With this being the season of hearty home cooking, Hans suggested I get in touch and offer my answers to our customers’ most frequently asked questions about braising. So here goes…
What exactly is braising?
Braising is simply cooking meat (or certain vegetables) by searing first, then adding liquid, covering and cooking at a low temperature. The term covers everything from casseroles to pot roasts, and many other things in between.
What’s the best liquid to braise in?
Stock and wine are both good. Keep the stock the same type as the meat you’re using, if possible, or use a lighter stock such as vegetable or chicken as a base. Don’t use beef stock for a pale meat – it will drown out the natural flavour. Either colour of wine can be used with any meat – it just depends on the final flavours you want to achieve. Also try cider with pork or lamb, and beer or stout with lamb, beef or venison. Water can be used if you must, but the final flavour won’t be as deep.
Should I add anything else?
It’s entirely up to you. Frying up some onions, garlic, and root veg of your choice before simmering usually works well. You may wish to add aromatics such as bay, thyme, rosemary or juniper berries. Cream, mustard, port, crushed peppercorns and my own personal favourite, rowan jelly, are all things I’ve added to braised dishes – and no-one has complained yet!
How do you know when a casserole is ready?
Stick a fork in the meat – it should slide back out easily, or gently pull apart. If the liquid isn’t as thick as you’d like it at this point, fish out the meat and thicken up the rest by bubbling it on the hob, adding a little cornflour for extra thickness if you like.
Can you overcook a stew?
No – as long as there is plenty liquid still in it, the meat shouldn’t dry out, but it may start to fall apart if you leave it for a very long time. Vegetables may also start to disintegrate.
How should I reheat a casserole or stew?
You can do this in the oven, on the hob, or even in the microwave – just heat as much as you need at a time, be prepared to top up the sauce with a little stock, and cover it to make sure it doesn’t dry out. If you’re reheating it on the hob, be sure to give it a gentle stir from time to time, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
And there you have it. I hope this has been useful – why not test out what I’ve said on our wonderful humble cuts?