Friday, September 18, 2015

Beef Olives - Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Hospitality

They say you never stop learning about food, which is why I've just started a Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Hospitality at the tender age of 84.That and also because I need the paperwork. My plan is to get a job on the yachts cooking for people with too much money, and for that you need food qualifications, I'm told, not just kitchen experience.

Anyway, I've just finished the second week on the course, and I'm loving every second. Well, not every second, but it's going much better than I dared hope. My plan is to blog the recipes and techniques I'm learning each week, so I'll start with beef olives - a meal we knocked up for the training restaurant.

I'm not sure about the history of the dish, but according to the 18th century cookery writer Hannah Glasse there are references to "beef olives" in Scottish cooking as far back as the 16th century. This doesn't mean it's a Scottish dish. It shares just as much with the rouladen dishes that grace German cookery, as well as the zrazy dishes of Eastern Europe.

Of course, it'll be much older than any literary reference. I imagine cave men were rolling up slices of silverside mammoth and slowly cooking them with vegetables in hollowed out rocks way before anyone knew what an olive was. A far cry from the Rational combi ovens we're lucky enough to use in the training kitchen, but the principle is the same. Batter cheaper cuts of meat to make them tender, roll them up, and then cook for a long time until soft and full of flavour.

We were making a huge batch, using two large joints of topside of beef weighing around 3kg each. But just reduce the quantities accordingly if you're not cooking for a crowd.

6kg topside of beef
6 cups red wine
2kg sausagemeat
Salt, pepper
6 litres beef stock
6 large onions
12 carrots
12 sticks celery
12 cloves garlic
6 tbsps vegetable oil

It's much easier to slice the beef if it is still slightly frozen, or well chilled, as it will hold together better. Using a very sharp cook's knife, cut the beef into finger-wide slices. Take each piece and put between clingfilm and batter with a rolling pin until about a third of the width.

Take off the clingfilm, and season the beef with salt and pepper. Spread the meat with sausagemeat, a few milimetres thick. Then roll up into a tight sausage shape. Cover with clingfilm then roll on your board, holding each end of the clingfilm, until it is a compact cylinder shape. Repeat with each slice and chill in the fridge for an hour so they firm up.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion into brunoise. Peel the celery and carrots, quarter them lengthways and cut into paysanne - a sort of curved, triangular shape. Put three large roasting trays on the heat and pour 2tbps of oil into each one. Add the onions, garlic, carrot and celery and begin to brown. Stir regularly until they have some colour.

Unwrap the beef olives and tie each with butcher's string using three slipknots. Add the olives to the pan and turn over from time to time until they are evenly browned, then pour two cups of  red wine into each tray.

Cook off the wine for a few minutes, then add two litres of beef stock into each tray. Bring to a simmer, cover each tray with foil and put in a pre-heated oven at 180C for two hours.
Serve with mashed potato and seasonal veg.

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