Kare kare is a rich, peanut-buttery braised oxtail and beef stew that has a beautiful marigold colouring and is filled to the brim with tender, fall-apart meat and vegetables like eggplant and snake beans. Just like with pork or chicken adobo, the best thing about this slow-cooked Filipino dish is that it just gets better the day after, since the flavours really melt into each other.
1kg (2 lb 3 oz) beef osso bucco (beef shanks)
sea salt and ground black pepper, to season
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1½ tbsp annatto seeds*
2 brown onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5 litres (1.6 qt) beef stock
2 tbsp sticky rice (also called glutinous rice)
1 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
4 medium-sized Japanese eggplant
¼ cup smooth peanut butter
250g (9 oz) snake or green beans, cut into 5cm (2”) pieces
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
steamed rice, to serve
Season pieces of osso bucco all over with salt and pepper. Place vegetable oil into a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the seasoned osso bucco. Cook for 3 minutes until brown on the one side, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes until the other side has coloured too. Transfer beef to the pot of a slow cooker.
Reduce heat to medium and saute annatto seeds for 1-2 minutes until the excess oil becomes red. Now remove and discard the annatto seeds, leaving the remaining oil behind. Add in the onion and garlic, plus a good pinch of salt, and saute for a further 2 minutes until tender and translucent. Add 1 cup of beef stock to deglaze the pan and, using a wooden spatula, gently scrape off any bits from the bottom of the pan – they’re full of flavour! Transfer liquid and softened onions to the slow cooker.
Place a small frying pan over high heat and add the sticky rice. Keeping a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn, gently toast the rice until it’s a deep golden colour. Transfer to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a fine powder.
Turn the slow cooker on high heat. Add the ground rice to the slow cooker followed by the peanuts, eggplant, peanut butter and the remaining beef stock. Give everything a gentle mix to incorporate the peanut butter into the liquid. Then cover the stew with a lid and leave to do its thing for 3 hours, or until the meat is falling off the bone. (If your slow cooker doesn’t have a high setting, you can put it on low for 6 hours.)
After the first cook is complete, open the lid of the slow cooker and add in the beans. Season the stew with the vinegar, fish sauce and brown sugar. Give everything a good mix around to make sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated, then place the lid back on and cook for a further 20 minutes until the beans are tender. Serve with steamed rice.
– Annatto seeds come from the anchiote tree and are used to impart a bright red/orange colour to foods. Search them out at an Asian grocery store or online.