BRAISED dishes and stews are often referred to as cold-weather food. That’s never sat well with me – so what if we’re this warm-all-year-round little country, why shouldn’t we get to enjoy heavier meals more suited for temperate zones?
And so I braise and stew whenever I like and eat my stodge without it having to be fuel against the cold – I get the occasional night sweats, but I’m none the worse for it. But with the cold northeasterly winds blowing in from Mainland China and the Sleeping Sun phenomenon causing temperatures to drop to a chilly 25°C in Petaling Jaya, there’s no better time for me to get out the old cast-iron Dutch oven and braise away!
I have used whole Mandarin oranges in my beef dish to get every bit of citrus flavour from them, after which they are discarded. They are studded with cloves, which helps to corral the spice – cloves are flavour bombs but I find it unpleasant to bite into one when I am enjoying my meal.
A note about the cut of beef for this dish: use braising steak, such as topside or some of the fattier parts. Short ribs are good too.
Asian-style Braised Beef With Orange
Serves 5-6 2 Mandarin oranges 15 cloves 450g braising steak (see intro above), cut into 3cm cubes 1 tbsp all-purpose flour 2 tbsp black vinegar 2 tbsp soya sauce 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (optional) 1 tsp whole Szechuan peppercorns, ground 1½ tbsp tomato purée 1 large clove garlic, minced 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into wedges 2 cinnamon sticks 4 whole star anise 1 beef stock cube 300g yam (taro) Cooking oil Celery leaves ( daun sup), finely chopped
Drain most of the oil from the same pan and add the garlic and onions. Sauté briefly, then add the combined sauce, cinnamon and star anise. Let it come to a boil and return meat to the pot; add just enough water to cover the cubes.
Stir in the stock cube and drop in the two clove-studded oranges. Cover the pot, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened, 60 to 90 minutes. Scrape the bottom of the pot now and then so there’s no sticking.
Meanwhile, peel the yam and cut into 1cmthick wedges. Scoop out the oranges into a large sieve placed over the pan. With the back of a wooden spoon, press them to extract the juice. Discard the mashed oranges. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning.
Add the yam to the pot, cover and cook until tender, another 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle beef with celery leaves and
serve with steamed rice.