My grandmother always used to say that if you’re making soup, you always have to have a “bit o’ bane.” More often than not she was referring to shin of beef soup and she rarely made it without the big, marrow-filled bone in the middle.
It’s a tradition I cleave to when I’m using shin of beef for whatever reason, soup, stew or chilli.
Come to think of it, beef shin is probably my all time favourite bovine component.
It’s cheap, comforting and with just a little bit of coaxing (slow cooking), there’s bags of magical flavour to be savoured. In fact, I find it comforting even knowing that there’s a shin in the oven, slowly filling the house with seemingly Italian, soporific scents.
On Saturday past, after stepping in a puddle and drenching my foot, I decided it was finally time for the first stew of the year. I needed cheering up and tomato and shin stew was just what the imaginary benevolent doctor ordered.
If you require cheering up, damp foot or otherwise, this stuff is nourishment for the soul.
Also, I can also testify that leftovers stirred through pasta with a hail storm of grated parmesan are arguably even better.
• dash of olive oil
• 3 onions, peeled and halved
• 2 carrots, roughly chopped
• 2 sticks of celery, diced
• 5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled but lightly bashed
• half tsp of dried rosemary
• 1 bay leaf
• quarter tsp of cinnamon
• 700g of beef shin (1kg if you’re putting the bone in for added flavour), chopped into big chunks
• tbsp of plain flour
• salt and pepper
• tsp of honey
• 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
• bottle of wine minus a glass for yourself
• to serve, cabbage and buttery mash
Turn the oven on and set it to 160˚C.
Add a dash of olive oil to an oven-proof pan (in this case I used a cast iron Le Creuset jobbie), and put it on a medium heat. Add the veg and stir fry for a few minutes until you start to get a bit of colour. They’ll be in the oven so long you don’t have to cook them through.
Dredge the chopped shin through the flour and add this to the pan and mix through. If you have a “bit o’ bane”, as granny used to say, throw this in too.
Season with a pinch of salt and bombard with lots of freshly ground black pepper and then add the wine, tomatoes, honey and herbs.
Mix everything through, bring to a simmer and then stick a lid on and retire the dish to the oven for at least two hours without peeking in.
After this time, remove from the oven and test how tender the meat is by eating a little.
If it’s soft and wonderful, it’s done. If not, return the pan to the oven and test again in half an hour. Repeat until perfect. The size of the chucks will determine how long it needs, though. Mine needed two and a half hours before I was happy with it. Check the seasoning at the end of course, and try not to feel too smug about the end product.
After that, all you have to do is serve it up with a dollop of mash and maybe some lightly steamed cabbage.
Lastly, don’t forget about that marrow in the bone. Winkled out and scoffed with a touch of salt and you’ll be in autumnal heaven.
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