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Beef stew with juniper berries, served with mashed potato, aubergine and asparagus

I was inspired by a recipe in the Country Living magazine and have blessed my husband countless times with this lovely braised beef dish.

Preparation: 10 minutes

Cooking: 3-4 hours (maybe longer for shin)

Cuts: I prefer shin as it cooks to a lovely rich tenderness , but flank has lovely long, loose grains and ‘ox cheek’ or onglet is equally successful.  Cubed stewing steak won’t look as good when dished up.

3 T olive oil or butter

1.2 – 1.5 kg braising steak, either cut as 6 steaks or large medallions

300 g shallots, peeled (a handful of spring onions, chopped, are just as lovely)

3 T balsamic vinegar

1 t juniper berries, crushed and tied in a square of muslin (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 bottle red wine, eg. Barolo (I’ve made it just as successfully with either a dash of red wine or none at all – just add an extra tabelspoon or two of balsamic vinegar)

1 t brown sugar

50 g ( ¼ cup) raisins

1 T small capers, rinsed

Garnish: small caper berries and coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1               This can be done either in the oven, or in a large casserole on the stove, or in a slow-cooker.

2               Heat the oven to 150 C (130 C fan oven) Gas mark 2.  Melt the butter in a big casserole, season and fry the pieces of beef until really dark and crusty on the outside.  Do this in batches, adding the shallots/onions  with the last batch to colour them.  Return all beef to the pan, add the vinegar and simmer to reduce by half, then add the juniper berries (if using), bay leaves, wine (if using), sugar and some seasoning.  Bring to the boil, cover and cook in the oven (or on low heat on the stove) for 3-4 hours until the meat is very tender, turning it and adding the raisins halfway.

3               If serving straightaway, transfer the beef to a plate.  Skim surface fat from the juices, remove the juniper berries, stir in the capers and taste for seasoning.  Return the meat to the pan.  Serve scattered with caper berries and parsley, alongside the mashed potatoes and green vegetable.

4               This dish is even better when made a day in advance and reheated, in which case the fat is easily lifted off the surface once it has cooled completely.

This time around the meat was served next to mash formed in a serving ring, topped with fried aubergine cubes and grated Parmesan, and the added finishing touch of blanched asparagus and my favourite mayo.

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