Our baby turned 4 last week and through all the emotion and celebration of the magnificent moment she entered this world, we had the coldest spell of the year so far and had to prepare for a party on Saturday! Of course we rushed out to buy firewood, red wine and spices for glühwein and blankets in case it got really bad. Thankfully that glacial wind of Friday died down to reveal a sunny if still slightly chilly Saturday. I retreated on the glühwein, afraid that school parents might think me a bit of a lush… I was actually looking forward to serving it in the midst of a freezing party. The thing is, we always have people stay after the party and had also invited some friends to join us for a casual late lunch after the chaos. Now what you really want after organising a Rapunzel party and icing said Rapunzel cake until 10 the night before over many glasses of red wine with your in-laws, is for someone to bring the food to you so you don’t have to think about another thing! I decided on making a slow-roast beef short rib. Our butcher had sliced it into sort of 2cm slices, which threw me a little, but turned out for the best in the end. My die-hard Mother-in-law, spent the morning before the party chopping veggies for me to make a gorgeous bed of onion, celery and carrot. I added a few bay leaves and some cloves and a few whole cloves of garlic too. No time for browning and all the fancies, so seasoned the slices of meat with salt & black pepper and lay them on top of the veggies. A tin of my wonderful organic tinned tomatoes from my favourite Italian supermarket – Super Sconto, chopped in the tin went over all that along with a very generous portion of red wine. I did about 3kgs of meat divided into two big roasting tins, with LOADS of veggies and 1 tin of tomatoes each, so I used half a bottle per dish. As always, use the red wine to rinse out the tomatoes so nothing goes to waste. I tucked in a handful of fragrant rosemary sprigs along with a few sprigs of thyme, covered them up with foil and popped them into the oven at 140° just before 10am. I checked on it at 12, basting it thoroughly with the cooking juices, and put it back to cook uncovered for about an hour and a half at 160°, checked on it again, basted thoroughly and cooked covered for the last hour so it did not dry out too much. So, we ate a late lunch at about 3:30 – it was humble fare, but nutritious and tasty. We served this dish with mountains of velvety, parmesan cauliflower mash and lemon butter crispy green beans. Really simple. The meat was falling of the bones and all the chopped veggies underneath had transformed into a gorgeous flavour base, but also a wonderfully flavourful component of the meal. It all went down splendidly with a lovely Saronsberg Seismic (Bordeaux blend). Life is good when we can share a meal with friends and family. Enjoy!
The Encore: Pumpkin Pleasures
As I mentioned, I was not sure how many people we would be feeding, so we had considerable leftovers. I do love leftovers, I find it so comforting to know that there is a yummy meal literally waiting for me in the fridge that needs nothing more than to be heated up and then enjoyed. But we had more than just a little, so I decided to tackle a dish I’ve been thinking for ages. I have a friend, Jono Hall, who is a fervant food blogger and enthusiastic cook for friends as well as larger crowds of eager devourers. He once made a group of us a beef stew in a pumpkin. I loved the idea and it looked so festive. And although Jono is a great cook who understands how to get full flavour into every meal, there was something missing from this experiment. It always intrigued me to see if I would be able to get a more concentrated flavour from the dish. So I decided to use one of our very cured Queensland Blues and the leftover short-rib stew and see how that would work. First, I cut a circular opening at then top of the pumpkin, as if we were carving the pumpkin. Scoop out all the pips and membranes – be very thorough as this is what lacks flavour and tends to go watery if left inside. Then I rubbed the inside of the pumpkin with salt, pepper and nutmeg to get some flavour in there before stuffing it with the cold deboned stew. The pumpkin I used was nice and big and very dry which is what you want. I really stuffed it until it could take no more, making sure to get enough gravy in with the meat. Then I put that in the oven at 160° for 5 hours until the outside was all brown, but more importantly the pumpkin was cooked and the stew was hot in the middle. This was a really great and fun mid-week supper that took very little work or imagination. Everyone gobbled it up! Serve it generous slices with veggies of your choice and rejoice in the pleasures of fast-food cooked slow. Enjoy!