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Farm to Fork: Beef with Apples, Tomatoes and Herbs

When people talk about knowing where our food comes from I think perhaps it's about a little more than that. Where it is from is important, but so is knowing what is in it, what isn't, how it is raised or grown, and who the folks are behind farming and ranching. All of these things help us better understand the food we buy, which ultimately makes us more knowledgeable, more confidant cooks.

Last week I made my second trip this summer to Saskatchewan. After last month's visit to this beautiful prairie province to learn about how lentils are grown, I had the opportunity this time with Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan to learn about several other crops as well as chicken farming and cattle ranching. As a city dweller, it is fascinating to me to stand there in those wide open spaces under that great big prairie sky and take it all in, just learn and listen to the stories being shared about the ingredients I buy all the time back home.

One of the stops our group of food writers and chefs made was to the vast lands of the Triple A Hereford Ranch in Moose Jaw. There in short grass country in the heart of the Missouri Coteau we heard from the Andrews family - Murray, Bridget and son Luke - about life raising cattle. They run 120 head of purebred Hereford cattle and 110 head of Hereford based commercial cattle. They pride themselves in having an exceptional herd with prize-winning genetics, and we know that healthy cattle go on to produce healthy, nutritious and delicious meat for our kitchens.

A concern we hear a lot about these days is hormones in beef. The Andrews' point out that there is no such thing as hormone-free beef since all animals produce natural hormones, regardless of how they are raised. Even plants have naturally-occurring hormones. Some beef farmers use Health Canada-approved hormones in their cattle to help them convert food into muscle more easily and quickly, which requires less feed and water and produces less waste. But, interestingly, tests show hormone levels in beef from cattle treated with hormones are virtually the same as beef from untreated cattle. Good to know.

Ultimately, the impression I was left with was that ranchers like the Andrews' want a healthy herd as much as I want safe beef. While only 2 per cent of Canadians are farmers, 100 per cent of us depend on the work of these businesses. So it's important to me as a home cook that farming be sustainable and profitable.

Being there on the ranch was incredibly inspiring. Now I know a little more about where beef comes from, what is in it and how it is raised. I also know that families like the Andrews' are working hard all over Saskatchewan and other Canadian provinces to give us the very best quality beef for our own families. In fact, 97 per cent of Canadian farms are family owned and operated.

At home in my west coast island kitchen, I wanted to prepare a dish that honours that quality. With ripe tomatoes and fresh herbs from my garden, plus a couple sweet apples, I turned a beef pot roast into a sumptuous and satisfying feast.

Get the simple recipe below...

Beef Roast with Apples, Tomatoes and Herbs
Makes 3 servings

A splash of olive oil
2 1/2 lb (1.125 kg) boneless beef pot roast
Salt and pepper to season
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
2 medium apples, cored and cut into thick wedges
1 1/2 lb (675 g) whole Campari or large cherry tomatoes (leave stems on if you wish)
A small handful of fresh sage
A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

Warm the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or braising pan. Add the beef, letting it sizzle on one side for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the beef over and continue browning 2 to 3 minutes a side until browned all over, seasoning once more with salt and pepper. Transfer the beef to a dinner plate and set aside. 

Turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary to the hot pan or Dutch oven. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until beginning to soften, stirring occasionally. Pour in the wine. Simmer for about 2 minutes, use a wooden spoon to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Clear a space in the middle of the pan by pushing the veggies aside. Transfer the beef back into this space. Surround the beef with the apples and tomatoes. Nestle the sage and thyme around the works. Cover and transfer to the oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

To serve, transfer the roast to a cutting board and cut into tender slices. Scoop the veggies and apples onto plates and top with the slices of beef. Spoon the cooking juices overtop.

How do you feel about the beef you buy? What is your favourite way to prepare it? Leave a comment and let's talk BEEF!