From a basic recipe for braised beef, Nadia Lim creates tacos and a pasta dish that are delicious, lean, healthy and couldn’t be easier.

Slow cooking is very forgiving — it’s hard to get it wrong, so even non-cooks can produce great results. The best ingredients for slow cooking are often the most economical — cheaper cuts of meat such as chuck, shoulder, brisket, blade, shin, etc produce the best results.

The common carrot, celery and onion are all the vegetables you need, and inexpensive legumes (chickpeas, beans and lentils) are a great way to bulk out the meal and make it go further. Then you just need some stock and, if you like, some wine or beer.

Technique-wise, it couldn’t be simpler. Place meat, vegetables, herbs and liquid in a slow cooker or casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid (to make sure all the moisture is kept inside), cover and leave to its own devices — no babysitting required.

After a few hours at a low (150-160C) temperature, the connective tissue in the meat breaks down, producing soft tender meat that shreds or breaks apart easily. I used to think you needed to brown your meat first before adding it to a stew, but I can confidently say after many comparisons of using browned versus not- browned meat, that it doesn’t make a difference. So save yourself the time and just add it in raw.

Slow-cooked pulled chipotle beef

I like using brisket for this recipe as it “pulls” apart really well due to its long muscle fibres. However using any other cheaper cut of beef is fine too, blade, chuck, shin etc. You can also use other types of meat — pork shoulder (a very cheap cut) is terrific, especially for tacos. This recipe is so easy you won’t believe how good the end result is for so little effort. And this basic recipe can be used to create a few different dishes over a few days, turning a slow-cooked meal into a quick one for a mid-week dinner. Serves 4-6

800g-1kg lean beef brisket
330ml dark beer
1 cup good quality beef stock
¼ cup chipotle sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 dried chilli, optional

  1. Heat oven to 160C.
  2. Cut brisket into large 5cm pieces. Place in a heavy-based casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid and add beer, beef stock, chipotle sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, onion, cinnamon stick and dried chilli (if using). There should be just enough liquid to cover the meat. Cover with a lid and cook in oven for 3-4 hours or until the meat is soft and shreds easily. Note: if your lid does not fit tightly, cover dish with tinfoil before placing the lid on top – this will help to create a seal. Check on the meat after about 2 hours — if it is looking a little dry, top it up with a little more stock and beer.
  3. Once cooked, remove beef from the dish and place on a chopping board. Pour the liquid into a saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes to reduce a little. Meanwhile, use two forks to shred the meat, pulling the long fibres away from each other.
  4. Mix shredded meat with the reduced liquid — the meat will soak up the sauce. Serve with tortillas (see recipe below), or with pasta (see recipe below), or with simple mashed potato and greens.

Pulled chipotle beef and chickpea fettuccine

Turn the basic recipe for pulled beef into a rich tomato and beef ragu with chickpeas — delicious, warm and comforting served on ribbons of fresh pasta. Serves 6

1 finely diced carrot
2 sticks finely diced celery
1 clove crushed garlic
2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
1 drizzle of olive oil
3 tbsp of tomato paste
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of drained chickpeas
Some pulled chipotle beef
A few handfuls of baby spinach
Fettuccine pasta, to serve

  1. Cook the carrot, celery, garlic, and thyme in a fry pan with olive oil for 5-8 minutes, or until onion is soft.
  2. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, drained chickpeas and pulled chipotle beef. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until hot through and sauce has slightly reduced.
  3. Stir through spinach until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with fettuccine pasta.

Pulled chipotle beef tortillas with apple slaw

These tacos are lean and healthy, but so tasty! Serves 6

1 apple, cut into thin matchsticks
2-3 cups finely shredded cabbage
1/2 cup chopped coriander
Juice of 1-2 limes
Natural thick Greek yoghurt or sour cream, to serve
Pulled beef, to serve
Corn tortillas, to serve

  1. To make the slaw, combine the apple, cabbage, coriander and lime juice.
  2. To serve, place some pulled beef, slaw and a dollop of yoghurt/sour cream on each warmed tortilla, roll up and eat.