Jacobs Ladder – Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs In a Fragrant Sauce

As you will notice, many of my recipes are a bit time consuming, mostly due to the complex flavours I like to experience on my palate, but also the cuts of meat I like to experiment with.

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Earlier in the week I had been thumbing through some cookery books trying to find something to make at the weekend and came across a couple of recipes, further bolstered by a trawl on the internet I headed out to our favourite meat supplier, who has never disappointed with unusual and different cuts of meat.

These bad boys (to use a Tom Kerridge phrase!), are Beef Short Ribs and are extremely good value if you can find a supplier. In this case £4.89 yes, that cheap for 1.25 KG’s of taste sensation. They are also known as Jacobs Ladder, which is a reference in the book of Genesis, and in my case, one of my favourite rock songs by the group RUSH, a Canadian rock band.

The dish I am about to describe will take a couple of days to complete, as the preparation and cooking is done in several stages, most of the time is spent cooking/resting, the hands on prep is about 30-40 minutes max. I started on the Saturday afternoon for a Sunday evening tea. You will need the following for two hungry people:

  • 1.25KG’s Beef Short Ribs
  • 1 Tbs Coriander Seeds
  • 1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 Tsp Lampung Black Peppercorns (available from Steenbergs), or whatever is in your cupboard
  • 1/2 Tsp Muntok White Peppercorns (available from Steenbergs), or whatever is in your cupboard
  • 1 Black Cardamom
  • 1 Star Anise
  • 4 Whole Cloves
  • 3-4 Shallots roughly chopped
  • 4cm piece Lemongrass (bash with a rolling pin or knife to break apart)
  • 4cm piece Galangal roughly sliced
  • 4cm piece Fresh Ginger roughly sliced
  • 6 Red Chillis
  • 1 Head Garlic sliced in half
  • 2 Litres Chicken Stock (preferable Low Salt & Organic, Kallo is great and readily available)
  • 1 Tbs Fish Sauce
  • 1 Tbs Light Soy
  • 1 Tbs dark Soy
  • 2 Tbs Shaoxing Rice wine
  • 1 Tbs Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 4 Tbs Tamarind
  • 2 Tbs Palm Sugar
  • 4 Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • 1 Tsp Shrimp Paste
  • 1 Bunch Coriander
  • 1/2 Lime Juiced

Stage 1

Take all the dry spices and roast them gently in a frying pan without any oil until you can smell the evocative aromas filling the kitchen. This process causes the oils in the spices to develop, if you look at the Cloves, you will notice they will have expanded considerably.

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Now that the spices are toasty the next stage is to season the ribs with Salt & Pepper and seal in some flavourless oil such as Ground Nut or whatever you have available. We are trying to get some colour on the meat and also release some of the sugars which turns the meat brown. You can click HERE for a really geeky explanation of the Maillard reaction which is what we are trying to achieve.

WP_20131130_008Mine looked like this after this stage and took 10-15 minutes making sure you turn the meat and cook each side.

Stage 2

We now need to put some oil in a dutch oven or decent size saucepan, the Ribs’s are going to braise for 4 1/2 hours at 125 Deg (fan), 145 Deg (Convection) and the meat needs to be covered so use this as you guide as to the size of pan to use.

Firstly, fry the shallots until the develop some colour, about 5 – 10 minutes. Then, add the toasted dry spices and continue to fry gently, you will start to smell the heady aromas fill the air. Then add the sliced Galangal, Ginger and Lemongrass, continuing to cook gently, then the two halved Garlic heads, and Chilli’s.

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At this stage it should look something like the picture above. You want to cook the spice mix gently so nothing burns but hard enough to extract the flavour oils from the ingredients. Now set your oven to 125 deg/145deg to warm up.

After 10 – 15 minutes start to add the wet ingredients, starting with the Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Rice Wine etc. Then a bunch of coriander, finish with the sugar, then the Chicken Stock at the end and put the Ribs in, ensuring the are covered completely. Finally add the Lime juice.

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You now need to get a piece of Tin Foil, doubled in half, that covers, and overlaps your pan. This is going to be used to seal the pan with the lid firmly pressed on top. Then place in the oven, set the timer for 4 /12 hours and go and put your feet up!!

Stage 3

After 4 1/2 hours, remove the pan from the oven and take out the ribs and place in a container and stick in the fridge, covered with foil or a Plastic container with lid. Drain the remaining sauce through a strainer and also place in the fridge overnight.

You will have noticed in the 1st picture, there is a decent amount of fat on the ribs, the slow braising will have rendered the fat into the sauce and in the morning you will have a ‘fat lid’, sitting on the sauce. The following morning, take the meat and sauce out of the fridge,  gently remove the fat and strain the sauce to remove as much of the fat as possible.

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This is what mine looked like before sieving the sauce to remove the remaining bits of fat which you can see floating on the surface. The colour has changed significantly into a deep rich brown colour, partly as a result of the browning stage (Monsr Maillard again!).

Once this is done, the meat on the left needs to go into the sauce, to marinade for a few more hours to further develop the flavours. Cover the pot with cling film or foil and pop it back into the fridge until you are ready to complete the final stage. It will take about 45 – 60 minutes at 160 deg/180deg before the ribs are ready to eat, so you can plan when dinner is served and when you need to be back in the kitchen.

Stage 4

Almost done! Set the oven to 160deg/180deg and remove the meat/sauce from the fridge about an hour before you are ready to cook to bring it up to room temperature. To go with the beef I was going to do some equally fragrant Rice and Bok Choi.

Take a saucepan, and put some water on to boil, you will need a Jasmine Tea bag, 1 star anise, kaffir lime leaves (2) and a couple of slices of Galangal. I left the tea bag in the water for a couple of minutes before removing, the remainder of the spices had a good 30 minutes in the pan. Thats the infusion completed, just follow the instructions on the rice packet, mine needed about 10 minutes.

The Bok Choi was quartered lengthways, and put in a pan with a glug of hot oil, followed by a splash of water to create a steam. I chucked in a couple of cloves of garlic that had been bashed, a splash of Shaoxing Rice Wine, similar of light Soy sauce and a little sugar to counterbalance the salty Soy.

WP_20131201_008Finish the Bok Choy with a twist of fresh cracked pepper and you are done. The beef can be removed from the pot, and set aside in a covered dish and left in a warm oven whilst you finish off the sauce. You may find its still a bit thin so you can reduce it on a hob, and use a little Cornflour or Arrowroot and water to thicken. Drain the rice and you are ready to serve.

WP_20131201_005 To add some further texture elements I dry fried some Cashew nuts and Red Chilli for a bit of punch, and fried some prawn crackers and dusted with 5 spice powder to accompany the ribs. All you need to do now is serve the meat/rice/sauce and vegetable on a warm plate and experience a tasty, sumptuous exotic meal, all prepared by your own hands and not breaking the bank!WP_20131201_010

So there you have it, Beef Short Ribs, with  a fragrant sauce and assorted accompaniments, delicious.

Go on, have a go yourself.

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