Do you need a freezer-stocking alternative that can stand up to your default take away order of beef and broccoli? Do you need something sticky and savoury, sweet and settling that can be dressed up for a crowd, or eaten in the kitchen with a spoon? If so, I think I can help. This slow braised beef with daikon is probably what you’re looking for. If you’re in a hurry, skip straight to the recipe at the bottom.
I had every intention of making this recipe with jicama this week. A jicama, or yam bean as it is sometimes known equals the proportions of our tub-thumping stowaway. It’s a common root in South American and indeed, Asian cooking. Yet blow me down if I could find one in Sydney. It’s flavour is like a savoury apple, with a pleasing crunch that calls to mind both water chestnuts, nashi pears and daikon radish. Last time around I slivered it into batons and served it in a refreshing salad with shredded chicken and aromatic herbs. Yet, with none on hand I’ve turned to daikon, water chestnuts and pears to fill its place.
After all, being flexible is a good trait to have. It’s not one I thrive on. I like plans to be set. I like knowing things for certain. Which is why the dual roles of a freelancer/ chief wrangler of a three year old can be… challenging. Sometimes it’s best to just remove your expectations for what the day/week is going to involve. A little fluidity can come in handy (as well as an acceptance that you’re probably going to spend the majority of the next few years wearing active wear as your default clothing option).
All of this helps explain why slow braises like these come in handy. This is the sort of cooking that can quietly potter away in the background for a day, filling the house with delicious smells and then sit, contentedly until everything is sorted and you can peacefully eat.
The beef cheeks contain a luxurious amount of connective tissue, which softens into sticky threads through the meat as it cooks (though you could just as happily replace them with trimmed pig cheeks, or pork shoulder, if like my son you absolutely refuse to eat anything resembling red meat). The daikon is essentially an edible sponge, absorbing all of the flavour from the ginger, star anise and garlic. The pear whispers into the background, just adding another subtle note of sweetness. And the water chestnuts add some novelty crunch.
What this calls out for is something clean on the side. Simple steamed broccoli or broccolini, plus either fluffy quinoa, brown rice or cauliflower rice is perfect. It’s the sort of dish that you probably wouldn’t think twice about forking over a decent chunk of coin for at a hipster modern Asian restaurant, where they serve cocktails made with lychees and ginger syrup out of jam jars and the music is just a touch too loud for comfortable conversation. Except here you get to eat it at home, potentially in your pyjamas.
This could easily be cooked in a slow cooker for 5 hours, or a pressure cooker for 1 hour. Just be sure to reduce the sauce a little before serving until it glosses the meat and has a nice balance of sweet and salty to it. We can let sartorial standards slip, but the structure of our sauces? Never.
Here are a few other things that are going on
Watching: The documentary ‘Weiner‘. Uncomfortable, unintentionally hilarious but completely and utterly gripping. His first lines say it all. ‘This is the worst…doing a documentary on my scandal (s) ‘. I couldn’t look at his wife, the luminous Huma Abedin, elegantly eating pizza in the corner and not want to send her an enormous bottle of gin for what she was put through. Oh Anthony. You’re such a putz.
Eating: A lot of the roasted red pepper and white bean dip from week 17 of this iteration of ‘Poppyseed to Pumpkin’. Except I’ve started cheating. I now use two marinated peppers from a jar and blitz them with both a tin of drained chickpeas and a tin of drained white beans, with a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. I’ve been using it as a sauce for roast chicken and as a sprightly playmate for quinoa and kale salads. It’s a very useful thing to have in the fridge.
Listening: I just discovered the Serious Eat podcast ‘Special Sauce with Ed Levine‘. It’s much better company in the kitchen while cooking than the second Presidential debate. The episode with Eric Ripert (La Bernadin) is a lovely listen, largely for Eric’s mellifluous tones. His take on how his Buddhism informs his life decisions and definitions of what a ‘rich life’ is, was a good tonic.
Working: I’m thrilled to have started doing some writing for Harris Farm -a place that’s pretty familiar to Will and I. He’s a sucker for their ‘free fruit for kids while you shop’ and would often yell ‘Banana!’as we drove past the Manly outpost, and I’m a sucker for pretty much everything else inside. I’m a big fan of their ‘Imperfect Picks’ range to help reduce food waste and have had a great time working through their ‘Curious Cuts’ of meats. My first piece for them is on quick pickling – you can read it here.
Grateful: The Hungry One just put the app 1Password on my phone and synced it to my desktop after getting tired of me lamenting that I can’t remember all my passwords. I’m also very conscious that with newborn-land looming close on the horizon, this will come in handy. I have a very vivid memory of standing at the checkout with a full trolley of shopping, a squalling baby, burning eyes from 4 hours of broken sleep and being completely unable to remember a single PIN to any of my credit cards when Will was little. Sleep deprivation will do that to you. Both Will and I ended up sobbing in a shopping centre that day. So, with that in mind, 1Password will store everything, securely for you and sync to your laptop. Now I just need to remember what some of those passwords were in the first place…
Reading: I love this piece from President Obama on ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ which my sister put me onto. This particularly stuck with me; “Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself… we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.” Oh President Obama. High five.
Sweet Soy Beef with Daikon
1 tbsp olive oil
700 g beef cheeks/ beef shin cut into chunks the size of a matchbook (can also replace with pork shoulder, or another cut of braising beef)
1 medium daikon (600 g), peeled, cut in half and cut into 1 cm half moon slices (can replace with turnip, swede, or potato)
1 x 225 g tin of water chestnuts, drained
1 firm pear, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and cut into slivers
4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers
2 star anise
100 ml kecap manis/ sweet soy sauce
100 ml tamari/ soy sauce
300 ml water
Broccolini and quinoa (or cauliflower rice/ brown rice) to serve. Chilli paste optional.
Here’s how we roll
1) Preheat the oven to 150C/ 300F. Add the olive oil to the bottom of a heavy based casserole dish. Brown the beef well on each side, then remove from the pan.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)