Homemade Beef Stock, Confit of Cepes, and a 3 Course Meal.

A couple of nights ago, I felt the need to make something special. A trip to my butcher, Al-Samrah [56 Mohammed Hassanein Heikal Street, Tel# 02-26719577] always makes me smile, since the gentlemen there are always patient with my micromanagement, and are familiar with the names of the different cuts of beef according to US, British and French conventions in English. I walked out with 2Kg of brisket, some shin bones for roasting and two 250gm Contre-Filet steaks, cut deliciously thick at 1 inch each. I asked the butcher to separate out the brisket into chunks, reserving the meaty chunks for a mince, and leaving enough chunks with the bone and fat attached to add to the shinbones for the Beef Stock I was already making in my mind.

As ever, new ideas and meals started coming to me while making the beef stock; at home, I had some fresh button mushrooms, strawberries, dark chocolate, Frozen Jumbo shrimp, and an Avocado. Right off the bat, I remembered a recipe I saw in Gordon Ramsay’s “A Chef for all seasons”; but more on that later.

The plan was simple: I’d Slow roast the shinbones and brisket chunks in the oven for a couple of hours, then add chopped celery, carrots and onions, and roast for another hour until everything was nicely roasted and caramelized. I deglazed with water, and tipped everything into the biggest pot I could find, and covered with some more water. A bouquet garni of Rosemary, thyme, Bay Leaf and Green Peppercorns went in, and the entire cauldron was left to simmer over a medium heat for another couple of hours. I checked on it periodically, both to smell the wonderful aroma, and to skim off the impurities and scum that formed on the surface. This makes sure the stock doesn’t get cloudy.

All in all, it was a good 3 hours of prepping, roasting and waiting. The waiting was killing me, but in the end, it was worth it. I picked out and discarded the larger solids from the stock, then ran it through a coarse sieve lined with muslin to remove some of the smaller bits. As the stock cooled, a thick layer of rendered beef and bone marrow fat formed on the top. Then it hit me: this fat has as much flavor as the stock beneath it, so I removed it, and kept it in the fridge; destined to be used for divinely roasted potatos and for a confit of Mushrooms (adapted from the recipe I found in Gordon Ramsay’s Book).

The confit of the mushrooms was easy; after cleaning the mushrooms, they were briefly sautéed with thinly sliced spring onions in a little salt and butter, then put in a small pot of the heated rendered stock fat on low heat for half an hour. The mushrooms were then removed from the fat, and put in a sealed jar until I need them.

Inspired by the ingredients I had in my kitchen, a three course meal had formed in my mind:

Appetizer: Shrimp and Avocado Salad, with Thai Chili Tomatoes, and a lemon and sour cream dressing, finished with truffle oil.

Main: Contre-Filet topped with a Roasted Red Pepper, Sour Cream and Chive Pomme Puree, and Sautéed Carrot Sticks and Mushrooms, served with dark beef gravy.

Dessert: Strawberry and Dark Chocolate in a lemon short crust tart, topped with toasted meringue.

The recipes for these will come in separate posts; but the verdict was that they were all a resounding success, with a few self-criticisms:

–          The Avocado I bought was not ripe, so the texture of the diced avocado was a bit hard, and had a bitter taste to it that threatened to ruin everything else. Other than that, the salad was light and cool, and set up the next course beautifully by whetting my appetite.

–          As I was reducing the gravy I tipped the sautéed mushrooms and carrots into the jus. This overcooked the carrot, so I didn’t get any texture from it, and the flavor of the carrot was markedly diminished. The Mushrooms, too, suffered from this mistake, and while they didn’t taste bad at all; they sponged up a lot of the gravy, and their mushroom flavor was lost.

–          When I make pomme puree, I boil the potato in chicken stock, then use the remaining thickened liquid as a base for the gravy. The starch in the stock acts as a natural thickening agent for the gravy, and saves me from adding cornstarch or flour, and keeps it light. But, since I was using Bouillon cubes, the stock is on the salty side, and this saltiness was transferred to my gravy. Next time I’ll have to make my own unsalted stock. A nifty trick to cure salty sauces is to add a slice of raw potato, and let it soak up all the excess salt in the liquid by osmosis. This would throw my timing off considerably, though, and doesn’t seem like a viable option for the future.

I wish I had taken pictures, but sadly, I did not. If I do make it soon, I’ll update this post with images of my handiwork.

Preparation time 3 hours

Cooking time 2 hours


About Wesam E Masoud
Chef Patron of @chefsmarketmasr, Host of @CBCSofra's #matbakh101. I have one degree in Medicine & 3rd degree burns from cooking.

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