Jan 18 2012

Beef Pot Roast

Category: RecipesDave @ 19:24

Preparation time: about 30 minutes

This is one of those dishes where you can hack the recipe about mercilessly and it'll still come out delicious, so this is just the way that I do it and have found that it produces a dish that my family & guests have raved about. So hopefully, yours will do the same about what emerges from your slow cooker (which I also call a crockpot).


One beef joint, preferably brisket, around 2.5 Kg (for a 6 litre crockpot). Silverside can also be used and cooks quicker.
4 medium parsnips
6 medium carrots
2 large onions (one red, one white, if available)
4 shallots
a dozen medium sized mushrooms, whole.
150gm coarse cut, strong-flavoured Italian or German smoked salami or equivalent amount of chorizo (not too spicy - or reduce the amount of cayenne)
750 ml boiling water.
1 vegetable stock cube, preferably with no MSG or salt.
8 cardamom pods, whole
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (reduce accordingly if stock cube contains salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
small handful herbes de Provence
One star anise (or 1/4 teaspoon ground green anise)
4 whole garlic cloves
12 black peppercorns, whole
1/2 bottle strong-flavoured red wine - a good plonk is ideal.
Olive oil or pomace


Put the boiling water in the slow cooker and switch to high. Add the stock cube, garlic, peppercorns, star anise and cardamom pods. Put the lid on.

In a large frying pan/skillet (or whatever you have that's big enough to hold the joint of meat) put about 20 ml olive oil, the herbes de Provence, turmeric and ginger (also the ground anise if using); mix it all up & coat the cooking surface with it. Allow to heat over a low light whilst you peel the parsnips and, if necessary, the carrots. I prefer to just top & tail the carrots if they're clean enough as so much of the nutritional goodness is in the "skin".

Cut the carrots and parsnips into pieces around 5cm long by 2cm square. It doesn't matter if they aren't square! The idea is to get them roughly the same size so they cook evenly - so you will probably have to split the thick ends of some of them into 2 or 4. If they're shorter, make them thicker.

Peel the onions and cut them into four pieces each, longitudinally. Peel the shallots and cut them in half longitudinally.

Turn up the heat in the pan and drop the carrots, parsnips, onions and shallots into the pan. Fry them over, turning often, over a medium heat, for around 5 minutes. Lower the heat and tip the veggies into the crockpot, being careful not to splash yourself with boiling stock 🙂 Replace the crockpot lid.

Cube the sausage - around 1.5 cm a side is good but again, don't sweat the precision. Turn the heat up in the pan, add a little more oil if the veggies have sucked most of it up, and add the sausage. Fry, turning often, for around 5 minutes or until the pieces look fairly oily. Tip the sausage pieces into the crockpot and replace the lid.

Score the meat between the strings with a very sharp knife. If you can do this all the way round, good. If not, no matter, two sides will do. Rub cayenne into the meat, especially the slits you've just made and put it into the pan on a medium heat.

Go and wash the cayenne off your hands before you forget and rub your eyes!

Turn the meat every few minutes until it's browned on all sides; I use a couple of turkey forks (those 3-pronged very wide ones that normally only come out at Christmas) to hold the meat up on each end to brown those ends and seal them. Again, don't worry if you can't do this - it does carry a real risk of dropping the meat on the floor and watching it going skidding across the floor leaving a trail of grease you'll probably slip on whilst chasing it.

Once the meat is as browned as you are going to get it, place it carefully in the crockpot. If you can get it resting on top of some of those bits of veg, all the better. Leave the lid off the crockpot for a minute: pour the wine into the pan and deglaze it (incidentally heating the wine) then tip the oily, spicy wine into the crockpot. I use a silicone-bladed spatula to scrape as much as possible off the pan and into the stock, helped by using a non-stick pan.

Put the lid on the crock pot... and rest. After an hour, turn the crockpot heat down to medium, take the lid off for a couple of minutes (allows alcohol vapour to escape) and cook for another 4 hours or to low and cook for another 5 to 6 hours. Probably the shorter time is better for silverside, the longer for brisket. During cooking, more liquid will be liberated. After that first hour, if the joint is not completely immersed in the liquid, turn it over. Turn it over again a couple more times at roughly 2 hour intervals. This turning isn't essential - it's just one of those tiny things that edges things towards perfection 🙂

When you can no longer stand the perfume, remove the meat from the crockpot and leave it rest for a short time before trying to carve it (or pull it apart, as appropriate). Carefully remove the vegetables from the soup and strain the soup to get rid of the peppercorns, star anise and cardamom pods. You can optionally remove the garlic at this point. Re-unite the veggies and soup.

Serve in deep, wide dishes on rice (I prefer brown rice and I think it suits the dish). Around 130-150gm meat per person is usually enough. Add some of the vegetables and enough soup to soak the rice and then some more.

Serve with Italian Mostarda di Frutta in a side dish.


Some people prefer to cook this without any kind of sausage. The sausage is there for two main reasons:

  1. Add smoke flavour! Obviously, you can just add smoke flavouring instead 🙂 Or use anything else suitable - or just leave it out. It'll taste different but I'd guess still very good.
  2. The fat from it helps prevent the joint drying out, something which one would not expect but can still happen - i.e. all the fat leaches out of it and despite it being immersed in liquid, when you eat it, it seems dry.
    You can probably counteract this by simply adding more olive oil to the pot - about 50 ml maybe? Some kind of meat fat would probably work better I suspect but some experimentation is needed here... 😉


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Oct 08 2011

Pasta ai frutti di mare in salsa salmone affumicato

Category: RecipesDave @ 18:09


This kinda happened the other night when we wanted something like the seafood dish I often make on a Friday evening but didn’t fancy any seafish in it… apart from, perhaps salmon. I had a rough idea of what I was going to do when I started out but it evolved as I went on.


It is, I am assured very, very good.



Ingredients for four people


Two 20cm/8″ squid, cleaned & pen removed, per 2 people. Use tentacles chopped into fairly large pieces, if present.
230g/8oz salmon fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces.
230g/8oz Raw tiger prawns
115g/4oz smoked salmon, very finely chopped.
4 large shallots, very thinly sliced
Olive oil
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, depending on taste. Don’t overdo it or you’ll kill the smoked salmon.
3/4 teaspoon ground dried lime peel


Use a very large frying pan or deep paella pan. Add sufficient olive oil to lightly coat the surface, and a large knob of butter.


Heat gently until the butter has melted then add the shallots & adjust the heat until they are cooking very gently. As they are cooking, add the finely chopped mushrooms, ground dried lime peel, oregano, tarragon and pepper. Stir well.


Sweat the shallots for 5 minutes or so, stirring & tossing the mixture occasionally.


I use frozen salmon fillets for this recipe and they are in individual plastic bags. When you thaw them, there’s a load of salmon-y liquid in the bags. Don’t waste it! Add it to the pan – it’ll quickly turn into a cream-coloured “stuff” – and stir it in. The clear liquid remaining is OK to leave there. If you’re using fresh salmon & don’t get that liquid, you may want to add a little fish stock if available. Add a little more olive oil if it has become too watery overall – we want to fry things, not boil them.


Add the salmon pieces and fry, coating with the shallot mixture. Turn the pieces so as many “sides” as possible are face-down. I use a pair of tongs for this but a small spatula and a palette knife work too. They should be done in 5 minutes or less. Very slightly underdone doesn’t matter as (a) the outside surfaces will be mostly sealed and (b) they will shortly be reheated. They aren’t left like this long enough to pose a health threat.


Carefully remove the salmon pieces from the pan, leaving as much of the shallot mixture behind as possible – I use the side of the tongs to scrape the mixture off of the cubes. Put the cubes in a ceramic/china/glass bowl and cover.


Give the mixture in the pan a good stirring. Add a little more oil if required.


Add the roughly cut mushrooms and stir them in.


If you’re using frozen squid, you can use any liquid from the defrosting that you can collect and add that to the pan as well (not too much!) Add the squid rings and tentacles if using, stir in and fry until just cooked, stirring pretty much continuously.


Remove the squid and add to the salmon pieces in the bowl, leaving behind as much of the shallot and; mushroom mixture as possible, as for the salmon.


Give the mixture in the pan a good stirring. Add a little more oil if required.


Add the prawns, stir in and fry until just cooked, stirring pretty much continuously. Make sure each prawn is turned over once so they are evenly cooked without one side going rubbery.


Remove the prawns and add to the salmon pieces & prawns, leaving behind as much of the shallot & mushroom mixture as possible, as for the salmon.


Give the mixture in the pan a good stirring. Add a little more oil if required and add the smoked salmon. Stirring continuously, cook for three or four minutes until the mixture is starting to look vaguely like a sauce.


Add the sour cream, stir in vigorously and keep stirring until it has “taken effect” keep going until it will coat the back of a spoon and stay there.


It’s now too thick for a pasta sauce so add the sherry. Also, add the cooked seafood back in, together with any juices that have collected in the bowl. Use a spatula to get every last drop of them. Stir continuously on a low light to evaporate off the alcohol but try not to let the mixture boil. It may bubble a bit but that’s just the alcohol leaving. This can take another five minutes. Check the “thickness”: it should now be more-or-less right for a pasta sauce. The seafood should now be well heated through, so spoon over long pasta in large, preheated bowls and serve.


Keep any kind of black pepper well away from it!


Wine: A good Prosecco or Pinot Grigio del Trentino or Alto Adige – not del Veneto! Probably a Chablis would be good, but not too good an example as the flavour would be too strong.


There’s not much in the way of vegetable in this dish to keep it balanced so either serve a separate side salad, afterwards, or a side bowl of hot fine beans with it.





If you don’t like smoked salmon, leave it out and add the flaked salmon fillets to the sauce instead of the smoked salmon, mashing it into the sauce it as it cooks. Use another fine-flavoured fish instead of the salmon fillet to provide the bite-size pieces. I would probably go for monkfish but use whatever’s good where you get your fish, as long as it will complement the other flavours.


The sourness of the sour cream doesn’t really come through very much but it is noticeable. You can use double cream or yoghurt – the latter plain and unsweetened for preference. It doesn’t work that well with low-fat substitutes if you are using smoked salmon as the mixture can be somewhat sharp and salty.


The classic other alcohol to use in a dish like this would be Pernod, assuming you like aniseed.


It would probably go rather well on tagliatelle all’uova. I guess it’d also be OK on rice – I’d go for brown rice with perhaps a small amount of vegetable stock.


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