Saturday, 27 November 2010

Stracotto - Braised beef

If you would like to come home to a delicious winter braise you could cook this all day in a slow cooker, or on a low light in the oven. Stracotto means long cooked and it’s perfect for cuts of beef like brisket. We ate it last night with baked potatoes and whole steamed carrots.

The visitors had arrived late off the London train, eager for a weekend in the country with the prospect of snow. We began with a mozzarella salad and some prosciutto. Typically Italian, you might think, but things were not quite as they appeared. The tomatoes and onions, even the basil, were local but so were the cheese and the ham. The mozzarella, sold in Waitrose, is made in Hampshire at Laverstoke Park Farm ( while the prosciutto was made on a farm near Winchester (cured for 18 months) and comes via Italo, a cute deli-cafe in Vauxhall, London ( You can buy both products online but the prosciutto is produced in small quantities and may be rationed or out of stock.

Anyway, back to the stracotto: a kilo of brisket will do nicely for 4 people. Don’t expect any leftovers. You can serve the beef with the accompanying sauce or , as I suggest here, remove the beef once it’s cooked and wrap it in foil while you make a sauce by pureeing the cooking vegetables and adding cream and parsley to finish it. Preparation time: two blinks.
                                         the  essential Battuto - stewing herbs and vegetables

1kg Rolled brisket

200g Pancetta, cut into small dice

2 sticks Celery finely chopped

1 large Onion, finely chopped

2 cloves Garlic

1 sprig Rosemary, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

1 sprig Thyme – leaves only

150ml Red wine

75ml Single or pouring cream

40g Parsley, finely chopped


1. Place the pancetta in a largish casserole and fry over a brisk heat to brown and to release the fat. Remove using a slotted spoon.

2. Brown the beef all over in the pancetta fat. Remove.

3. Fry the vegetables to brown them slightly. Add the herbs then the red wine and cook briskly for 3 minutes. Return the pancetta and beef to the casserole and add a cup of water.

4. Place the casserole in a pre-heated oven, about 170 degrees will take two or three hours or you could cook it all day in a slow cooker or in a very cool oven. You know your oven best. Check that it’s not cooking too fast or too slow by inserting a knife into the beef from time to time.

5. Remove the brisket, remove the string if it’s been rolled and tied, and wrap it in foil to keep it hot.

6. Pour the remaining contents of the casserole into a jug, add the cream and puree with a hand blender. Add finely chopped parsley and season to taste.

7. Slice the beef and place a thick slice on each plate and pour alongside it the sauce. Add vegetables – simply steamed whole carrots finished with a lavish anointment of butter and baked potatoes, also with butter, would do nicely – or just with bread or focaccia.

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