Once you taste these – the meat is so soft and rich – you’ll be hooked, just as I am. The difficult thing about this dish is balance. You don’t want to end up with something that is basically salt and sweet; you also need a little freshness and a bit of heat too. This is why I don’t reduce the cooking juices until they’re thick – as that means the flavour intensifies – but instead I add cornflour as soon as I get the flavour I want. This needs a couple of vegetables on the side, as well as rice, or it’s too intense – it needs contrast.
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Four to six
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2kg beef short ribs
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 45g ginger, peeled and grated
- ¾ tbsp five spice powder
- Rind of 1 orange, removed in broad strips, plus half the zest of another, removed with a zester, and the juice of 2
- 150ml rice wine or dry sherry
- 175ml soy sauce
- 50ml rice vinegar
- 200g honey
- 2 tbsp Chinese chilli bean sauce (toban djan)
- 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 3 tsp cornflour
- 2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped on the diagonal
- Sesame seeds, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 160C/150C fan/gas mark 3.
- Heat the oil in a large casserole and brown the ribs on both sides, working in two batches. Season as you go.
- Remove the meat and put it into a large bowl. Pour off all but a tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the onion and cook over a medium heat until it is soft and golden. Add the garlic, ginger and five spice and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in the juice of 1½ oranges, the orange rind, rice wine, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, chilli bean sauce and hoisin sauce. Pour in 900ml water. Put the beef – and any juices that have come out of it – into the pan and bring everything to just under the boil.
- Turn the heat down, cover the pan and cook for 1½-2 hours, or until the beef is very tender and almost falling off the bone.
- Lift the beef out of the pot, cover and set aside. If you see any fat on top – though there won’t necessarily be much – skim it off or add a big handful of ice cubes to the pan. They will push the fat to the surface where you can lift it off.
- Boil the cooking juices until they reach a flavour you’re happy with. It doesn’t matter if you have too much, it’s the intensity that matters. Add the remaining orange juice to lift and freshen the dish. Mix the cornflour with a couple of tablespoons of water and stir this into the pan. Heat gently for about 4 minutes, so that the cornflour can cook out. If you’re not happy with the thickness just add more cornflour and water.
- Put the beef back in the pan and heat through. Scatter the orange zest, spring onions and sesame seeds on top. Serve with rice and plain vegetables – stir-fried pak choi is good.