewers and place on a grill rack over a roasting tin (line the tin with foil to save washing up). Place under a hot grill or in an oven at its highest setting for 10-15 minutes, turning once or twice until lightly charred. If you have the barbecue fired up then cook them over the hot coals. Leave to rest for a few minutes, squeeze a bit more lemon juice over the top before taking off the skewers and enjoying in a flatbread or with cornbread or a salad.

I received four packs of diced meat free of charge for the purposes of review from Donald Russell Online Butchers. All of the opinions in this post are my own and are honest. 



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Marinated beef skewers, Espetada Read More »

Oxtail stew

I have never before made oxtail stew.  Shocking really.  I tend to buy shin of beef for a stew but I spotted two lovely pieces of oxtail in the butchers on saturday and thought it was about time I tried it. I have always thought that oxtail was a cheap cut, but the butcher says that it is comparatively expensive as it costs about the same price as shin but of course has more waste with the bone. It is also very popular this time of year and the cow only has one tail. So apparently it’s not the cheap option.  However, bones give better flavour and this stew was tasty. It was quite a lot more work than a shin stew though, as the oxtail gives a great deal of fat, almost a mugful in this case.  So you need to make it the day before, chill it, then scrape off the top layer of fat that will have solidified on the surface.  I then chose to take the meat off the bone before reheating to make it easier to eat at the table.  I like to eat a stew with a spoon.

Britain is having a miserable weather week, rain and dull skies so stew is a popular comfort food. This week I read about Wendy’s beef cheek stew, which will be next on my list to try I think.

You probably do need to have a slow cooker or an Aga to make this stew as it needs about 8 hours  simmering away and this may be costly in a normal oven.

This is a general guide, put more or less in as you feel and you could add potatoes or pulses to make it even more substantial.

Serves 4

1kg of oxtail, separated into pieces (they can come tied in a bundle)
2 onions, sliced
5 sticks of celery, sliced
4 carrots, sliced
50g (2oz) flour
50ml madeira or sherry
900 ml (1½ pints) of good beef stock
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried mixed herbs, or a bundle of fresh herbs if you have them to make a bouquet garni
salt and pepper

Brown the meat well in a large casserole dish that is suitable for the hob and the oven, otherwise do the browning and cooking in a frying pan and then transfer it all to a casserole dish that is suitable for the oven or into a slow cooker. It is unlikely that you will need oil as the oxtail will release plenty of its own fat. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the vegetables to the pan  and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrot and celery are tender. Add the flour and stir well and cook for a minute or so.  Add the madeira or sherry and mix well and then gradually add the stock, stirring to make sure the flour is well combined into the gravy.  Add the meat back into the casserole dish, with any juices that may have gathered on the plate.  Add the herbs and season generously.  Bring to a gentle simmer and then place in a low oven (the simmering oven of the Aga) or into a slow cooker for about eight hours.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool before placing in the fridge overnight.  Skim off all the solidified fat and, if you wish, remove the meat from the bones.  Reheat the stew at a gentle pace until piping hot.  Serve in large warmed bowls with lots of bread.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Oxtail stew Read More »

Cornish pasty

I am feeling nervous telling you about this.  The Cornish pasty is the stuff of legends and I feel that to tell someone how to cook a Cornish pasty you should be both Cornish and have cooked them for years on a regular basis.  I fall down on both of those points.  Maybe I should call it a Shropshire pasty.

I have just glanced at the Wikipedia entry and that has just increased my nervousness.  The entry is very long, it details the cultural history of the pasty and the pasty even has its own trade association.  I apologise now to all my Cornish readers if by looking at the instructions below I cause you to reel in horror.  No hate mail please.

Anyway, on Saturday night I made fajitas with a bit of thin cut steak and chicken and so on Sunday we found ourselves housebound with a poorly child and a bit of thin cut steak in the fridge.  Mr OC was making enough minestrone to feed several armies (part of his take soup to work and save money campaign) and I fancied making a pasty for our tea.  The crimping of the first pasty left a lot to be desired but by the third one I had just about cracked it.  Not brilliant but good enough to prevent bursting or spillages:

Here is how I made them.

For the shortcrust pastry (enough for 4 pasties and a bit left over to make six jam tarts):

500g (16oz) plain flour
125g (4oz) butter
125g (4oz) vegetable shortening or lard (or you could use all butter)
about 6 -8 tbsp cold water

To make the pastry place the flour and the butter and shortening/lard in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add most of the water and pulse again.  Add enough water to bring the dough together.  If you don’t have a food processor then place the flour in a bowl, add the diced butter and shortening/lard and using the tips of your fingers rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  Add most of the water and using a palette knife begin to bring the dough together, using your hands at the very end to bring it into a ball.  the trick is not to overwork the pastry in either of the ways of making it explained above.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm or a  plastic food bag and chill in the fridge for thirty minutes.

To fill the pasty:

About 400g  (14oz)  steak (not braising or stewing)
1 onion, chopped finely
half a swede  (rutabaga), diced small
1-2 potatoes, diced small
4 tsp plain flour
25g (1oz) butter
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten to use as eggwash

Cut the dough into four pieces and roll out each piece into a circle.  I used a plate measuring 22cm to cut my shape out.

In the middle of the circle pile a bit of steak, onion, swede and potato.  Sprinkle over a  teaspoon of flour, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and dot with a quarter of the butter.  Brush eggwash around the edge of the circle and bring the two sides together, sealing gently.  Then using your thumb and forefinger of both hands pinch and turn the top to make a crimp.  Make sure you seal it really well.  Place on a baking tray and brush all over with egg wash.  Repeat to make three more pasties.

Place in preheated oven at 220°c, gas mark 7 or the roasting oven of an Aga for twenty minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4 or move to the baking oven of a four oven Aga for another forty minutes.  These can be enjoyed warm from the oven or allowed to cool and eaten for your lunch.

These were good but next time I will be a little more generous with the filling than I was in this picture, but only a little bit: 

I would also be more generous with the salt and pepper, but they were still good and they were very good with the onion and chilli jam I made to go with them.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Cornish pasty Read More »

Beef stew

beef stew

It’s that time of year again, with the nights darker and the days shorter and colder, when we all need more comfort food.  There is little more comforting than a plate of stew that has been bubbling slowly away for a long time.  I am particularly proud of this one because I have in the past relied on the ubiquitous stock cube for gravies and stews and I am trying to wean myself away from them.  I have been making my own stocks when I have bones available from sunday roasts, but last night there was no beef stock left over in the freezer.  So instead I browned the meat until caramelized and cooked the onions for longer than I normally would so that they took on a good caramel colour.  This proved to provide enough colour and flavour to make a tasty stew using water instead of a stock cube – great progress for me. I was really pleased with the result and it has proved that I don’t need to use a stock cube when I am cooking a stew.  The flavour is further enhanced by the vegetables and adding some herbs into the mix.

Feeds two greedy people.

300g (10 oz) shin beef, cubed
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
55 ml (2 fl oz) madeira wine (or you could use any fortified wine)
10 g (½ oz) plain flour
1 tsp mustard  powder
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried oregano or marjoram
½ tsp dried thyme
425 ml (¾ pint) boiling water
salt & pepper to taste


Heat a smear of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add cubes of the beef (make sure you don’t crowd the pan or they will steam rather than brown).  Allow the cubes to brown for a good few minutes without stirring them, then turn them to brown the other side.  You really want gooey bits of beef sticking to the base of the pan and a good colour to develop on the beef. When all of the beef has been browned remove to a plate and add the onion to the pan.  Allow it to cook  for at least ten minutes until it develops a good caramel colour (it may take longer than this). Add the parsnip and carrot and cook again for another five minutes, add the meat back to the pan of vegetables.  Add the flour, mustard powder and herbs and cook for a good few minutes, stirring the pot so that the flour has a chance to cook. Add the madeira and stir well, cooking for a minute or so. Add the water and salt and pepper to taste and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.  Simmer for at least two hours before serving with lots of bread to mop up the gravy.  I enjoyed it with a bit of my quince jelly.

Get printable version

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Beef stew Read More »

Chilli con carne/ enchiladas

chilli con carne

We often have chilli con carne.  I very often cheat and use a Schwarz chilli con carne mix if I am short of time, but if I have planned ahead and I have a couple of hours before tea time then I make this version. We sometimes have it with the spiced rice that I have already posted  or we have it as enchiladas like we did this week.  It makes a substantial meal, that is easy to prepare.

500g minced beef
1 onion chopped finely
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 fresh chilli, chopped finely
1½ tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp cumin seed
a small chunk of root ginger, grated or chopped finely
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 400g tin of tomatoes
1 400g tin of red kidney beans in water
olive oil


Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the minced beef, stir to break up whilst cooking and fry until golden brown. Lift the meat onto a plate and add the onion to the pan.  Cook the onions over a gentle heat for a few minutes until translucent.  Add the fresh chilli, the garlic and the ginger and cook for another minute.  Add the cumin seed, chilli powder and oregano and return the meat to the pan.  Give everything a good stir and add the tomatoes, the vinegar and sugar and the red kidney beans. Stir well to combine.  Place a lid on the pan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally for at least an hour, preferably nearer two hours if you have the time.   Season with salt and pepper to taste just before serving.

If you want to have enchiladas and you fancy my greek-mexican fusion you will need 6 flour tortillas, 150g greek yoghurt and 200g feta cheese. Divide the chilli mixture between the six tortillas  and place in a baking dish, spread the yoghurt over the tortillas and crumble over the feta.  Place in a preheated oven at 180° c (gas mark4) for 10-15 minutes until golden brown on top.

Get printable version

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Chilli con carne/ enchiladas Read More »

Cottage pie

cottage pie 2We had a roast rib of beef for Sunday lunch this week, if I had not been so eager to eat it I might have remembered to take a photograph of it and a post all about it would already have been on the site.  I will try not to be so eager next time…

With the left over beef I made a cottage pie for tea tonight and I have simmered the bones with an onion, carrot and bouquet garni in enough water to cover the bones for about three hours to make a beef stock for the freezer.

A cottage pie (or a shepherd’s pie if made in the same way using left over lamb) is pure comfort food. It can even be eaten with a spoon if you feel you really need some comforting.

It’s hard to be precise about quantities as you need to adapt according to the amount of meat you have left.  I had 8 oz (225g) of beef so I added one onion, one carrot and about 4 oz (110g) of frozen peas. I then topped with half a medium swede boiled with 2 medium sized potatoes. But it will depend on what you have available in the cupboard.  The glory of something that is made out of leftovers is that it is adaptable to what you have left over.  It may be that you have some leftover mash (carrot, swede, parsnip or potato) from the meal when you enjoyed the roast beef, which would make a brilliant topping.

What I tend to do is whizz the onion and carrot together in the food processor until finely chopped and whilst they are sweating I do the same with the beef in the processor. It makes it into a consistency that is very comforting to eat.

Serves 2 generously

1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
8 oz (225g) roast beef, finely chopped
4 oz (110g) frozen peas
½ pint (275ml) beef stock
1 bay leaf
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the topping:

½ medium swede, peeled and cubed
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bigger cubes than the swede
½ oz (10g) butter


Heat a little olive oil in a pan over a gentle heat and add the onion and carrot and sweat for about five minutes. Add the beef and stir and then add the stock and the bay leaf.  Cook for 1 hour at a gentle heat. Add the frozen peas.  Season to taste. Turn the mixture into a deep oven proof dish.

Whilst the beef  mixture is cooking you can cook the potato and swede topping.  Swede takes longer to cook than potatoes so I always give them a five minute head start by placing them in a saucepan and adding enough water to cover.  Add a little salt (½tsp) to the water and bring to the boil, when they have been boiling for five minutes add the potatoes and cook until both the swede and the potatoes are tender (this will depend on how big you made the cubes, you can test with the point of a knife). Drain in a colander, return to the pan and add the butter.  When the butter has melted mash them with a potato masher.

Cover the beef mixture with the potato mixture so that it is completely and evenly covered. Place in a preheated oven at 180°c (350°f, gas mark 4) for about 30-45 minutes until the top is crispy and browned.

Ready for the oven
Ready for the oven
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Cottage pie Read More »