Recipe: slow-cooked beef ribs in local ale

Words and picture by Hazel Paterson

Long, slow cooking is needed to gently break down the hard working muscle, but left to simmer all day in a slow cooker, or gently braised in the oven, your house will not only be filled with delicious smells but you will be rewarded with a hassle-free supper that’s perfect for winter nights.

There are so many ales brewed in the Midlands that you are spoilt for choice as to which to use in this recipe. Go for something you like to drink yourself – it’s a rich recipe so can take quite a hoppy brew. This is a good excuse to sample some local ales!

Serves 4

* 1kg beef ribs sawn into thirds – your butcher will do this for you
* 1 white onion, thinly sliced
* 4 cloves garlic, sliced
* 1 heaped tsp dried fennel seeds
* 1 heaped tbsp cornflour
* 500ml good local ale – I used The Grainstore’s Ten Fifty, which was perfect
* 3 bay leaves
* Few sprigs thyme
* 12 pickling onions, peeled (or small, round shallots)
* 500g baby salad potatoes, unpeeled (or small, waxy potatoes)
* 500g small Chantenay carrots, washed
* 200g small button mushrooms
* 50g dried cranberries
* Good beef stock to top up (about 200ml depending on the size of slow cooker)
* Salt and pepper

1Put your rib pieces into a heavy-based pan and brown on all sides. Remove from the fat and put into your slow cooker.

2 Gently fry the sliced onion, fennel seeds and garlic in the rendered fat until golden and starting to caramelise, then add your cornflour and cook gently for a minute or so, stirring to cook out the flour.

3 Pour in your ale and mix well, scraping any bits from the pan, then pour everything into your slow cooker.

4 Add the herbs, onions, carrots, potatoes, cranberries and mushrooms to the slow cooker and top up with the beef stock, making sure that everything is just covered by liquid.

5 Cover and cook on high for about four hours. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. If you want to thicken it then put some cornflour in a mug, add some stew liquid, mix well, then return it to the slow cooker. Reduce cooking temperature to low for the last hour (if you are out all day just have it on low for the entire time).

6 I like to serve this with a drizzle of syrupy balsamic vinegar, which cuts through the richness perfectly.

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