I love food and cooking. In a similar way to tea, cooking is all about the alchemy of transforming natural ingredients into a physical and emotional experience and exactly like tea there are so many nuances in technique that lead to such varied results on the plate.
My sister and I are obsessed about taste and ever since I can remember our go to topic of conversation was food - either discussing food memories or planning what we would like to munch.
We have made videos about finding the perfect tea to pair with food such as cheese and chocolate but I thought that it was interesting to try to flip the question and try to make a dish which pairs perfectly with a tea.
This short rib recipe is really versatile and you can make all sorts of yummy dishes using the soft braised beef, from pasta to salads to sandwiches! This salad combination works gorgeously with Black Yunnan Tuo 98 so give it a try!
ORANGE AND PUERH SHORT RIBS
1.5kg (3.3 lbs) Beef short ribs (trimmed of excess fat and silverskin)
Big thumb of Ginger
Big bulb Fennel
3 cloves Garlic
3 Spring Onions
200g (0.4 lbs) Button Mushrooms
1 large Orange
Small bunch of Coriander
Black Yunnan Tuo 98 (or your favourite ripe PuErh)
Black Chinkiang Vinegar
Light Soy Sauce
Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Star Anise
50g (1.8 oz) Rock sugar (replace with any other sugar or honey if necessary)
- Dust the trimmed shortribs in salted cornflour and fry over medium high heat on all sides until the ribs are glistening, nutty brown. Set aside meat side down on an oven tray.
- Using a mandolin or knife, carefully shave half of the fennel bulb and save the green fronds for garnishing. Put in a bowl of ice cold of water with some of the celery leaves.
- Roughly chop the remaining half fennel, onions, celery, garlic and ginger. Fry over medium low heat so that they soften rather than brown. Add star anise, a generous sprinkling of sichuan peppercorns, a little salt, the rock sugar and the peel of the orange.
- Brew up about 1 litre (4 cups) of strong tea by adding 5 g of PuErh to 1 litre of boiling water and leaving for at least 5 minutes.
- Once the onions are soft, increase the heat and add about 250ml (about a cup) of Shaoxing wine and allow the alcohol to boil off (a minute or so). Follow with about 150ml (about 2/3 cup) of Black Chinkiang Vinegar, 150ml of Light Soy Sauce and the juice of the orange. Turn down the heat and allow to gently combine flavours for a minute.
- Strain the tea into the pan and turn off the heat. Pour the braising liquor over the Short Ribs pushing all the vegetables and spices into the liquor which should reach about half way up the meat but if not then add some more hot water.
- Cover very tightly with foil and place in an oven at 150 degrees (300 farenheit) for at least 3 hours.
- Take a heat safe and sterile jar (sterilise in boiling water). Fill up a quarter with rice wine vinegar and then up to three quarters with water. Empty this combination of water and vinegar into a saucepan. Add some chopped spring onions, a sprinkling of Black Peppercorns, a sprinkling of Sichuan Peppercorns and a large pinch of salt and bring to boil.
- Chop Button Mushrooms about 1cm thick and add to the pickling liquor. Turn down the heat to allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile you can chop up the Coriander stalks and add to the pickling jar. Throw the Coriander leaves into the bowl of cold water, shaved fennel and celery leaves.
- Fill the pickling jar with the mushrooms and spices and top up with the pickling liquor. Seal jar. Leave to go to room tempearature before refridgerating. This should ideally be made a couple of days before serving.
- After a few hours in the oven, check on the tenderness of the beef by prodding with a teaspoon. When it effortlessly glides into the meat then the ribs are cooked perfectly. Take them out of the oven and if you are preparing a day or so in advance then allow to cool and then refridgerate.
- When you are ready to serve, remove the meat from the braising liquor and take it off the bone removing the membrane holding the rib to the bone with a knife. Wrap the meat in foil and place in a low oven to heat through.
- Push braising liquor through a sieve into a saucepan using a spoon. Discard the vegetables which have done their job. If the braising liquor is solid and jellied then you can add some boiling water to loosen everything before straining. Try to remove any excess fat by skimming with a spoon.
- Place sauce over a medium heat and bring to the boil and then simmer and reduce until the sauce is a thick and rich consistency. Add salt, sugar and black vinegar to taste.
- Dry the fennel, celery and corander leaves using a strainer or salad spinner.
- Add a generous amount of the pickled mushrooms and a tablespoon of the pickling liquor. Add a small pinch of salt to season. Mix thoroughly.
- Remove meat from the oven and slice in generous 3 cm slices
- Place meat on plate and coat with the sauce allowing it to seep between the meat slices. Add a handful of the salad on the side and top the meat with the saved fennel fronds.
- MUNCH with some Gong Fu style Black Yunnan Tuo 98 or similar ripe PuErh.