This is a good meal to cook on a cold, wet day, because you can keep going indoors to check on it.

At breakfast time, crush some star anise, either in a pestle and mortar or with a rolling pin, (pieces will shoot all over the kitchen. Don’t worry, this is normal,) and break up some cinnamon, (there are two sorts of cinnamon; the thin, pale, rolled-up kind that sounds like a hedgehog in a pile of leaves, which is best for brief recipes like mulled wine or chicken jalfrezi; and the thick, clunky, brown, Gothic type called Dalchini which rings when it hits the side of the pan and is best for very slow-cooked recipes such as, ironically, Baked Hedgehog. It’s Dalchini you want for this recipe,) and add, with two bay-leaves*, to a pan half full of diced beef skirt or chuck.

Fry, stirring, until sealed, then cover with water. Add a teaspoon of muscovado sugar and  a few tamarind pods or a good squirt of tamarind extract. (This recipe is going to cook for twelve hours or more, which will break down all the vitamin molecules unless you add tamarind, which is a vitamin preservative. I don’t know how it works, but it does, and it sharpens up all the other spices as well.)

Bring to the boil, then set at the back of the stove to cook slowly or use a slow cooker on its lowest setting. The effect you are aiming for is what the prophet Zechariah calls a “seethe;” Think of it as a hot marinade rather than a slow boil. You should be able to see movement in the liquid without it breaking the surface.

At lunchtime, bring it back to the boil for a minute and add a couple of cloves and a small amount of chopped ginger, and chopped, crushed garlic to taste. Seethe all afternoon.

At teatime, add a chopped onion and bring back to the boil. Forty minutes before serving, add a diced swede. Thirty minutes before, add a couple of sliced carrots and a sliced parsnip. At serving minus ten, some diced winter squash. (Crown Prince is best, Turk’s Turban is very good but involves a lot of waste. Butternut is mundane but better than nothing.)

*In a long, slow stew like this it is better to use whole spices than powders because the flavour of powdered spices mutates whereas the flavour of whole spices deepens and matures but retains its integrity.

This is a meal well worth saying Grace over. Thank God for spices.


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