Nigerian “stew base,” a blend of plum tomatoes, onion, red bell pepper and chiles, forms the foundation of these braised beef short ribs. In Nigeria, the base would be fried in oil to condense its flavor. Kiano Moju, however, prefers to reduce it slowly in the oven, where it cooks in the rendered beef fat and enriches the stew, which is best swiped up with pieces of fresh chapati. She also makes a traditional East African salad called kachumbari to serve alongside the beef to cut its richness.
The short ribs you want to use here are English-cut style, which have a whole rib bone with a solid piece of meat attached to it. In the meat department shelves of grocery stores, short ribs typically are packaged already cut into 3- to 4-inch “blocks.” But if you get them from a butcher, ask for ribs cut to that size.
You can find Nigerian Maggi cubes and Lion curry powder online, but if you’d prefer to buy them and other African ingredients in Los Angeles, go to African Obichi Market or Dora Market in Mid-City or Rivera Caribbean and African Grocery downtown.
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In this order, add the tomatoes, bell pepper, the roughly chopped onions and the chile to a blender and puree to a very smooth sauce; reserve the stew base. Season the short ribs generously on all sides with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the short ribs and cook, turning as needed to brown on all sides, until they have a golden crust all over, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a plate and reserve; do not drain away any fat from the pot.
Add the sliced onions to the oil and rendered beef fat in the pot, and cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot often to prevent the solids from burning, until softened and browned on the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the stew base, scraping the bottom of the pot to incorporate any browned bits, then stir in the seasoning cubes, curry powder and dried thyme. Return the short ribs, bone side-up, to the pot and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover the pot, transfer it to the oven and bake for 2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid. Using tongs, rotate the short ribs so they’re bone side-down, then return the pot to the oven. Continue baking until the meat is golden brown and crusty on top, a paring knife inserted in each piece slides in and out easily, and the sauce is reduced and thick, 15 to 30 minutes more. The short ribs should not be falling apart. Remove the pot from the oven and let the ribs cool for 10 minutes.
Using tongs, remove the bones from the meat (they will slide off easily) and transfer the bones to a serving platter, if you like. Using two forks, break each piece of beef into 4 large chunks. Transfer the chunks to the platter, then spoon over the sauce from the pot. Serve the short ribs with Kachumbari on the side.
In a medium bowl, add the tomatoes, onion, cilantro and lemon juice. Season with salt and toss to combine. Transfer to the refrigerator and keep cold until ready to serve.
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