Bigger, bolder, beefier.
Beef cooked on the bone always tastes better — it’s bigger, bolder and well, er, beefier. Shame it’s usually super pricey.
But thanks to the short rib, that cut you’ve probably spotted on the menu of a cool restaurant or two thanks to them being a current cut of the cow and all, you can get the super rich result of cooking beef on the bone at home, without having to sell your firstborn to pay for the privilege.
I gave these ones the Italian treatment, turning them in to a really robust dish by slow cooking them with lots of aromatics like smoked streaky bacon, tinned anchovies, oregano, rosemary and balsamic vinegar, big flavours united perfectly by ruby ale. And if that wasn't enough, we ate the intense, soft meat over creamy polenta made rich with salty pecorino cheese and fresh thyme tips. Filthy, I know.
And here’s where I ruin the good work of my hard sell, by telling you they can be tricky to get hold of. A decent butchers will sell them for sure, but not all supermarkets are stocking them just yet. I got these from Waitrose but before you raise an eyebrow, they were surprisingly affordable. Honest they were. Best fill your boots before they cotton on to how good they are and hike the price.
For the beef
- 1kg beef short ribs
- 500ml ruby ale (I used the Duchy one)
- 1 Spanish onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, top and tailed and finely diced
- 6 rashers smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
- A few sprigs of fresh thyme
- A few sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 tin anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
- 400ml chopped tomatoes, either tinned or pasta
- 300ml beef stock
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 20ml balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Plain flour for dredging
- Salt and black pepper
- Olive oil and groundnut oil for cooking
For the polenta
- 150g coarse cornmeal
- 75ml milk
- 75ml boiling water
- 50g butter
- A scrunch of salt
- 30g finely grated pecorino
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme tips
- Preheat your oven to 165°C (fan oven).
- Put a large ovenproof saucepan on a high heat on the hob and add a couple of tablespoons olive oil and groundnut oil. Dust the short ribs with salt and pepper and plain flour and a couple at a time, sear them until lightly golden on all sides in the saucepan, then set aside.
- Wipe the pan out if it gets too charred and smoky and add more oil to it on a medium heat, then add the bacon, onions, carrots and celery and cook for around 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and anchovies next and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beer, stock, tomato puree, oregano, thyme, sugar and short ribs and bring to the boil, as soon as it starts bubbling turn the heat off and put the pot in the oven, covered.
- Cook for 2.5 hours and then remove from the oven, put on the hob on a low-medium heat with the lid off and add the balsamic vinegar, then let it gently bubble away and reduce by at least a third, if not half — making a really rich and thick sauce, which should take 30 to 45 minutes at which point the meat should be tender and easily come away from the bone. I like to remove the bones and serve the meat on its own but you could leave the bones in if you prefer.
- Ideally, you’d then let it cool and reheat it the next day so the flavours have had chance to fully develop and really intensify, but if you want to eat it that day, in the last 10 minutes of it cooking on the hob, start the polenta...
- In a pan add the milk and water and bring to the boil, then gradually but continuously pour in the ground polenta, whisking all the time. Once it’s all in and mixed together, reduce the heat and use a wooden spoon to keep stirring it (careful it doesn’t catch), adding the butter, thyme tips, pecorino and salt and continuing to cook it for 5 minutes before serving with the beef.