Last weekend I had the pleasure of eating at one of Auckland, New Zealand’s hottest restaurants – Ortolana. Their blend of rustic yet modern European/Italian menu is both rich and fresh in flavour. I had of braised lamb and parsnip mash as a main which is what inspired me to create this recipe – braised beef and parsnip mash.
It wasn’t so long ago that high end restaurants – like Ortolana – would revere insanely expensive cuts of meat and flood their menus with items like duck breast, beef tenderloin (fillet mignon) or the king of all dishes the crown roast (a delicately prepared roast of lamb cutlets).
Other than price, all of these cuts of meat had one thing in common – they are from parts of the animal that do the least amount of work. This in turn makes them the most tender (as long as they are not over-cooked) and most expensive – not only because they are the most sought after, but also because they tend to be small and therefore rare (no pun intended) – cuts of meat.
But in the last decade this trend has completely flipped around. Restaurants now tend to favour serving up slow cooked meat dishes of intense flavour and supreme tenderness.
Why you may ask? Well if you think about it for a bit you will realise it is a complete no brainer. The tougher, more abundant cuts of meat are not only a lot cheaper, increasing tight profit margins in the competitive restaurant business. They are also more packed full of flavour. The dish can also be cooked in advance, releasing time pressure off busy services. but perhaps most importantly of all, slow cooked meat tends to wow adoring customers far more than a quickly seared piece of meat that people now understand they can probably cook at home with relative ease.
Many people still fear the slow cooked meat. They love eating it, but see it as far too time consuming to cook themselves and worry that the techniques involved are too tricky to learn.
Well I will let you in on a little secret. Slow cooked dishes actually take very little of your time to cook (just leave them to their own devices once you have them in the pot) and like the restaurants, you can cook a large quantity (remember that the meat is cheaper too, so buy in bulk for huge savings!) and freeze the leftovers for later consumption.
Beef shin is one of the most delicious and cheapest cuts of slow cooking meats. It is packed full of the protein collagen, which, once cooked for about 3 hours, will break down and thicken your dish, with a delicious rich flavour. Parsnip mash is easy to make – with less starch than potato you don’t have to stress about it going all gloopy – and is rich enough in flavour to stand up against the depth of flavour from the braised meat.
Braising meat is all the rage. Get on the band wagon and eat like you are dining out all week. The braised beef and parsnip mash is perfect for heart winter dinner parties as well.
Braised beef ingredient list (serves 4-6):
- 2kg Beef shin on the bone
- 3 star anise
- 1 tbsp chilli flakes
- 1 bulb garlic
- 2 onions
- 1 cup white wine (you can also use red wine for a deeper flavour – I prefer white)
- 4 tbsp port (optional – just use the same amount of sugar instead)
- 2 tbsp bourbon (optional use the same amount of smoked paprika instead)
- 1 litre beef stock/chicken stock/water
- 4 tbsp cider vinegar
- 4 tbsp Oil (preferably coconut)
- herbs or spring onion to garnish
Parsnip mash ingredient list (serves 4-6):
- 8 medium parsnips (you can make extra for leftovers too)
- 1-2 cups milk
- 250g butter
- salt & pepper
Braised beef method:
Trim any excess fat off the beef shin. Don’t take all of the fat as you want some to melt into your dish. But if there is any large pieces take them off.
Heat some oil in a pan and add some salted beef shin. Do not over crowd the pan to ensure that the shin browns of both sides sufficiently. Do it in a couple of batches if need be. You should only need enough oil to cover the pan.
Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook off for about a minute.
Put the seared beef into a large pot – or even better a slow cooker – and add all of the other ingredients after they are peeled and chopped where necessary (i.e. garlic and onions). Cooked on a low heat (as low as possible) for at least 3 hours, preferably 6 or more with the lid on. The beef is done once it pulls apart easily and the fat has rendered and the collagen is broken down.
You may have to add more liquid if the heat has been too high. Hopefully this will not be the case. But don’t worry if you do. Just keep an eye on it.
If you can afford waiting until the braised meat cools down in the refrigerator the next day and then re-heat it then it will taste even better! This is because once collagen breaks down it will form together again once cooled and suck up flavour once re-heated again. One of the reasons why many dishes taste so good the next day.
Parsnip mash method:
Cut the parsnip into regular sized pieces and boil in salted water until they are completely soft. This should take about 15-20 minutes.
Put into a food processor (or use a potato masher or fork if you have to!) along with some of the milk and the butter. Most chefs use about 30%-50% butter to parsnip (or potato) in a mash. You are welcome to try this. But I find about 20% to be very rich. You could actually get away with less if you are worried about fat. But I think 20% works good for this recipe (which is approx 250g in this recipe).
Whizz (or mash) the parsnip until it is really smooth Add more milk and butter to taste. Try adding the milk and butter a bit at a time until you get the consistency and taste you wish. Don’t hesitate to use more or less of both these ingredients. Also season liberally with pepper and some salt to taste.
Pass the mash through a sieve using a spatula to push it through. This is quite a lot of work. Of course you can skip this step if you wish. But parsnip has some fibers in it so it is well worth the extra effort for the most amazingly silky smooth and rich mash at the end.
You can refridgerate the mash and easily re-heat it later. So make in large quantities if you wish.
Serve with a herb or spring onion garnish – or even some mico-greens. Braised beef and parsnip mash fit for a king!