Necessity, or in my case, the offer of lunch with a friend, is the mother of invention.
I had defrosted a kilo and a half of grassfed beef short ribs with the intention of making Chicago John’s brilliant sticky recipe. But when my friend Terri called and asked if I’d like to join her and the adorable Jackhammer for lunch, it was too tempting an offer to refuse.
I roughly chopped three Spanish onions and threw them over the base of the pan, then laid the short ribs on top. A third of a jar of Pete’s quince jelly was smeared over the meat, before adding a bottle of tomato passata, half a bottle of red wine, homemade beef stock (from the freezer), a little water, salt and plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. The lid went on, and the pot went into a preheated 160C oven for three hours.
And I went out to lunch! Terri and I shared a chicken schnitzel and gardiniera roll…
As Jack is only three, I took a couple of Big Boy’s old engines for him to play with. It’s amazing how these worn old toys can still work their magic after all these years…
When I finally pulled the short ribs out of the pot, they were fork tender and unctuously rich, with a delicious gentle sweetness from the quince jelly. They would have been perfect as they were, served simply on a bed of mashed potatoes and topped with a little sauce.
Instead, we shredded the meat and de-fatted the cooking liquid (which was then blitzed smooth with a stick blender). In a separate pan, we fried chopped onions, carrots and a pinch of celery salt, and added two tins of San Marzano tomatoes and a little sherry vinegar (to balance out the flavours).
The shredded meat was added to the pan, and cooked gently to allow it to break down even further. Finally, the pureed braising stock went in and the sauce was simmered until thick.
The end result was this luscious slow cooked beef ragu, served with our favourite Occhi di Lupo pasta…
I was really pleased with how well the “set and forget” technique worked with the short ribs – I didn’t do anything to the meat other than defrost it – and it only took a few minutes to assemble. I’m pretty sure this method will work with beef brisket as well.
Best of all, this recipe made enough ragu to feed my starving tribe twice, which means that the next time Terri invites me out to lunch, I’ll already have dinner on standby in the freezer!