Winter is synonymous with casseroles, and a braise is fast becoming the most fashionable way to cook meat. Of course, it’s obvious why. The best way to eat cheaper cuts, when the meat is meltingly tender and falling off the bone, this is proper rib-sticking food. There are a few rules when it comes to braising, and once you apply them, you will have a great result, every time.
You can’t just boil a lump of meat and expect it to taste good. Flavour water or stock with a mixture of vegetables. Always include a carrot, leek, onion and some garlic. If you have celery, chuck in a stick of that too. For beef, add a stalk of rosemary, some thyme and a bay leaf or two. Chicken will love lots of lovely thyme, and pork will take Asian flavours like cinnamon and star anise with abandon.
Don’t be boring with water. Think wine, beer, cider, cranberry juice – experiment with your braising liquid, and remember that you are making not one meal, but two – your cooking liquid will make the basis for a soup or noodle dish tomorrow.
Low and slow, every time. Do not rush a braise. It shouldn’t bubble too much, just one or two gentle bubbles bursting the surface is good. A slow cooker is brilliant for a braise, but equally, so is a well covered casserole dish and a low oven.