Pomelo are back in season at the moment. I spied them at the market the other day, presented as they often are unnecessarily swaddled in both cling film and orange net - I've never quite understood this. If you've ever prepared a pomelo, you'll know that it has a very thick, spongy rind, which is surely enough to protect it from almost anything without the need for cling film and a net. It also makes the fruit a little daunting to prepare. You need a sharp knife to quarter the fruit lengthways, and then strong hands to prise the thick white membrane away from the firm flesh within. The reward, though, is in the eating of this deliciously refreshing fruit, firmer and milder than a grapefruit, with a grassy citrus zing and a subtle perfume about it. I like to experiment, but I always fall back on this winner of a recipe.
I first made this Ottolenghi pomelo salad a couple of years ago, and it reappears in the kitchen whenever I can get my hands on the fruit. It's a perfect blend of textures and flavours, unbelievably refreshing and nourishing, and works well with so many other Asian recipes. Chunks of pomelo soak in a mixture of rice vinegar, ginger, star anise, chilli and orange blossom water (I omit the cinnamon as I don't think it needs it) for a while, before you mix them with shredded underripe mango (for crunch and a little hint of sour), shallots, salad leaves, toasted peanuts, a little sesame oil and lime juice, fresh mint and coriander. It is deliciously tangy, crunchy, sweet, spicy and sour - everything you want from south east Asian food. I am always surprised by how much of this I can eat; I frequently make the entire recipe, which should serve 4, and find myself piling well over half the bowl onto my plate.
As if this isn't enough of a feast, the other day I tried a Raymond Blanc recipe for slow-braised shin of beef with Asian flavours, which I'd salivated over on his TV show last year. I didn't have a three kilo piece of beef shin, obviously, as it was just for two of us, but I used two pieces of beef shin - the kind with the bone in that you'd usually use to make osso bucco.
Honestly, it was insane. It was the tenderest, sweetest, stickiest, richest, most delicious meat I've possibly ever eaten, with a hint of star anise from the five spice and a delicious treacly sauce rich with soy, miso, honey, chilli, garlic, kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) and mirin. I served it with rice to soak up all the luscious sauce, and the pomelo salad, which was a beautiful combination - you need something sweet and fresh to go with all that rich meat. Next time I'd probably just use stewing steak if I couldn't get any beef shin, and ensure I added more liquid to make up more sauce - oh the sauce.
You can probably see from the pictures how delectable it was. This, for me, is the best way to eat red meat: cooked until falling apart, in a sweet, spicy, hot, sticky sauce that soaks beautifully into a mound of fragrant, fluffy rice. Add some pomelo and you have a stunning - both visually and gastronomically - feast.
Slow-braised Asian beef shin (serves 2):
Adapted from Raymond Blanc's recipe, here.
- 2 pieces of beef shin, bone-in (around 700-800g)
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 15g ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
- 15ml dark soy sauce
- 15ml mirin
- 1 tsp clear honey
- 10g miso paste
- 10ml kecap manis
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
Pre-heat the oven to 150C. In a large lidded casserole dish, heat half the oil over a high heat then brown the beef on both sides. Set aside. Add the rest of the oil, then sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and five spice over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until softened and golden brown. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the lime leaves, and 200ml water. Bring to the boil, then return the beef to the pan. Cover and cook in the oven for 2.5 hours, turning the beef halfway through. When done, remove the beef and simmer the sauce in the pan with the lime leaves for a few minutes, until reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning - you might want a little sugar, or soy sauce. Serve the beef with the sauce poured over, some rice, and the pomelo salad.
For the pomelo salad, see Ottolenghi's recipe here.