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Your butcher should be able to get you beef short ribs if you ask, and the trick is slow-cooking. All that fat will ensure they become meltingly tender and the meat will literally fall off the bones. This dish takes a while to cook but there’s not much effort required and the result is worth it.

Wine Suggestion: This dish requires a serious, powerful red with a good structure. Tonight we had a youthful 3 year old Chateau Puygueraud from the Côtes de Francs, Bordeaux. A merlot, cabernet franc, malbec blend it was appropriate but all judged it too young and a little forceful. However a Domaine des Roches Neuves ‘Marginale’, Saumur-Champigny from 2015 brought by our friends proved to be the wine match we were looking for. Cabernet Franc from the Loire this cuvée showed the class of being the best selection of the best vineyards in a powerful, great vintage. All parts integrated but still in it’s infancy. A good match tonight, and we are all sad we don’t have any more in our cellars to see this in 10 years time too.

Braised beef short ribs with butter beans & figs – serves 4

  • 2 onions, roughy chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 4cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 green chillies, roughly chopped, no need to discard the seeds
  • 6 beef short ribs (about 1.5kg),trim off any big pieces of fat at the edges but don’t worry about being too particular with the rest, it all renders down into the rich sauce
  • 60ml olive oil
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 10 cardamom pods, roughly bashed open with a pestle and mortar
  • 1½ tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 5-6 large plum tomatoes, two-thirds roughly chopped and the rest roughly grated and skin discarded
  • 100g soft dried figs, roughly chopped into 1½ cm pieces
  • 700g jar butter beans, drained
  • 30g chives, very finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp lemon juice
  • 300g regular spinach, discard the stems and roughly tear the leaves

Heat the oven to 165C fan.

Put the onions, garlic, ginger and chillies into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Dry the short ribs with kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper. Put 2 tbsp of oil into a large ovenproof saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Fry the ribs in batches until well coloured on all sides, then remove and set aside.

Add the onion mixture to the pan along with the star anise and cardamom, and cook for 5 minutes to soften, stirring now and then. Add the tomato purée, ground spices, chopped tomatoes (don’t add the grated ones yet), 1½ tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper and cook for another 4 minutes or until the tomatoes start to soften.

Add the short ribs and 1.1 litres of water, bring to the boil, then cover and put into the oven for 3 hours, stirring a few times.

Add the figs and cook for another half hour, or until softened. The meat should now be very tender.

Meanwhile, put the butterbeans into a saucepan with a pinch of salt and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes, then drain. Stir in the chives, 2 tbsp of oil, the lemon juice and plenty of pepper.

When the beef is ready, take the ribs from the pan and pull the meat off the bones. Discard the bones and set the beef aside.

Heat the sauce and stir in the spinach, it should wilt in a few minutes, then add the grated tomato and remove from the heat.

Spoon the sauce over a large platter and top with beans and beef.

(Original recipe from OTK Shelf Love by Noor Murad & Yotam Ottolenghi, Ebury Press, 2021.)

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