Tuesday 27 January 2015

Scotch Shin of Beef and Buckfast Tonic Wine Stew

Beef and Buckfast stew with mash and sauteed Savoy cabbage and onion

Please, don't be put off by the title of this dish. Buckfast tonic wine is a pretty controversial product in West Central Scotland in particular and has been for many years - I know. I'm not getting involved in the intricacies of the Buckfast pros and cons but as a boy growing up in Lanarkshire, I had more than my fair share of "Buckfast sampling experiences." Never for a second though would I have believed that a couple of decades on from my last taste of the tonic wine would I be not only using it in a food recipe but sharing the results with a wider audience in this way. I hope you'll bear with me as I explain how this recipe came about and how delicious it actually turned out.

In late 2014, I attended an event where venison and Buckfast stew was on offer, I suppose as a form of street food. I sampled the (pretty expensive!) stew and although it was very nice, I couldn't even begin to taste the Buckfast and would never have known what was in it if I hadn't been told. That's not the way I like to do recipes. If I tell someone that a particular item represents a principal ingredient in any dish, I want them to be able to taste it and not be left in any doubt - without, of course, the flavour proving overwhelming. So here we go: my hopefully well balanced Buckfast and Scotch shin beef stew. It works - and I promise, I honestly believe it works very well!
Scotch shin beef and Buckfast Tonic Wine

Shin of beef is my favourite cut of beef. It is often scorned as being fatty and tough - but that's only the case if you don't cook it properly. Cook it long, slow and gentle and you will find it quite literally melts in the mouth. If you're in a hurry and can't spare the time, you could of course use standard stewing beef in exactly the same way as described below with simply a shorter cooking time.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 pound (450g) shin of beef
2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
*1 large onion, peeled and sliced (use half for the stew and half to sautee with Savoy cabbage)
Half a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine
3/4 pint (400ml) fresh beef stock
1 medium to large carrot, scrubbed, topped and sliced in to quarter inch thick discs
3 medium baking potatoes
4 leaves from Savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
Little bit of butter

*Shallots (maybe a couple, peeled and roughly chopped)  would also work very well in the stew

Shin beef is roughly diced


Chop the shin of beef to around one inch cubes. Pour the vegetable or sunflower oil in to a large stew pot and bring it up to a medium heat.

Browning shin of beef

Add the beef to the oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat for a few minutes until the beef is evenly browned and sealed.

Sliced onion is added to sliced shin of beef

The onion (half of it only, remember) goes in to the beef next for a further minute's gentle stir frying.

Buckfast and beef stock are added to beef and onion

Pour the Buckfast and stock in to the pot and bring to a low simmer for one hour (covered), stirring occasionally.

Carrots are added to the stew half way through cooking

After an hour, add the carrot to the stew and bring back to a simmer, leaving the pot uncovered for a second hour of cooking.

Tough inner cores are cut from Savoy cabbage leaves

When the stew has around twenty-five minutes left to cook, peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Add to a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a simmer until just softened - around twenty minutes.

Wash the Savoy cabbage leaves and cut out the thick, woody and tough central core from each leaf.

Beef and Buckfast stew is ready to serve

When the potatoes are just softened, the stew should be about perfect. Drain the potatoes and return them to the empty pot. Very importantly, leave them to steam off for four or five minutes, while you cook the cabbage and onion. If you don't, your mash will be soggy and pretty unpleasant.

Starting to sautee Savoy cabbage and onion

While the potatoes are steaming off, pour the olive oil in to a small frying or sauteeing pan and bring it up to a fairly high heat. Add the sliced Savoy cabbage and remaining onion, seasoning with salt and pepper. SImply stir fry for around two or three minutes until both are just slightly softened. You don't want to overcook them that they become soggy.

Add some butter to the steamed potatoes and mash with a hand masher. Your meal is then ready to be plated and enjoyed.

Tucking in to beef and Buckfast stew

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