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Aromatic Chinese-style beef stew

When I unwrapped the box of meat that local butcher Pimlotts sent me yesterday and saw some beautiful shin of beef I knew I wanted to do something a bit different with it. In the days before Well Worn Whisk, I would have made a delicious, but fairly predictable beef stew with a slow cooking cut like this. But nowadays I try to push myself and be a bit more imaginative. After all, I have readers to try and inspire now! ; ) I considered a pie, but only last week I created a wonderful chorizo, beef and Rioja pie recipe, which was just fab – I almost cried when I realised that all the lovely pictures I had taken were on a camera with no memory card in! It’s too soon to relive the painful memories and make another pie. (I must make it again sometime though and post.) So, pies and plain old stews are out. Hmmm…

What about a Chinese dish? Adam, who insisted on helping as he hadn’t cooked anything for ages, did a bit of digging online. By combining elements from one or two recipes we found with bits we remembered from a Rick Stein recipe we’d seen on TV, we created this. I’m so glad we plumped for something a bit more adventurous. After a simple bit of prep, browning, and slow cooking, we were rewarded with the most meltingly tender beef, covered in a dark, unctuous, glossy, almost bitter sauce. So many layers of flavour! And it smells great too, all sweet, warm, spicy and welcoming. Just perfect to come to home to after a walk on a cold weekend afternoon.

Served with simple rice and steamed broccoli, it beats a greasy takeaway on a Saturday night. As this is one of those dishes that would be even better made a day in advance, it’s just perfect as an entertaining recipe too. Our toddler loved it, but if your serving just for adults I say ramp up the chilli big time. If serving for kids too then hold back on the chilli as we did, and serve fresh chillies on top for those who like it.

To make enough for four people: 
900g of shin of beef, or thereabouts, cut into large bite size pieces
2 tablespoons of flour
200g (large bunch) of spring onions, sliced thinly into matchsticks
2 thumbs’ worth of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
3 star anise
10 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
750ml of beef stock (make very weak if it’s not home made, as shop bought stocks are so salty)
2 heaped teaspoons of brown sugar
Peel of 2 oranges, juice of 1
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 a large chilli (more to taste if just adults are eating!)
1 teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice
3 tablespoons rice wine (or dry sherry if you don’t have this)
3 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon of runny honey
1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil
Black pepper
Sunflower oil

  • Preheat oven to 150C. Trim any large bits of fat from your beef, cut into bite sized pieces and dust in flour. 
  • Heat your sunflower oil to fairly high. Fry off your beef in batches; don’t overcrowd the pan. Take your time! After all the pieces are browned, set aside your beef. 
  • Now turn down your heat a little. Fry off your ginger, chilli, and 3/4 of your spring onions (set some aside for serving on top of the finished dish) for a few minutes. 
  • Add your sugar, cinnamon, star anise, 5 spice, orange peel to the dish and put your meat back in too. 
  • Now the liquid. Make up your stock (please be careful with shop bought, I would advise diluting it by 1/4 because the soy makes this dish salty). Then pour your soy, rice wine, and squeeze the orange juice in also. 
  • Give it a good stir and pop in the oven for 2 hours. Stir half way through. 
  • When 2 hours are up, add your honey, a good grinding of black pepper, and a tiny amount (1/4 of a teaspoon) of sesame oil. Taste and maybe add more honey or pepper. 
  • Serve with sliced chillis and the remaining sliced spring onions, alongside some plain rice and  steamed broccoli. Or Pok Choi would be great too. 


  1. March 17, 2013 / 7:46 pm

    This looks so good, I have bookmarked it and will give it a go in the old trusty slow cooker I think! A great twist on stew… 🙂

  2. March 17, 2013 / 9:19 pm

    Thanks Anneli. It's definitely a household favourite now… couldn't believe how well it turned out as we really made it up as we were going along. Rachel

  3. Ann Kerr
    December 11, 2016 / 9:59 am

    I had some beef that needed using and was thinking of Rendang. Then I turned to you for a recipe and found this. I had to improvise here and there but it was very tasty and I will definitely make it again. As you say the good to make something a bit different. Thank you.

    • Rachel Brady
      December 12, 2016 / 1:48 pm

      It’s lovely isn’t it? Really unusual but very nice for a festive slow cook dish! Thanks for the comment! Rachel X

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