Monday, 23 November 2015

Rice and Flesh

A word of warning that this recipe is a cheats version (oooooh!!). As I'm currently short on time and financially incapable of buying copious amounts of ingredients for a rice dish please think of this as a 'whatever's in your cupboard' type of recipe, provided you have a decent store cupboard of course.

Rice and Flesh is commonly found on the tables of Dinner By Heston Blumenthal in Knightsbridge. A take on risotto Milanese with saffron rice flavoured with acidulated butter topped with braised calf's tail and red amaranth. Simple in terms of presentation and elements but this is Heston....

 The recipe asks you to make a beef stock which is reduced, a chicken bouillon, again reduced along with port and red wine with a selection of vegetables, herbs and star anise. All together this makes a red wine sauce while the actual calf's tail is sous-vide cooked for 8 hours. Given that I only had given myself three hours to do this dish I went for a classic braise.
Beef braise beginning

Sadly calf's tail was unavailable so I turned to find that had been made unavailable, so in the end I opted for a good quality beef braising steak. Browning the seasoned meat in olive oil and setting aside before roasting the vegetables and herbs in the pan was easy enough. De-glaze with port to reduce, add the red wine and reduce again before adding the beef back in along with a rich chicken stock and beef stock. Preheating the oven to 160C and braising for three hours left me in the hope of a similar result to the dish at Dinner.

Acidulated butter first stage

The acidulated butter is basically a buerre blanc sauce that's been solidified into hard butter form which should add acidity and richness to the final dish. Start by shredding shallots and add to a mixture of white wine (I used vermouth) and white wine vinegar then reduce this down until the liquid is syrupy and intense in flavour. Add diced butter, with the pan off the heat, whisking to emulsify the liquid. Leave for 20 minutes before sieving and voila! You are now the proud owner of acidulated butter, you clever person.
Butter complete!

After the butter has been made and the beef placed in the oven there's little else to do other than complete the risotto. Heston advises you to heat 30g of olive oil in a pan and fry the risotto rice until golden brown in colour. This step threw me a bit because I'd never heard of a risotto being made this way with toasted rice however once the other ingredients came into play this step made a lot more sense.

Saffron infusion

The risotto takes a traditional form now in terms of the cooking by ladling in the chicken bouillon (or chicken stock from cubes in my case, you cheating bastard) with around 50ml of the stock held back to be infused by a pinch of saffron giving the three quarters cooked rice its first hint of yellow.

Once the rice is at this stage you can easily let it cool, portion it and place it in the fridge wrapped in cling film which is a good idea if you plan to make this ahead of time. I left the rice to settle while preparing the mascarpone cheese, parmesan and acidulated butter to turn the rice into a creamy emulsion.

Risotto action

By this point though the rice was looking pale in colour, more like a risotto bianco. Add a large pinch of saffron at the end and the lovely yellow colour runs through the risotto leaving just enough time to let it relax while you prepare your braised beef into chunks and red amaranth.

The final plate

Its another winning dish from the boys at Dinner. Saffron is not one of my favourite things, especially when used in large quantities, but here it just works so well with the other flavours. The acidulated butter brings sharpness and balance to the dish along with the beef and amaranth together in one bite is delicious. Considering this was a cheats effort I'm pretty pleased with the results and hopefully this will help anyone reading this who fancies taking a few short cuts, it won't disappoint.  

My new blog is now at:


  1. Thank you for writing this interesting blog, I wouldn't consider buying calf or ox tail and I think it's something a lot of people would never have tried. The dish you made looked great tho, even tho it was a cheats version. I would like to trying cooking with ox tail sometime.

    Teri Harris @ Caiger And Co. Catering

    1. Thank you for those kind words! Oxtail can be a bit strong for a dish like this as they use calf tail in the restaurant, which is lighter. The beef though worked beautifully and is a great substitute. Very pleased that you like this blog and good luck with your cooking!