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Given my way, I could easily eat chillies every day, so this book could have been written just for me. But while I am always happy to crank up the heat, not everyone is quite so fond of the fiery, and it is worth noting the subtitle: recipes to warm the heart (not burn the tongue); in other words, this is the perfect book to get if you are slightly hesitant about cooking with, or eating, chillies, and the perfect treat for those of us who want to find ever-more excuses to do so. It is also an excellent guide to the types of chillies, how to use them, and what may be substituted for them should they prove unavailable. (And to avoid that being necessary, there is also a helpful list of online sources). I've chosen the shin of beef with pasilla chilli, rosemary and prunes quite simply because I cannot wait to eat it!


Shin Of Beef With Pasilla Chilli, Rosemary and Prunes

© Thomasina Miers. Recipe taken from Chilli Notes by Thomasina Miers (Hodder & Stoughton £25)

This recipe is for dark, wintery weekends when warming yourself with cooking seems the only way forward. I like to make it on Saturday morning and then let it sit somewhere cool overnight so that the flavours have time to develop. The fruity, raisin-like flavours of the pasilla chilli go well with the prunes and add real depth to the beef shin. If you can’t find pasilla use a touch of cayenne instead. I like to make lots as it’s so easy and keeps brilliantly in the freezer so double the recipe if you like.

Feeds 8

1.2kg beef shin (or other stewing cut), cut into 3 or 4 large chunks
25g pasilla chillies, de-stemmed, de-seeded and torn into 3–4 pieces each
1 chile de árbol
3 tbsp vegetable oil
200g pancetta lardons
400g shallots, peeled and quartered
½ head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
200g chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
60ml sherry vinegar
½ bottle red wine
190g prunes, stoned and chopped
400ml beef stock
3 sprigs of rosemary

Preheat the oven to 130°C/250°F/gas ½. Season the beef chunks well with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat
and when hot add the chillies. Toast for a minute or two until they start smelling aromatic but take care not to burn or they will taste bitter. Remove from the pan and soak the chillies in just enough boiling water to cover.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in the bottom of a heavy-based casserole dish over a medium high heat and fry the lardons in 2 batches until browned and crispy. Set aside in a large bowl, turn the heat down a touch and add the shallots and garlic, seasoning well, and frying them in the fat of the lardons in 2 batches until soft and a little coloured. Remove from the pan and add to the bowl with the lardons.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan, turn the heat right up and fry the mushrooms for about 10 minutes until any moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated and they have turned golden. Set aside on a plate for later.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and fry the pieces of beef over the high flame until browned all over. Now pour in the vinegar and wine, letting them bubble and de-glaze the pan (if your pan is black and burnt from browning the beef, wipe it out with a clean dishcloth first) before returning the pancetta, shallots and garlic to the pan, along with the prunes, stock and rosemary. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 4 hours or until the beef is soft and falling apart.

Just before you serve the stew, add the mushrooms, stir, and allow the stew to bubble a little over a medium-low heat. Serve with the Spanish style mashed potato on page 184, the sweet potato or the polenta (pages 185 and 187) and a green vegetable.

Tip – Browning the beef shin in a few large pieces instead of lots of small chunks will take a fraction of the time. If you can’t get shin, by all means use another stewing cut, but shin has brilliant depth of flavour.