Me, cooking ‘stewed’ meat?

My family and close friends all know that ‘Robyn does not do stew’! I spent 9 years of my life at boarding school where my sensitive sense of smell could pick up the ‘odour’ of a greasy, tasteless stew or fatty mince with a good proportion on bonemeal in it, long before the meal was served. By the time we were seated at the table on ‘stew-day’ I was positively nauseous! I know that I should not be writing about this in a food article! It is stews of the famed ‘Irish Stew’ variety or even the famous South African Tomato or Waterblommetjie (Water Hyacinth) Stews that I cannot tolerate! If I buy a half lamb the tough cuts are well disguised as a hearty curry, which I love.

I should also blame my late Mother for my ‘fussy behaviour’.  She seldom cooked ‘stews’ and when she did, they were truly delicious Boeuf Bourguignon, a rich Oxtail or similar. Maggie was known for her superbly flavoured dishes so basically I think she set the flavour tolerances which boarding school did not meet!

Economical & cooking can  speed up in the pressure cooker

So why I am looking at recipes that are more stew-like than grills or roasts? With the trend of cooking ‘nose to tail’ and now that we are pensioners I am drawn to the more economical meat cuts. I also love the texture and succulence of slow cooked ‘pulled’ meats, and know that the tougher meat cuts are packed with much more flavour than those that are suitable for grilling. The idea of putting the oven on for 4 or more hours also goes against the grain, but my electric pressure cooker has been brought from its summer hibernation to the counter top, reducing a 4 hour cook to about 60 minutes.

I have always been fascinated by brisket. It is a tough forequarter cut that is usually cubed and sold as stewing meat. As the meat consists of tough connective tissue which moist, slow cooking will gelatinise, resulting in a lovely texture. I enjoy it cooked by Jewish friends who understand this cut and cook it to perfection. It becomes so succulent and it is not fatty, and literally falls apart when cooked correctly.

This recipe was perfected by my food hero, Ottolenghi.

His origins are in Jerusalem, so I had no doubt that it would be delicious. I also like the idea of using fennel with meat, cutting the richness and adding an interesting flavour dimension that I usually reserve for pork, poultry or fish.

The accompaniment – Fennel Orzo

Orzo is rice-shaped wheat pasta and is also borrowed from Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean. The flavour is delicious as it is cooked with the stock from the brisket and is flavoured with onion, fennel, celery and parsley.


To finish the dish

The finished dish is topped with ‘gremolata ‘. Gremolata is simply a mixture of freshly chopped parsley, crushed garlic and lemon zest, always added to Osso Bucco, the Italian classic, but for this recipe orange zest is used. Orange and fennel is a match made in heaven.

Get the full recipe here!