A pot full of autumn


A pot full of autumn

ALETTA LINTVELT makes the easiest short ribs with a long sauce.


SOY sauce and balsamic vinegar has long been one of my favourite combinations when I'm preparing beef. I usually use it to marinate fillet before finishing it on the braai, but in a stew it does the job of the more usual red wine and Worcester sauce combination.

This recipe is a simply flavoured dish. If you eat alongside people who don’t like weird flavours or exotic flavour combinations but want ouma se kos, this will appeal to them. I find it is essential to my personal taste to douse my plate with copious amounts of lemon zest and a herbs. I particularly love the crunch and flavour of crisp fried curry leaves. You could easily use another herb suitable for frying such as lime leaf, rosemary or oreganum. Gremolata — a mixture of freshly chopped parsley, lemon zest and fresh garlic — is a classic that goes a long way to brightening up this dish.

To complemenent the dish, a garlicky mashed potato would be a good bet. Tinned butter bean mash with olive oil, garlic and parsley is my current favourite instant side — I would heat it for this dish. You could add chunks of carrot (at the beginning) or butternut (halfway) to the stew if you want more vegetables in it.

Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Adding a tin or two of chopped tomato to the pot at the start leads you to consider Italian pairings: chunks of fall-off-the-bone beef served on pappardelle or polenta with lashings of Parmesaan cheese. Slip anchovies and a cup of olives into the stew alongside a few sprigs of oregano and turn it into the perfect ragù.

These ribs are also fantastic with an Asian flavour profile. The only reason I don’t often opt to make them that way is because it requires a significant amount of sugar to get that real sticky glaze at the end. However, you can get quite close by following the recipe below and adding two big cinnamon sticks and about five whole anise seeds plus a big knob of ginger alongside the onions. If you have lemongrass available, add two well-bruised stalks as well.

Once the meat is tender, drain two cups of the cooking liquid and reduce is separately with four tablespoons of brown sugar until the sauce is thicker and stickier. (You can add up to half a cup of sugar if you are not scared.) Some chilli and a fresh hit of grated garlic and ginger is also welcome towards the end. Once the sweet sauce has thickened somewhat, add the ribs to it, toss and serve with loads of chopped spring onions, a squeeze of lime juice and some of the zest and sticky rice.

If you don’t want to go Asian but still want sticky ribs, follow the same method as decribed for the Asian ribs by adding brown sugar, cinnamon sticks and one chopped up red chilli to some of the pan juices and reduce it to a sweet, spicy finishing glaze to serve over the ribs. A shot or two of bourbon towards the ends gives it an unforgettable aroma.

In Mexico several years ago I had these ribs with chocolate and chilli added to finishing sauce. It was an incredible meal I’ll never forget and vastly different from the overly sweet cloying version we know in the West. Mole is a complex Mexican sauce in its own right, but I do love adding chocolate to beef stews for an extra layer of flavour. If done right it won’t taste like chocolate but simply more savoury. Start by adding a tablespoon of dark, unsweetened cacao powder or a few blocks of the darkest chocolate to the ribs at the end of the cooking time. I also add a tin of black beans, fresh chopped red chilli and a teaspoon of good-quality Spanish smoked paprika, or even better smoked chipotle chillies.

Beef short rib

You need to use a good quality balsamic and soy sauce for this dish. I add one cup of good-quality broth at the halfway mark or the end if I want to add more vegetables or just have more sauce.



  • 2kg beef short-rib
  • 1½ cups balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 1 cup broth
  • 250g brown mushrooms
  • 250g shallots or red onions
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled


1. Heat a Dutch oven and place the short rib fat side down in the pot. Once the fat has started to render and sputter, quickly sear it on all sides to a deep brown. Do this in two batches and keep the temperature high so the meat browns quickly and doesn’t steam.

2. Remove the meat and pour off the fat.

3. Cut the onions into eight slices and chop the mushrooms.

4. Place the meat back in the pot, add the garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and broth and bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms and onions.

5. Put on the lid and place in a pre-heated oven of 160°C for 2½ hours The meat should now be fall-off-the-bone tender. (Tip: when I made this dish we had load-shedding, which meant I had it in the oven at 160°C for only an hour. I’m happy to report it worked just fine — I simply kept the oven door shut and when I checked after another two hours it was perfectly tender.)

6. You can serve it immediately, but because it is a fatty cut I prefer to place it in the fridge for a couple of hours so the fat can solidify on top. Remove the white cap of fat and reheat gently.

7. Crisp curry leaves or oregano leaves by frying them in butter or oil. Crumble the fried herbs over a serving of the beef short rib and finish with a grating of lemon zest.


♦ VWB ♦

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION: Go to the bottom of this page to share your opinion. We look forward to hearing from you.

Speech Bubbles

To comment on this article, register (it's fast and free) or log in.

First read Vrye Weekblad's Comment Policy before commenting.