Monday, February 3, 2014

Beef & Barley Soup

I'm in Wismar, Germany and it's cold so I was inspired to whip up a batch of Beef & Barley Soup. Usually I just make this with whatever leftover bits and bobs are in the house but this time I went ot the market expressly to get ingredients for this dish.

500g Stewing Beef (or what ever you like - oxtail works beautifully)
1 large soup bone with lots of marrow
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
4 carrots, sliced
1 fist sized Celeriac (or celery if you prefer), sliced
1 large leek, sliced
250g mushrooms
2 Bay leaves
250g Pearl Barley - dry (In Germany you will need to look for Gerste)
1/2 cup flour
salt & pepper
olive oil

I start by heating ~1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot. You can probably get away with less but I don't like to take a chance on anything burning and ruining everything. While that is on the go, I mix the flour with just a bit of salt and pepper (maybe 1/2 tsp each), then dredge the beef in the flour (top tip - use a plastic baggie then shake well).

I then cook the beef in two batches in the fat mixture. You can test if the fat is hot enough by drizzling a tiny bit of water - if it sizzles then you are ready. Cook each batch on both sides for about 3 1/2 minutes each so that a brown crust forms, then remove. DO NOT cook all the meat at once as you will just get a slimy nasty result.

Having removed all beef, add the onions and leeks and saute a few minutes, then add your carrots and cook for a few more minutes, stirring regularly. Then add your celeriac and mushrooms.

Boil ~1 litre of water. Then add the meat back into the mixture and the soup bone. Add water until everything is well covered. Then add bay leaves and pearl barley.

Bring to the boil then lower to a bare simmer. Leave to simmer for at least one hour and preferably two hours. Check it and give it a good stir every half hour, adding more water as necessary and to produce the consistency that you prefer (I like mine thick). Once the meat is falling apart and the marrow slips out of the soup bone, you should be ready to rock.

Note: Tastes even better the next day and freezes very well!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Asian-Inspired Meat

This recipe can be used with whatever meat is laying around.

I wanted to make something tasty for dinner tonight, but lacked a few semi-essential ingredients (like flower- who runs out of flour?). The recipe goes as follows:

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup room temperature water
6 cloves garlic, minced.
(optional) small amount of freshly grated ginger (taste to check amount- a little goes a long way)
(further optional) Add a little Sriracha sauce to give it a complex heat (again, a little goes a long way)

I used a pork loin sliced into thin slices (~1 cm thick). You can use similarly thick pieces of chicken or steak.
flour (or, since I have no flour- breadcrumbs)

Mix together the sauce ingredients and put aside for at least a few minutes to allow the aromatics from the garlic to permeate the liquid.

Dredge the sliced meat into the flour. Butter a large pan on medium heat and lay the meat inside for 3 minutes. Turn once. Quickly mop the tops of the meat with the sauce. Wait five minutes, flip, sauce. Remove meat to separate plate to cool.

I know my recipes which use soy sauce always use low sodium soy sauce. There's a reason for this. You can make all the arguments you like about the high salt content in our diets, blah blah blah. And some of those arguments are valid. However, from a culinary stand point, I always prefer to manually add my salt whenever possible, giving me greater control over the food. In addition, low sodium soy sauce in particular tastes better to me- the flavor of the soy sauce is much more pronounced, where regular soy sauce has the flavor covered up by the taste of salt. I have no problem with salt, I don't think it's the great evil others do. I do, however, object to it being used in such concentrations (for little to no reason) that it overwhelms the taste of the food it's being used with.

Serve with rice, buttered egg noodles, spinach, whatever you like.