As the winter chill approaches……….
It is difficult to not write about food at the moment even though it was not my intention for this blog to be just about food.
Autumn is such a beautiful month in Tuscany and apart from the beauty of the changing colours on the trees and vinyards, everyone is also talking about the abundance of Porcini mushrooms this season due to the heavy rainfalls and high humidity, roasting & boiling chestnuts, making castagnaccio and chestnut fritters from the chestnut flour, new season wine and also picking olives for the yearly supply of olive oil. I have been volunteering my services to all those I know with olive groves so within the next few weeks I will be picking my own olives and taking them to the frantoio to be made into olive oil.
I have also started cooking more wintery dishes as I begin to crave warmer comfort foods with the onset of Winter. Last week I made a beef pepper stew for the first time.
Here in Florence, it is historically known as Peposo and, as many other Tuscan dishes, was a poor peasant meal. It is traditionally from the town of Impruneta where the huge kilns were located that were used to fire terracotta vases and the thousands of tiles that now sit on the famous dome or Cupola of Brunelleschi.
After many hours of heavy and tiring work, the artisans would use the same fire from the kilns to cook their meals. The Peposo was cooked in terracotta dishes at the mouth of the kiln and would take up to six to eight hours before it was ready. The muscled cuts of meat are used so the lengthy cooking time is necessary to break down the muscle fibres and render the meat soft and tender. Many spices and pepper were used to add flavor to the meat which was often tough and with minimal flavor.
Another story says that Peposo was created by the soldiers who would travel great distances carrying with them their supplies and food. As the poorer, muscled, older cuts of meat were used, a lot of pepper was added (and any other herb and spice available at the time) to disguise the taste of any old and foul tasting meat.
I bought the shoulder cut of beef and cooked it for 5 hours, adding liquid (water and wine) to cover the meat as it reduced.
You can use a can of peeled tomatoes but I didn’t have one so used fresh tomatoes and boiled them for about a minute so that I could remove the skins.
So for the recipe, you will need :
- Shoulder of beef (or any other muscle cut)
- Peeled tomatoes
- Red wine
- 1 tablespoon of Black Peppercorns
- Ground Pepper and salt.
Slice the meat into large chunks (it will shrink and fall apart so don’t cut the pieces too small)
Place in a dish with the peppercorns, smashed garlic cloves, tomatoes and about a cup of red wine, Chianti preferably. Add water to cover the meat and bring to the boil. Once boiling bring the temperature down to a simmer and stir occasionally over the next few hours. Leave the lid of the saucepan slightly open and remove completely for the last hour of cooking. Use your eye and add more liquid if necessary. Ensure the meat is always covered until it starts to break down.