When I made ossobuco yesterday, it was the first time I’d made this classic Italian dish, but it certainly won’t be the last. The gentle, long cooking required makes it ideal for the Aga. I accompanied it with risotto alla Milanese, even though I tend to think risotto is not ideal for Aga cooking, because of the need constantly to stir it, but in this case it was in my view necessary and worth it. I know there are ways to make risotto in the oven, and I have successfully made it that way, but on this occasion I wanted to be as sure as possible to achieve the authentic Italian dish, so I stood at the simmering plate, stirring away contemplatively, for twenty minutes or so.
The ossobuco recipe I used was Anna Del Conte’s from her book Gastronomy of Italy which my son gave me for Christmas. It’s a wonderful book. The risotto recipe I used was also from this book.
(You will need a large sauté pan or shallow casserole with a tight fitting lid which will hold the ossobuchi in one layer)
Tie the ossobuchi around and across with string as you would a parcel, then lightly coat them in flour mixed with 1 teaspoon of salt
Heat the olive oil in the pan you have chosen and brown the floured ossobuchi on both sides. I started them on the simmering plate and then transferred them to the floor of the roasting oven. Cook them for just 4 or 5 minutes on each side. Remove them to a dish
Add 25g of the butter to the pan followed by the onion and celery. Add a little salt and soften without browing (shouldn’t take more than 10 or 15 minutes in the simmering oven)
Return the meat and any juices to the pan on the simmering plate
Heat the wine quickly in a pan on the boiling plate and pour it over the meat and boil to reduce by half (could move it to the boiling plate for this but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t completely evaporate)
Heat the stock in the same pan you used for the wine and pour this over everything and add some black pepper. Put the lid on the pan and transfer it to the simmering oven for at least three but maybe four or five hours (as you know, it will not spoil in the simmering oven), depending on when you want to eat
Transfer the ossobuchi to a warmed dish, removing the string. Keep warm in the warming oven, on the warming plate or near the Aga covered in foil
Add the remaining butter, having cut it into a few small pieces, to the sauce and as soon as the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat; you don’t want the sauce to boil
Pour the sauce over the meat
Mix the gremolata ingredients together. I spinkled mine over the ossobuchi, but have re-read the recipe and see I was supposed to stir it into the sauce before pouring it over. Perhaps it would have tasted even better if I’d done it the “correct” way!
Before she became a TV celebrity Mary Berry was known as an Aga cook who ran courses on how to get the most out of your Aga as well as for writing The Aga Book which I believe is still given to every new Aga owner when their new oven is installed. My mother-in-law, who has owned a few Agas in her time, learned how to make this stew on one of Mary Berry’s courses and wrote it out for me many years ago because she thought it was so simple yet so delicious. I never got round to making it then but when I found a jar of sun-dried tomatoes which needed using up in my fridge recently, the recipe sprang to mind and I dug it out.
You can make this the day before, refrigerate it overnight and reheat it gently in the simmering oven the next day. I have never worked out why but casseroles are often better when made a day ahead.
The quantities of wine and stock given here are approximate because, as we Aga cooks know, you tend to need less liquid in an Aga. I start with the wine and stop pouring when the meat is almost but not completely covered. You can always add stock later on if you think it needs it.
Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew
(Serves 4 generously)
800g braising beef, cubed
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp flour
Approx. 250ml red wine
(Approx. 250ml beef stock: see above)
10-12 sun-dried tomatoes, halved
10g dried mushrooms (I used porcini)
1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 tbsp apricot jam
1 tbsp tomato purée
First you need to brown the meat. To avoid splashing oil everywhere you can do this in the roasting oven, as I did when I made boeuf bourgignon
Spread the beef out on your large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide if you like, drizzle it with olive oil and season
Slide the tray onto the first runner and leave it there for 5 minutes before moving it to the floor of the oven for a further 5 minutes, by which time your beef should be browned
(You can of course brown your meat in batches in olive oil in the casserole on the boiling plate or on the floor of the roasting oven)
Meanwhile in a large casserole gently fry your onion and pepper slices in a tablespoon or two of olive oil (if your sun-dried tomatoes come from a jar you can use some of the oil from that), starting it off on the simmering plate before covering it and putting it in the simmering oven
Pour 100ml of hot water onto the mushrooms and put them to one side for 15 minutes
When the onions and peppers are soft place the casserole on the boiling plate, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and then add the beef and stir the flour into it
Add the red wine and, if required, the stock and bring to the boil
Stir in the tomato purée, mushrooms with their soaking water and apricot jam
Cover and place in the simmering oven for a minimum of three hours until the beef is tender. Add seasoning to taste
This is delicious with mashed potato but I think I prefer it with rice. Serve with a green vegetable too.
Or is it pilaf? I believe the words are synonymous, but perhaps it depends if your dish is Middle Eastern (pilaf) or Indian (pilau). This one is a pilau because it’s based on one of Meera Sodha’s from her wonderful book Fresh India, which I mentioned here and a copy of which I now own.
A pilau is made with long grain rice and is a great way of using up leftover ingredients, which is what I was doing the other night when I made it. I added asparagus because at this time of year during the British asparagus season, hardly a day goes by when it isn’t on our menu at home.
It is so ridiculously easy to cook rice in an Aga that I thought I’d tell you how I do it, in case you haven’t discovered this method. It’s the absorption method; nothing new there, you might say, but doing it in the Aga simmering oven takes simplicity to a whole new level. I discovered it in the original Mary Berry “The Aga Book” (now out of print) which came with my brand new Aga twelve years ago. I still use this book a great deal but some of the recipes are somewhat dated and I suspect that nowadays new owners get her updated “The Complete Aga Cookbook”, which also includes the rice instructions.
Once you have learnt how to cook rice this way, you will not look back. I always use basmati and my favourite brand is Tilda but this method is for any long grain rice.
For 4 servings
225g/8oz white basmati rice
350ml/12 fl oz water
225/8oz brown basmati rice
420ml/14 fl oz water
Wash the rice by rinsing it in a few changes of water until the water runs clear
Tip the rice into a saucepan with the water and 1 tsp salt
Bring to the boil on the boiling plate
Give it a single stir, put the lid on and place in the simmering oven for about 20 minutes (for white) and 40-45 minutes (for brown) until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, but in both cases it will not come to any harm if left in the simmering oven for twice as long
My sons gave me two cookery books for my birthday. My daugher-in-law looked a bit sceptical and asked if I was sure they were what I wanted (I do have quite a few already), but I assured her it was. I had dropped a few (many) hints in the run-up to my birthday. One of the books was Diana Henry’s new one, How to Eat a Peach, which is a beautiful collection of menus rather than recipes; it’s also a sort of memoir, an account of the places she’s travelled to since she was a teenager, and where she discovered all the dishes she loves to cook and eat. I have already cooked a few of the recipes from the book, although I haven’t yet put together a whole menu. The first thing I made was this braised pork, which I pounced on because I knew it would be perfect for the AGA simmering oven. I adjusted the quantities because there were only four of us eating and off I went.
Braised Pork with Ginger and Star Anise
For the pork
About 1tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1kg pork shoulder, cut into 3cm cubes
200g shallots, sliced
20g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
5 garlic cloves, finely grated or crushed
5 tbsps kecap manis
3 tbsps light soy sauce
11/2 tbsps tamarind paste
400ml chicken stock
1 star anise
2 medium-hot chillies, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
2 birds’ eye chillies, left whole
For the crispy fried shallots
Groundnut or vegetable oil
100g shallots, finely sliced
Sea salt flakes
Spread the pork out on a large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide and drizzle with the oil
Place on the top rung or on the floor of the roasting oven for 10 minutes, then remove it, turn the meat over and return the tray to the roasting oven for about 5 minutes. Your aim is to have golden brown pieces of pork; you’re not trying to turn it dark brown
Meanwhileget on with your shallots. Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in the casserole you want to braise your pork in. Do this on the simmering plate. Add the shallots, turn them over in the oil, put the lid on and transfer the casserole to the simmering oven for about 15 minutes until they are soft and golden
Stir the garlic and ginger in and return the pork to the pan along with the kecap manis, soy sauce, tamarind and stock
Bring to the boil on the boiling or simmering plate, add the star anise and all the chillies and place your casserole, uncovered, in the simmering oven for about 3 hours but, as I’m sure you know, when slow cooking in the Aga simmering oven the timing is not crucial as long as you end up with meltingly tender meat
Remove the star anise and the whole chillies
Meanwhile make the crispy fried shallots by heating about 2cm of oil in a small pan on the simmering plate. Add the shallots and fry, moving them around, until they are crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a sheet of kitchen towel on a plate and sprinkle with salt
If the liquid around the pork is not thick and glossy and seems a bit thin, remove the pork with a slotted spoon to a dish and keep it warm in the simmering oven. Boil the liquid for a while on the boiling or simmering plate until it’s reduced and then return the pork to the pan to heat through
Serve the pork with the crispy fried shallots sprinkled over. We ate ours with rice and stir-fried pak choi
Inspired by the success of the lamb ragù in my last post, I decided to try out the “not browning the meat” method once again and made an old favourite: boeuf bourguignon. It was a success, so I thought I’d give you the recipe I used for this classic dish. I adapted it from Delia’s in her Complete Cookery Course. It’s also available online here. I’m probably breaking the rules here but if you don’t have any Burgundy, it would not be a disaster if you use whatever red wine you do happen to have in your kitchen.
Serves 6 generously
1kg braising steak (I used chuck), cubed
1 onion, sliced
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
400ml approx red Burgundy
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh thyme, or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Approx 12 small onions or shallots, peeled and left whole
225g streaky bacon, smoked or green, ideally bought in a piece and then cubed but don’t worry if you only have rashers: just chop them up
120g mushrooms, sliced, or small button ones left whole
Spread the beef out on a large baking sheet which fits on the Aga runners and drizzle with olive oil
Place the tray on the top runner of the roasting oven for 10-15 minutes to brown the beef
Meanwhile in a large casserole, sweat the onion in a tablespoon or two of olive oil in the simmering oven until soft and translucent
Place the casserole on the simmering plate and add the beef to it. Stir in flour to soak up the juices, then gradually pour in the wine until it barely covers the beef, stirring all the time. Don’t use all the wine if you don’t have to; remember that you tend to need less liquid when cooking in an Aga
Add the crushed garlic, thyme and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper
Put the lid on and place in the simmering oven for 3 hours or more
In a frying pan on the simmering plate fry the onions and bacon in a little olive oil until coloured
Add them to the casserole together with the mushrooms
Put the lid back on and return to the simmering oven for at least an hour, but longer would not do any harm at all
Sprinkle with some chopped fresh parsley to serve
Boulangère or dauphinoise potatoes go well with this and so does rice. A green salad and/or green beans are also good accompaniments. As with most casseroles, this one is better on the second day so it’s worth making the day before you want to eat it. I’d maybe not add the mushrooms until reheating it on the second day