I was watching BBC Breakfast this morning, and they had an article on about ‘unusual’ cuts of beef, namely marrowbone, shin and skirt. Maybe it’s my age, but shin and skirt didn’t seem unusual to me, but I understand there may be a lot of people younger than me who have only ever shopped in Tesco’s and buy their meat wrapped in film and neatly trimmed.
But that was OK, because we had a chef on to tell us more about the cuts and what to do with them. All good so far.
For those of you who are not familiar with skirt or shin, they are cuts that are full of flavour, but need to be slow cooked, otherwise they’ll be too tough to eat. I have to confess I do not know too much about marrowbone, as to me it’s something you give to the dog. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to try it, it’s just that I never have.
Anyway, the point was made that people are reluctant to cook these cuts because they don’t know what to do with them. Not that we all lead busy lives these days (a comment that would have sent me into full-on rant mode), or we may not have heard of them. No. It’s because we don’t know what to do with them.
Now one thing that the vast majority of people do know how to do these days is look something up on the internet. I have just typed ‘beef skirt’ into Google, and the predictions that have appeared in the drop-down box are as follows:
Beef skirt recipes, beef skirt steak recipes, beef skirt stew, beef skirt slow cooker, beef skirt curry.
Typing in ‘beef shin’ came up with even more interesting predictions, like ragu, chilli and macaroni.
Not knowing what to do with something is no longer an excuse. Aversion, apathy, fear and lack of time are possible reasons to avoid these particular pieces of meat, but lack of knowledge just doesn’t wash.
So, for anyone who is interested, a simple recipe for slow-cooked beef shin is as follows:
3 or 4 rashers of bacon, cut into small pieces
2 medium onions
2 medium carrots
1 stick of celery
1kg of beef shin (or skirt)
500g of beef stock (one stock cube in hot water will do)
A few cloves of garlic, if you want.
1 bay leaf (if you have any)
1T tomato purée
salt and pepper
Slow cooker or oven-proof casserole dish
Heat a little oil in the frying pan, and cook the bacon for a few minutes until it starts to brown.
Whilst this is cooking, peel and slice the onions, carrots and celery.
Remove the bacon from the pan and put it in your cooking pot, but leave as much of the oil behind as you can.
Then cook the onions, carrots, garlic and celery in the frying pan for a few minutes until the onions have started to soften. Transfer them all to the pot.
Now get a bowl and put a couple of tablespoons of plain flour in it, and season it with some salt and pepper. You now need to dredge the meat, which should have been cut into pieces roughly an inch square, in the flour, a few pieces at a time, and those few pieces should be put in the hot frying pan and browned. Add some oil if you need to.
Tip: don’t put too much in the pan at once, as this will steam the meat rather than brown it.
Once you have browned all the meat and put in in the pot, add the beef stock, bay leaf and tomato puree, and put the lid on.
If you have a slow cooker, the best time to do all this is in the morning, and then set it on Low for eight hours. If you are using the oven, then 150 degrees or Mark 2 will be fine, for at least four hours. So for you, this would be something to cook at the weekend, but it can easily keep in the fridge and be reheated the next day.
It’s ready when the meat can be broken with a spoon or fork without any effort.
If you want, and have some available, you can also add half a bottle of red wine at the start. Also, if the gravy is a little thin, then add a tablespoon of cornflour mixed in a little cold water and put back in the oven for a few minutes.
Serve it with mashed potatoes, or some crusty white bread. You’ll probably need some of that to mop up your plate at the end, anyway.
It’s that simple, and nothing to be afraid of. And there are hundreds of more recipes out there, so not knowing what to do with it really isn’t an excuse.