The challenge was set. I accepted. To go explore and experiment with a meat cut I had never been brave enough to cook before.
I went to the supermarket cabinet with no cut in mind, but was open to try any that were unfamiliar to me. After perusing the sea of neatly packaged meat trays, my eyes settled on oxtail. With a high bone to meat ratio, I knew it would need to be cooked low and slow to extract as much of its rich flavour as possible – perfect to get underway on the weekend while the kids’ soccer kept us busy.
After researching some recipe ideas, it was an Allyson Gofton classic that caught my eye – Oxtail Pot with Gnocchi and Broad Beans The dish calls for up to 2 hours of cooking to have the meat falling off and the collagen break down, and if you can afford the time, it can go even longer. The cut does require some hands on to trim off the fat and break the meat away from the bone once cooked, but the fiddly bits were well worth it. I couldn’t get my hands on any gnocchi so it was pasta ‘parcels’ instead which the kids were excited about. Once served up alongside some pumpkin mash, the combination of texture and flavour of the oxtail, sauce, pasta, and broad beans was well worth savouring, and the compliments were rolling off the tongues. Fair to say, this cut will be in the mix next time I’m doing my meal planning, particularly for a special occasion meal.
The positive experience paved the way to try yet another new cut days later. I had beef shin in my sights. Like oxtail, shin has a high bone and connective tissue to meat ratio, but nothing the crockpot couldn’t handle. I could see there were lots of compliments on our Beef Shin Ragu and I was overdue to invite my mother-in-law over for dinner, so I wanted to pull out all the stops to impress her.
I gave the shin, combined with the ingredients, the longest time possible in the crockpot, until the aroma through the house was too much to bear any longer. The only hands on at the end was pulling the beef away from the bone with two forks, which was effortless, and taking on the pasta cheat tip – slicing lasagne sheets into 2cm strips for instant pappardelle – easy.
The result? Kids happy? Check. Mother-in-law happy? Very much so. Success to the point she realised she needs to get a crock pot to recreate the dish herself.