Braised feather blade of beef
Brace yourself for this orgasmic braised steak. It’s simple fare of old, and totally rich, indulgent and so damn delicious. A little bit of mise en place, 3 hours or so in the oven and your friends will be groaning with ecstasy at every mouthful.
In the UK, feather blade is one of those lost cuts of beef that delivers rich flavour, melt-in-the-mouth texture and excellent value for money. You’re unlikely to find it in supermarkets so pop along and support your local butcher who I’m sure will be happy to help you out. The feather blade sits on the side of the shoulder and has a distinctive feather-like tissue with multiple connective strips running through it. It’s brilliant for slow cooking because the connective tissue provides marbling that breaks down and releases sweet, complex flavours. Removing the centre sinew or feather that runs the length of the feather blade yields two lean flat iron steaks. These have good flavour and firm texture and are great for flash frying.
1kg feather blade beef, trimmed and cut into 250g pieces. I bought mine at Turner & George.
3tbsp rapeseed oil
1 medium onion sliced
2 celery sticks sliced
2 carrots thickly sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
250ml red wine
500ml beef stock
2tbsp tomato purée
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1tsp English mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 160C.
2. Season the pieces of beef on both sides with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a skillet or large, heavy frying pan over a medium-high heat. Fry the pieces for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until browned. This is building flavour so give it some colour. Transfer the beef to a casserole dish.
3. Reduce the heat under the frying pan and add the remaining oil. Gently fry the onion, celery and carrots for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden and softened. Stir in the garlic then cook for a further minute. Add the vegetables to the casserole dish.
4. Deglaze the frying pan with the red wine. Allow the wine to bubble for a few seconds, stirring constantly. Pour the liquid over the meat and vegetables.
5. Stir in the beef stock and tomato purée. Strip thyme leaves from their stalks and sprinkle into the casserole dish. Add the bay leaf and mustard then stir everything until well combined.
5. Bring to the boil and remove the dish from the heat.
6. Prepare a cartouche, i.e. a circle of greaseproof paper the diameter of your casserole dish. Cover the surface of meat and liquid carefully with the cartouche. Place the lid on top and cook in the oven for 3 to 3.5 hours or until the beef is very tender. Skim any fat away from the surface that appears during cooking.
7. Transfer the beef to a plate. Strain the cooking liquor and vegetables through a sieve into a large non-stick frying pan. Press the vegetables with the bottom of a ladle or a large spoon to extract a rich purée and stir into the cooking liquor. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
8. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and hold for 3 to 5 minutes, until the sauce is reduced, and thick and glossy. Add the beef to the sauce and heat through for a further 3 to 4 minutes, spooning over the sauce to glaze.
9. Serve with green vegetables and mashed potatoes or pumpkin purée.