Beef, no olives in sight

Our local butcher makes a lovely Beef Olive, stuffed with Haggis instead of the more usual oatmeal stuffing. Mr L is very partial to these and so it was when I placed my pre-Christmas meat order at the Community Shop that I included two packs of these tasty items (one of which was previously consumed.)

Gill came round this morning to deliver me some fresh yeast (much appreciated!) and I mentioned that we are having the Beef Olives today. She had coincidentally just purchased some herself and asked me how I cook them. So this here post is for Gill. It’s not definitive – Beef Olives were formerly a matter of mystery to me and I have fumbled my own way through them. I believe many cooks simply wrap them in foil and bake them in the oven. Mr L however is particularly partial to a good gravy…

Straight from the best butcher in Orkney
Straight from the best butcher in Orkney

As mentioned, we are seeking a goodly amount of gravy here but experience has shown me that the haggis inside the olives  is likely to explode and soak up all the juice if allowed to sit in it, so I take a Pot Roast kind of approach and sit my olives on top of a bed of root veg. I also cook them in wine. The Appassimento wine that we love has turned out to be an ideal partner for Haggis, so we use it to cook these olives and also to wash them down. Leaving out the wine and adding beef stock instead would be every bit as valid. (I’d be tempted to chuck in some tomato purée with that.)

The basic requirements
The basic requirements

Dust the Beef Olives with seasoned flour

Rescue meat from cat, remove cat and banish from kitchen
Rescue meat from cat, remove cat and banish from kitchen

I cut my veg chunky because I am going to be slow-cooking this dish for some time

Chunky veg
Chunky veg

The first thing that I do is to fry the veg off. Use dripping to add meaty flavour if you don’t mind saturated fats, or a veg oil of your choice if you are health concious – I favour olive oil on well-behaved days.

I threw in some bay leaves and a little garlic, with salt and pepper and a few crushed juniper berries
I threw in some bay leaves and a little garlic, with salt and pepper and a few crushed juniper berries

The Juniper Berries are in there just because I had some at hand. It’s a new departure but I figure they cannot hurt.

If you have the patience you can brown the veg slightly for visual appeal but the main point is to get everything nice and hot before it goes into a slow oven. Once hot, drain the veg and add them to the bottom of an oven-proof casserole dish (or your electric slow cooker – before we had the Aga I used a slow cooker for this and it worked beautifully.)

Now seal the meat

Brown the olives on all sides in the remaining hot fat or oil
Brown the olives on all sides in the remaining hot fat or oil

Sit the browned olives on top of the vegetables in the casserole dish or slow cooker.

Drain off the fat if you are being healthy or make a roux with the remaining seasoned flour if you don’t give a jot (and like a thickened gravy). Deglaze the pan with a healthy slug of red  wine (or beef stock).

Just get t hot, there is no need to boil off the alcohol as it will naturally evaporate during the slow-cooking process
Just get it hot, there is no need to boil off the alcohol as it will naturally evaporate during the slow-cooking process

Pour the gravy into the casserole dish, making sure it does not come up too far. You would not believe  how exponentially the haggis can expand when induced to and just how unappetising the resulting stodgy mess can be!

I added some sprigs of Thyme, a traditional ingredient of haggis.
I added some sprigs of Thyme, a traditional ingredient of haggis.

Bring up just to simmering point on the hob , clap the lid on and set the casserole in a slow oven.

How slow? Now, there’s a thing – I don’t know. I am still experimenting. I gave them 4 hours at an estimated 120 degrees C last time and found them to be a little dry when eaten. In an electric slow cooker they remained far more moist with 4 hours cooking time. Today I plan to try 130°C for two hours… or until I stick a knife in and find them tender and the vegetables cooked. I have a temperature sensor to check that they are heated through, should I have any wobbles concerning whether or not they are done through.

This chart from Wikipedia may help temperature decision-making

Table of equivalent oven temperatures
Description °F °C
Cool oven 200°F 90°C
Very Slow oven 250°F 120°C
Slow oven 300–325°F 150–160°C
Moderately Slow 325–350°F 160–180°C
Moderate oven 350–375°F 180–190°C
Moderately Hot 375–400°F 190–200°C
Hot oven 400–450°F 200–230°C
Very Hot oven 450–500°F 230–260°C
Fast oven 450–500°F 230–260°C

How to serve?

In some way that makes the most of that lovely gravy, of course. Creamy mashed potatoes are best, and I like a nice green veg on the side.  Broccoli is good. Today I have some parsnip left over from the casserole preparation so I’ll be doing a parsnip and potato mash. I found no nice green veg at the shops this week; Mr L will be delighted therefore to be allowed some petits pois with his diner tonight.

I usually serve some of the root veg from the casserole on the plate, blending the remainder into the gravy in the pan with a hand-held stick blender to thicken and give body to the sauce.

Do not forget to taste and adjust seasoning if required before serving, though it should need little if any addition at that stage.

Pretty? No. Fine Dining? Definitely not. Bloomin' tasty? Oh, yes!
Pretty? No. Fine Dining? Definitely not. Bloomin’ tasty? Oh, yes!

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One Comment

  1. spinninggill
    January 15, 2016
    Reply

    Beth – thank you for that.. I hope the resulting meal was as delicious as it sounds. 🙂

    I might even dust off my little slow cooker to cook mine in (when I do them).

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