In an ideal world, all women would be a 10 so dress manufacturers would only need to make one size. Shopping would be a lot simpler too. Men would be happy with mid grey polyester-cotton trousers in 32” waist/ 34” leg. Retailing would be so much easier. In the same idiom, butchers could only sell mince meat and chicken breasts. Things would be so easy. But, for women, men and butchers, life is not that simple. Butchers need to offer a bit more than the top margin products that virtually sell themselves. Some try to do it by buying in a range of day-glow sauces and “adding value” by disguising the meat in these industrially produced “authentic” flavours. This may keep the wolf of competition from the door in the short term. Business logic tells me that the advantage will be eroded by supermarkets and this variety of independent butcher, like the guy trying to fit into size 32, will be under pressure again.
I see the better ones working hard to educate and guide their customers towards using some of the lesser cuts. There is huge flavour, great value and a lot of enjoyment in these. Beef short ribs are in this category. They are cheap and good ones are great. However, you need a good butcher to get the best. Thankfully, I know a few good butchers. I got the short ribs for my Red Cooked Short Ribs from one of that number. Red cooking is a traditional Chinese method that adds loads of flavour and works really well with the ribs.
Ingredients for eight (diners, not dress size)
- 1.5 kilos of best beef short ribs
- 500ml of quality beef stock
- 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons of tomato paste
- 4 star anise
- 1 red chilli
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 8 spring onions
- 400 gms of tinned water chestnuts
- 50 gms of dried Chinese mushrooms, reconstituted
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 5 cm piece of root ginger
- 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
Trim the extraneous bits from the ribs and slice into manageable pieces, one rib or two long. Place a large casserole dish on the hob. Heat it and add the oil. Roughly chop the ginger, garlic and spring onions.
Add to the oil and stir until you can smell the aromas of ginger and garlic rising out of the pot. Roughly chop the mushrooms. Shred the chilli lengthwise, leaving it in one piece (easy to get it out at the end). Take out the aromatics and add the beef a few pieces at a time to brown them.
When all pieces are browned, add back the vegetables and all the beef. Add the other ingredients too. The water chestnuts are an important ingredient as they have a great ability to take on the flavours of the dish while adding a lovely crunch. Stir to combine everything.
The star anise is an important ingredient that adds a lovely extra dimension to the dish. Be sure to add it.
Heat until it boils. Scoop off any excess fat that rises to the top. Place the casserole covered in a 180ºC/355ºF oven. Leave it there for three and a half to four hours. Return it to the hob and cook uncovered until the sauce is a nice thick, sticky consistency.
This is a really punchy and tasty dish. Serve it with boiled rice and your guests will be happy you took the trouble to seek out a good butcher selling great short ribs. This is so good, they are unlikely to fit their size 10 dresses and 32” trousers for too long. They will not be bothered. It is delicious. Support the butchers that go the extra bit to understand their craft and their customers. They deserve your custom.