With the cooling of the air it seems as if we will be having an early Autumn here this year. The leaves have already started to turn colour and part of me is sad to see the flowers of Summer disappear. However Autumn is my favourite season so the other part of me is glad. I was asked to write a Beef recipe recently and I thought it would be interesting to combine the scents of Summer with the warmer tones of Autumn to mark the changing of the seasons.
Whilst writing about Scented Geraniums, Gin, Ice Cream and Sparkling Comte de Laube I had spotted a news item on Jasmine flavoured Vodka and thought that Jasmine would be the perfect Summer scented ingredient to combine with my Beef recipe. The Jasmine HR Vodka by the way is made by Maison René Laclie (who were established in 1889) and is the result of cooperation between a Cognac producer and a young perfume designer. This is the first time a French vodka has been blended with Jasmine and it is said to be ideal with Champagne or in cocktails. Apparently the company plan to extend their range to include a Ylang Ylang flavoured vodka in the future. I must admit that the Jasmine Vodka appeals to me but a Ylang Ylang? I'm not so sure.
The French are known for their Jasmine Syrup, most commonly made from an extract of jasmine flowers and Monin is a famous producer. The syrup is used in drinks and cocktails as well as a flavouring in baking, desserts and marshmallows. However I was thinking of using Jasmine Rice in my Beef dish and was surprised to learn that Jasmine Rice does not have any Jasmine in it all.
I had thought that it was flavoured with Jasmine essence but is actually a rice named Hom Mali Rice and is native to Thailand. Grown only in a selected part of the north eastern region of Thailand, this rice is as white as the colour of the Jasmine flower and has the fragrant aroma of Pandan Leaves (which are widely used in Asian cuisine for their botanical and nutty taste). When cooked, Jasmine Rice has a subtle nutty sweetness in its flavour.
As Jasmine is the national flower of Tunisia and Damascus is known as the City of Jasmine I wanted to make a Middle Eastern dish. Beef and Runner Bean Stew is a popular family meal in Egypt, Syria and the Lebanon and the flavours will not overpower the aroma of the Jasmine Rice. Making this dish will also help me to use up the last of our Runner Beans, which despite the drought, are still tender and delicate!
Beef and Runner Bean Stew
1 kg stewing beef
1 kg fresh runner beans3 tbsp tomato purée
3 onions, chopped3 tbsp oilsalt and black pepperpinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
1 bag Jasmine Rice
Wash, string and cut the runner beans in half. If you don't have any runner beans you can use French beans instead. Fry the onions in oil in a large saucepan until golden. Add the meat and brown. Add the beans and fry very gently until slightly softened. Stir in the tomato purée. Cover with water, season with salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer gently for about 1 ½ hours until the sauce is quite thick. Add more water if necessary during the cooking time. Serve on a bed of Jasmine rice.
Before cooking the Jasmine Rice should be rinsed. I'd recommend steaming the Jasmine Rice - Thai cooks actually wrap bundles of rinsed rice grains in muslin and suspend them in a steamer so that the rice cooking by steaming, and never touches the water at all. If boiling it use 1 1/2 cups of water to 1 cup of Jasmine Rice.
Nick recommends a well balanced red wine to pair with this dish that will compliment the flavours. Chateau Peynaud 2006 is a cracking Bordeaux Superieur and has notes of cigar box spice, cassis, plum, red fruits and smoke. It is a medium bodied, rich and complex wine and can age for up to 10 years and will go well with all red meats, furred and feathered game, strong cheeses and nut based dishes as well as Indian vegetarian cuisine.