There is a cracking little butchers in central Bristol called "Source" (www.source-food.co.uk). If you haven't already found this hidden gem, go seek it out. Their meat counter is a great place to get some inspiration if you are stumped on what to cook. When I visited they had a whole beef shin in the display cabinet and Joe the butcher kindly laboured for a good 5 minutes sawing me off two cracking chops.
Shin of beef is a rarely used cut of meat but one that is great for stews and casseroles as the high proportion of connective tissue melts away during slow cooking yielding an unctuous gelatinous jus. The bone and the marrow make the resulting sauce richer still - a great winter warmer. It is also cracking value - my two chops weighed in at 650g and cost £4.
A classic Italian dish 'Osso Bucco' translates rather less romantically to 'bone with a hole'. More usually served with a risotto Milanese or wet polenta, I wanted something more recognisably British so I paired mine with mustard mash and cabbage. For two:
Two beef or veal shin chops weighing approx 350g each
1 small leek - well washed. Reserve a couple of the dark green outside leaves.
1 small onion, peeled
2 sticks of celery - well washed
1 medium carrot - peeled
200ml dry white wine
200ml beef stock, or water if you have none
A few shakes of Worcestershire sauce
Fresh thyme - 2 bushy sprigs
Rosemary - 1 medium sprig
Bay - 2 leaves
Garlic - 3 cloves, peeled
Olive oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely chop the leek, celery, carrot and onion. Season and brown the chops on both sides in a heavy frying pan in a little olive oil. Transfer to the bowl of a slow cooker or a casserole dish. Toss the chopped vegetables into the same frying pan with a little more oil and fry over a medium high heat until they start to soften and brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine, Worcestershire sauce, the beef stock or water and another generous seasoning of salt and pepper. Tip the vegetables and gravy into the same bowl as the meat.
Make a bouquet garni by wrapping the herbs and garlic cloves in the reserved leek leaves and tying up with string - see the inset photo for guidance. Add this to the pot and cook in the slow cooker or in an oven at 140c for 3 to 4 hours until the meat is very tender but still just clinging to the bone. You may find that after an hour of cooking the chops are all bent out of shape. The outside skin of the chop tightens during cooking and distorts the nice flat shape. You can either ignore this and allow the cooking time to breakdown the offending band of skin, or remove the meat and trim off the perimeter - your call.
At the end of the cooking time remove the bouquet garni and skim as much fat from the surface of the stock as you can. Remove the meat from the cooking vessel and tip the remaining juice and vegetables into a shallow pan. On the stove, reduce the stock by half to intensify the flavour then check the seasoning. Serve up with a buttery mash enlivened with the mustard of your choice (I used Tewkesbury mustard which is a blend of hot mustard and horseradish), and steamed Hispi cabbage.
A little foot note here: If you have overcooked your beef and it is falling apart - panic not. It is much better to have melting tender beef and poor presentation than tough beef, pretty as a picture. Just try and arrange the lumps of meat around the bone as best you can and have faith that the depth of flavour alone will wow your guests!