You remember how keen I was on the shin of beef dishes I've made just recently? Or perhaps how excited I was about the Pot Roasted Brisket? Well, this one surpasses all of those. Truly!
I kept a little secret from the boys about this dish, which was that it originated from the Weight Watchers Oriental Express recipe book! Anything that has "healthy" or "low fat" in its title always engenders much suspicion in a chap's breast, it seems. So, I figured it was better that they didn't know, right up until such time as I could commit the big "reveal", or admit it was another failure. Whichever was appropriate. In fact, as I didn't have any low fat cooking spray, I substituted olive oil where that was required but used it sparingly. I also tweaked the quantities of orange juice to water, winding up with a little more of the juice than the water, largely because two oranges came to 150ml, once juiced, and I wasn't prepared to find a home for the extra half - so used it.
I had scheduled this dish for a Sunday evening when, normally, we'd have some sort of Sunday roast. I reckoned it wouldn't hurt us to not have a traditional Sunday roast - and as it used almost as much beef brisket as had the previous Sunday's meal, it was almost a Sunday roast - just prepared differently. In truth, I think I was justifying it to myself as I really don't suppose the boys care whether we have a Sunday roast or not - so long as something yummy turns up for dinner each day, I doubt they consider it much further than that.
I had liked the sound of the recipe at the first read-through, plus it also had the benefit of my having just about everything in the fridge or spice cupboard already, barring the meat and the butternut squash. This made the purchase of these two more expensive ingredients rather more affordable.
The 800g of brisket was a lovely piece of meat. It took just a little trimming on one side to remove some short runs of gristle, plus a bit of a trim of the fat on the other side. I didn't remove all the fat, as I knew it was going to be cooking for some two and a half hours and fat doesn't usually survive that! Dustbins 1 and 2 were in attendance, of course, and soon took care of any offcuts.
Where the rice was concerned, on the previous day we'd been shopping - doing a top-up shop for the weekend and the beginning of the following week. I always like to have a cruise (don't forget, I use a disability buggy) down the world foods aisle where, to my surprise, I found a bottle of authentic oyster sauce. At £2-odd, it was a little pricey when I didn't have anything in mind for it - but too good to leave there, so I bought it. Only as I was assembling the ingredients for the special fried rice, did I remember the oyster sauce. Using authentic soy (Yellow Plum brand), authentic fish sauce (Squid brand) and the authentic oyster sauce, put the tin lid on our attempts to make an authentic-tasting special fried rice. I thoroughly recommend you put together some authentic ingredients like these, when you have a go at the rice recipe - they make all the difference.
ORIENTAL BEEF WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH (feeds 3-4)
800g lean beef brisket, visible fat trimmed & sliced
2 onions, sliced
1 star anise
1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
5cm (2") fresh root ginger, grated
150ml fresh orange juice
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 red chilli, de-seeded if you prefer, and chopped
400g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into 1cm pieces
salt & pepper
1. Heat a large lidded saucepan or casserole dish - one which will go in the oven. Pre-heat oven to 190deg C.
2. Add a little olive oil and half the beef strips. Sear until browned all over, then remove and sear the remaining half and remove.
3. Add the onions to the pan with a little more olive oil if necessary. Fry over a medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. It doesn't matter of some onions take on some colour, but you're aiming for them all to be softened.
4. Add the star anise, 5 spice powder, ginger and chilli and stir fry for a minute.
5. Pour in the water, orange juice and soy sauce. Stir and ensure that you have de-glazed the pan, getting up all the lovely baked on flavour and stirring it in. Re-introduce the beef and stir to combine.
6. Bring to the boil, cover and then place in the oven for 2 hours.
7. Remove from the oven, stir and add the squash, stirring to combine. Replace into the oven for 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. You probably won't need to cover the pan at this stage.
8. If the sauce remains too watery, add a little cornflour and stir to combine until the favoured consistency has been reached.
Serve with Special Fried Rice :
SPECIAL FRIED RICE (feeds 3-4)
a knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
a bunch of spring onions, trimmed and chopped finely
a small piece of ginger, shredded finely
2 mushrooms, chopped finely
a small handful of frozen peas
a small handful of frozen sweetcorn
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
2-300g long grain rice, cooked and allowed to cool.
1. Heat the knob of butter and olive oil in a deep frying pan or wok. Add the beaten egg one by one and cook to form an omelette. Place both omelettes somewhere to keep warm.
2. In the remaining butter/olive oil mixture, stir-fry the onion, mushroom and ginger for around 2-3 minutes or until the onions are appearing softened.
3. Add the peas and sweetcorn and continue to cook until they are tender.
4. Add the soy, oyster & fish sauces and stir through on a low heat.
5. Add the cooked rice and stir through gently on a medium heat or until the rice is heated through. Add the shredded egg omelettes - and serve.