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Tuscan Seduction

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April 23, 2014 / Italian / By
Anna

One of the most delicious dishes I have eaten recently is Peposa, a Tuscan dish comprised principally of an inexpensive cut of beef, red wine and black pepper. I tried this dish for the first time last year when on holiday in Tuscany with family and friends celebrating someone's thirtieth birthday. We had rented a large townhouse with a pool in a small village near Sienna. The pool area was surrounded by electric fences to keep the wild boar out of the garden and, of course, the pool.

There were few businesses in the village, but, on request, the women who ran the local bar also made a fantastic panino with cheese and various meats. The Tuscan bread was delicious and much as it pains me to say, far nicer than the bread in the Umbrian village, Bevagna, where I live part of the year. The Umbrians gave up salting their bread hundreds of years ago to avoid paying Papal taxes and have continued to eat their bread salt free to this day. Several years exposure have made me tolerant of the taste, but I love to get my teeth into properly salted Tuscan bread when I can.

My introduction to Peposa was in a restaurant in yet another little village not far from Sienna. But I cannot recall its name. The restaurant had vast rooms in the cellars and there we set about eating with gusto. I ordered Peposa not knowing quite what to expect but I love pepper, so I was hoping for something good.

When the dish arrived, it was an intense dark red. And covered, I mean covered, in black peppercorns. I was initially dismayed by the quantity of pepper, but there was no need for concern. The spicy meat was meltingly delicious and not overly peppery. Of course, it is not advisable to eat all the pepper. The chef told me that it had been slow cooking all day in an earthenware casserole.

There and then I made up my mind to try cooking it and when I got back to Bevagna, I found I had a recipe in a Tuscan cookbook, but this recipe used tomato pulp rather than wine. I knew this was not what I had eaten, so the first time I cooked it, I used a combo of my own homegrown tomato passata and red wine. It was good, so good in fact that although a lot of recipes suggest the meat be cooked in wine only, I have continued to include passata. The traditional recipe calls for Chianti, but other red wines work well, too.

Peposa

1 kg of beef shin or other inexpensive cut with plenty of connective tissue

1 bottle of Chianti or as much of it as you are willing to spare.

5-6 cloves of garlic, more if you love garlic

300- 500 mils of passata or chopped, skinned tomatoes.

3 handfuls of black peppercorns or less if you are unsure

A little sage and rosemary (optional)

Salt to taste

Cut the meat into hearty chunks. Combine all ingredients. Cook on a gas ring set to the low setting. Stir occasionally or cook in a slow oven (around150) for at least four hours. Adjust liquids and seasoning to taste.

This is a great dish for the creative cook as there are few absolutes apart from the need to cook it in an earthenware dish, slowly. The longer and slower the better. The connective tissues melt and become deliciously sticky.

Serve on a slice of toasted Tuscan bread. If you can toast it on a wood fire, all the better. Enjoy with a glass of Chianti or a hearty red wine of your choice. Dinner for 4-6.

Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to take a photo. But here  you can find some photos and another version of the recipe. 

N/A

Country: Italy

Province/State: Toscana

City: Sienna

Address: N/A

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: N/A

Phone: N/A

Website:N/A

Price Guide:$$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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