Note: since writing this first at the beginning of August, I've since tried it with a beautiful piece of topside of beef, and instead of using sugar I substituted with 3 tablespoons of Marula Jam by Ol Kerii and found that the results were just as scrumptious! So experiment!!
Arm Roast. Sounds really odd, right? I had literally never heard of it, until Nikki rang me and said "I've taken it out of the freezer and I'm not putting it back in, but I haven't got time to cook it so come and get it". This is the kind of challenge I love!
Google to the rescue and I was soon armed with the knowledge that arm roast is part of the chuck, and can be quite a tough cut. The pieces I got were long and not thick, with quite a bit of fat between them. Knowing that this cut can be tough, I decided that long and low was probably the way forward and promptly set about searching through my recipe books. A reliably indulgent cookery writer(ess) that I turn to for hearty, comforting meals is Nigella; hers are the classics with a little bit of added unctuousness, the kind you can dish up to a table full of cold, hungry people after a long day out shooting. Of course we aren't in Scotland but judging by the temperatures last month it was anyone's guess.
Nigella didn't fail me. I went for her beer braised beef, for which she demands shin of beef, another long and low kind of cut, and dark Belgian beer in the tradition of Carbonnade a la flamande. I ended up using Tusker Malt, which worked perfectly well in this instance. She adds at the end of her recipe "it is the shin of beef that makes this stew so sweetly succulent; by all means substitute regular stewing beef, if you must, but it will never cook to the melting softness of shin". Well, here's a note to Nigella: arm roast definitely does end up meltingly tender.
1 x 15ml tablespoons duck or goose fat, or oil of your choice - I used Pure Mountain Farm Oil, but Olerai Farm duck fat would be super amazing too!
250gms chopped up streaky bacon
4 chopped red onions
2 teaspoons of dried allspice
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1.5kg arm roast or topside of beef trimmed of some but not all fat, and cut into around 4cm cubes
50gms plain flour
625ml beef stock (I used a stock cube which was great, but fresh is best!)
4 teaspoons grainy mustard (I used Jars of Goodness Whiskey Mustard)
3 x 15ml tablespoons of dark brown sugar (use Homa Lime Brown Sugar or substitute with Marula Jam for a slightly different flavour).
625ml Tusker Malt
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, or 1/2 teaspoon pouring salt
good grinding of pepper
Optional: add mushrooms! Half a punnet should do.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Get out a large heavy bottomed casserole like a Le Creuset, put on a medium heat with the oil and add the bacon. Let them stir up a bit, and get crispy. Then add the chopped up onion, stirring them well so they incorporate fully with the bacon. Turn down the heat and cook for ten minutes or so, until the onions are lovely, sweet and soft. In the meantime, make the stock, add the mustard and sugar.
If using mushrooms, put them in at this point - either whole or sliced, and then stir the allspice and thyme into the onion and bacon mix. Next toss in the meat and stir it all up in the pan. Shake in the flour and mix it in before adding the stock mix, and shortly afterwards the beer.
Stir to mix it all together, and let it come up to boil. Then add the salt, a grind of pepper and the bay leaves before putting the lid on tight and placing in your hot oven for 3 hours. By now, it will be meltingly tender, and hard to resist! It's best enjoyed once cooled and then reheated, if you can possibly wait... otherwise, serve warm, with frites if you are Belgian and traditional, or you could try pappardelle, steaming hot mash or freshly cooked rice.