(Theguardian) – Simple food that’s big on flavour ticks all the boxes for the Christmas holidays
The Christmas holidays are a perfect opportunity to catch up with friends in the best possible way: over a table of good food. Choose dishes that deliver on flavour, look great and are also deceptively simple: today’s stew, for instance, almost cooks itself. The doughnuts, meanwhile, need a little time to prove, but the kneading is easy and the boozy cream a deliciously decadent alternative to jam. So end the year as you mean to go on, and remind yourself of the power of great food and good company.
Slow-cooked shin of beef with pickled walnuts and onion puree
The sweet onion puree is a lovely backdrop to the deep flavours in the stew. Serves six to eight.
1.5kg beef shin (or other stewing beef), cut into 4cm chunks
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, cut into roughly 1cm dice
2 sticks celery, cut into roughly 1cm dice
350ml beef (or chicken) stock
3 star anise
3 branches rosemary
60ml red-wine vinegar
½ jar pickled walnuts, cut into slices
For the onion puree
8 onions, peeled, halved and finely sliced
¼ nutmeg, freshly grated
½ tsp brown sugar
1 small bunch thyme, leaves picked
Heat the oven to 130C/260F/gas mark ½. Toss the beef in the flour, if using; otherwise, season generously.
Heat half the oil in a large casserole on a medium flame, then fry the vegetables until soft, about eight to 10 minutes, seasoning well as they cook, then remove from the pan.
Turn up the heat and, when the pan is smoking hot, add the remaining oil and brown the beef in batches until caramelised all over (if you overcrowd the pan, the meat will sweat rather than fry, so it won’t brown and you’ll miss out on flavour in the finished dish). Once all the meat is browned, return the beef and vegetables to the casserole and add the stout, stock, star anise and rosemary. Bring to simmering point, then cover and cook in the oven for three hours. Add the vinegar and walnuts, season again to taste, and cook for another hour or so, until the beef is tender and falling apart.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide pan, then add the onions, nutmeg, sugar and thyme. Season well, cook on a medium heat for half an hour, stirring from time to time, until softened but not golden, then blitz smooth with a stick blender.
Serve the beef over some of the warm puree, perhaps with braised red cabbage and mash alongside.
Doughnuts with melted chocolate and armagnac and Earl Grey prune cream
The cream in these homemade doughnuts is irresistible. Makes 50 mini doughnuts – allow two to three per person, and freeze whatever dough you don’t need.Advertisement
7g dried fast-action yeast sachet
50g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
175ml lukewarm milk
500g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fine sea salt
100g unsalted butter, cubed
2 large eggs, beaten
2 litres sunflower oil for deep frying, plus extra for greasing
For the cream
75ml armagnac (or brandy)
30g caster sugar
225g pitted prunes
Earl Grey tea (3 bags or 1½ tbsp loose-leaf), steeped in 375ml boiling water
200ml double cream
150g 70% dark chocolate
Mix the yeast in a small bowl with a teaspoon of sugar, then pour on the milk and leave to froth for five minutes. Whisk together the flour, salt and remaining sugar, then rub in the butter with your fingertips.
Make a well in the flour mix, and beat in the eggs and the yeast mixture. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until it feels smooth and springy (or give it five minutes in a mixer with a dough hook). Shape into a ball, put in a lightly greased bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm. Leave in a warm place to rise for an hour, until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, heat the armagnac and sugar in a pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then turn off the heat, add the prunes and strained tea, and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes. Blitz smooth with a hand blender. Beat the cream to floppy, soft peaks, and gently fold into the prune mix.
Turn out the dough on to a work surface and knead for a minute. At this stage, freeze whatever dough you don’t need straight away and save it for next time. Divide the remaining dough into 30g pieces and shape each one into a ball. Lay these out on greased, lined baking sheets, making sure there is plenty of space between the balls to allow for rising, and leave to prove for 45 minutes.
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave; keep warm on a very low flame. Heat the oil in a large pan to 170C. Frying three to five balls at a time, carefully drop them into the hot oil and fry for three minutes a side. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel, then repeat with the remaining dough.
Once all the doughnuts are fried, tip them into a bowl and dust with caster sugar. Arrange on a plate, drizzle over the chocolate sauce and serve with a bowl of the cream, for dunking (or use a piping bag to inject each doughnut with cream).