We were still unpacking from our trip to New Zealand when we got a last-minute invite to go to the beach for the weekend, from friends of ours who just bought a place on the coast a couple of hours’ drive from Canberra. Still recovering from all the fun we had in NZ, we debated a bit about whether to go. Cons included the hassle (renting a car, a longish drive), the accommodation (seriously spartan: as I mentioned, they just moved in), and the schedule (we had already made a number of other tentative plans for the weekend). Pros included getting to spend some quality time hanging out with friends, and to experience the beauties of the south coast, which we’ve been hearing about since we got here, but hadn’t yet managed to visit properly.
The pros list was shorter, but much more compelling, and we set off after an early lunch on Saturday afternoon. In view of the aforementioned minimalist furnishings, and the fact that technically it was our turn to host, I had offered to bring dinner. I figured I could count on a knife, a chopping board, and a working oven, but I brought pretty much everything else with me, and did as much ahead of time as I could. The unanticipated benefit of this was that not only didn’t I have to worry about what I might find at the end of my journey, I also was able to prepare and serve three courses with almost no work. Which meant that I got to have a relaxing Saturday night at the beach along with everyone else.
Slow cooker peposo notturno
Adapted from Heat by Bill Buford
This Italian recipe is, hands down, my all-time favorite beef stew. It’s intensely flavorful, requires almost no work on the part of the cook (you don’t even have to brown the meat!), and tastes noticeably better if you make it ahead of time. The name means “pepperiness by night,” so I have adapted this traditional recipe to modern (!) technology, and cook it overnight in my slow cooker. I took the finished stew down in a cooler; when dinnertime rolled around, I scooped off all the fat that had risen to the top, heated it through in the oven, and served it with potatoes with oil and oven-roasted Brussels sprouts.
2 kg/4 lbs stewing beef*
1 heaping Tbsp rock salt
2 heaping Tbsp black peppercorns
10-12 cloves garlic
1-2 bottles red wine
Turn slow cooker to high. Place beef in slow cooker and scatter salt over. Crush peppercorns coarsely and scatter over meat. Smash and peel cloves and tuck in amongst the pieces of meat. Pour enough red wine over to cover meat.
Leave slow cooker on high for 20-30 minutes, then turn to low and leave the meat to cook for 8-10 hours.
In the morning, turn off the slow cooker and allow the meat to cool for a bit, then remove to a container for refrigerating. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the volume of the liquid by one-half, then pour over the meat and refrigerate.
About an hour before desired serving time, remove congealed fat and gently reheat stew in the oven.
Serves 4 with leftovers.
* The original recipe suggests shin of beef. I’ve made this with that, with regular stewing beef, and, this last time, with the ossobuco cut, which was pretty spectacular.