A Sunday Lunch for Four

9/29/2013 11:12:00 PM

Shiraz-braised beef short rib, Petits pois à la Française, Scalloped potatoes 

We had some friends over for lunch today, and as I sit down to write this post, I realise that I haven't entertained for ages. (I certainly haven't blogged any dinner/lunch parties since March's Miranda Party post, and before that, February's Lobster Party post!) Although I love cooking, and more importantly, feeding people, my current flat isn't particularly suited for entertaining - the lounge room is carpeted, which always makes me a bit nervous if we're drinking red wine, and our dining room is kinda set apart from the kitchen, so preparing and serving many courses can be a bit awkward. When we have had people over recently, I've preferred to do simple weeknight dinners with small groups of people, like a bowl of Taiwanese Meat Sauce on Rice, eaten off our laps in the lounge room, as opposed to my usual Cecil B. DeMille productions. Or perhaps those are just excuses and I've been really enjoying hibernating this winter!

Anyway, for this particular lunch, I wanted to make something special, but still reassuringly "Sunday lunch-y". I thought that beef in a red wine sauce, scalloped potatoes and peas would do the trick.

A Sunday Lunch for 4
Shiraz-braised beef short rib
Petits pois à la française
Chocolate fudge cake

I've written up the recipes or the short rib and peas at the bottom of this post. You can find the recipe for the scalloped potatoes on Martha Stewart's website (click here), and the chocolate fudge cake is from the The Ottolenghi Cookbook.

The whole menu was reasonably easy to put together - I started cooking at ten in the morning, didn't feel particularly rushed, and we sat around the table to eat at one thirty.

I started by making the chocolate cake. Ottolenghi's chocolate fudge cake is a super dense, rich, chocolatey monster of a cake - just chocolate, sugar, butter, and eggs. I love how glossy the mixture looks!

Chocolate fudge cake mixture

The cake's schtick (if cake can be said to have a schtick), as I've mentioned previously, is that you bake two thirds of the mixture first, before adding the rest of the mixture and baking it fully, to give you a two-textured cake.

Cake after the first baking

Topped with the remaining mixture

The cake was still quite liquid after the allotted baking time, so I baked it for an extra ten minutes, then let it cool, and stashed it in the fridge to firm up while cooking and eating lunch.

Now, onto the beef ribs. I enjoyed braised short ribs at Stillwater restaurant last year, and had been looking for an excuse to cook them at home. My local supermarket occasionally sells short ribs, but they come pre-marinated in a spooky looking sauce, and I prefer to have control over the flavourings! I made a special trip to Prahran Market to get these beautiful short ribs.

Beef Short Ribs

I didn't follow a recipe to cook the ribs - having made a zillion stews during my How to Eat project, I now make them on easy autopilot. (I did take notes however of what I did, and have written the full recipe below for your, and my, reference!) So, I dusted the ribs in seasoned flour...

Floured beef ribs

...browned them over a high heat, and set them aside.

Browned beef ribs

In the same pan, I then cooked a mixture of aromatic vegetables - celery, carrots, shallots...


... as well as some garlic.


I added some tomato paste, a whole bottle of Shiraz, some beef stock and herbs. Then the whole lot went in the pressure cooker for forty-five minutes, until the meat was tender and falling off the bone. To finish, I set the beef aside and viciously boiled down the sauce until it was thick and glossy, adding porcini powder, salt and sugar to correct the flavour.

Shiraz-braised beef ribs

I loved the glossy, rich sauce and the tender, melting meat. I know it looks like a really wintry dish, and we're well into Spring, but Melbourne's variable weather means you never know when you'll feel like hunkering down with a nice bowl of stew. I'm a bit low on iron, and I recently heard that cooking beef bones (e.g. in a stew like I did, or in soup or stock) increases the iron content of the dish - bonus!

Let's have a look at the accompaniments! Here are the scalloped potatoes. (Martha's recipe is my favourite recipe for scalloped potatoes).

Scalloped Potatoes with Leek

I love cooking peas French style - I've included my recipe below, which is a simplified, pared down version of Nigella's petits pois à la Française from Feast.

Petits pois à la Française

Cake time! I served the cake with cinnamon whipped cream. (1 cup cream, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon caster sugar, whipped until fluffy).

Chocolate fudge cake with cinnamon cream

Ok, so I know the last time I made this cake it was super melty and I said: "Next time I'll be more patient and let it firm up completely before digging in. Maybe."

Clearly I was not good to my word. Dammit, it was even meltier than last time! Check out this river of molten chocolate!

Chocolate fudge cake

Next time, I promise I'll make it the night before and let it firm up properly in the fridge overnight before slicing it. Maybe.

Luckily no-one was complaining, haha.

Chocolate fudge cake

Melty, melty goodness

Two-textured cake

Shiraz-braised Beef Short Rib
An original recipe by Sarah Cooks

1.5 kg beef short rib
1/2 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, finely sliced
2 sticks of celery, chopped into small squares
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into small squares
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
250 millilitres beef stock
750 millilitres Shiraz wine
2 stalks thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon porcini powder

Dust the beef ribs in the flour. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat half the olive oil in a large saucepan (or in a pressure cooker). In batches, brown the beef ribs on all sides, allowing them to get nice and brown. Set aside.
Add the remaining oil to the saucepan, followed by the shallots, celery and carrots. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the shallots are softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.
Place the vegetable mixture in the base of a pressure cooker. Arrange the browned beef ribs on top. Pour over the stock and Shiraz. Add the thyme and bay leaves. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes.
Remove the beef ribs with a slotted spoon to a serving dish and keep warm under a tent of foil. Cook the sauce over a high heat, boiling until reduced by half. Add the brown sugar, porcini powder and salt to taste, stirring and cooking until dissolved.
Pour the hot sauce over the beef ribs to serve.
Serves 6

Petits pois à la Française 
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Feast

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot
500 grams frozen baby peas
1/2 cup chicken stock

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Finely slice the shallots and add to the pan, stirring occasionally, until softened. Tip in the peas and stir to coat in the oil and shallots. Add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the peas are cooked through and are piping hot.
Serves 6 as an accompaniment

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  1. I cannot even express in words how much I want to spoon peanut butter directly into that molten chocolate cake core so that it slithers around all gooey Reese's Cup-like.

  2. I'm dying to try that cake recipe-what a clever idea baking it in two parts too! :D

  3. I think that's possibly a better result for the cake anyway - how can you beat melty gooey chocolate cake?

  4. That cake is perfect for chocolate fondants, so ooooozily decadent!

  5. Whoah who'd complain about a molten river of chocolate gushing forth! A job well done I'd say!



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