Slow-cooked Feather Steak with Balsamic

My copy of the first River Café Cookbook or River Café Blue as it’s known in my house, is one of my favourite possessions. It has a letter tucked inside from Rose (Gray), saying it’s one of the first off the press and what did I think of it. It’s sent with love from Rose and Ruthie. I love everything about it. The bold cover, the yellow end pages, David’s ( distinctive restaurant logo on the opening page, the simple yet stylish design, the photos and the recipes. I’ve pretty much cooked the book and one of my enduring favourites at this time of the year, is Slow-Cooked Lamb Shanks, cooked on a mound of sliced red onions with red wine and a seemingly vast amount of balsamic vinegar. Like so much RC food, the recipe is simple but stunning, the meat meltingly soft, flavours intense. This version uses feather blade beef steak, a big piece cut from this forequarter chuck muscle. It proved ideal for this treatment, 6 thick steaks cut to fit one of my large Le Crueset pans. The meat ends up almost black, dark and intensely flavoured, tender and luscious with a slop of rosemary-scented, winey, sweet onion. It cries out for mashed potato. This time it also got quickly boiled white cabbage tossed with butter, a hint of lemon and lashings of freshly grated nutmeg.

Serves 4
Prep: 35 min
Cook: 3 hours

6 x 2cm thick feather blade beef steaks cut from a large piece
flour for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil
6 red onions
2 x 10cm sprigs rosemary
4 garlic loves
175ml balsamic vinegar
300ml red wine
you will also need a large sheet of greaseproof paper

Dust the steaks with seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Brown the steaks over a medium-high flame in uncrowded batches in a spacious Le Crueset-type lidded pan that will be able to accommodate the steaks in a single layer. Transfer to a plate as you go. Meanwhile, halve, peel and finely slice the onions. Strip the rosemary spikes off the stalks and chop to dust (I bother to do this chopping since I got a spike stuck under an in-plant tooth; I won’t bore you with the detail but it was painful, expensive and difficult). Peel and chop the garlic. Reduce the heat and stir in the onions with a generous pinch salt, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, maybe longer, until wilted and juice. Stir in the garlic and rosemary and cook for another couple of minutes. Raise the heat, add vinegar and wine and stir vigorously scaping up from the bottom then reduce the heat and return the steaks, nudging up close together. Moisten a large sheet of moistened greaseproof paper and drape it over the food, pressing to touch the food, leaving an overhang that can be held in place with the lid. Trim excess. Heat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Cook in the oven for 2 – 2 ½ hours. For best results, leave overnight, reheat gently and serve with mash and whatever other veg you fancy.