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Sunday, 10 October 2010

Beef Stew

Here's my first stew of the season. So easy to make, yet so rewarding. Don't be put off by the long cooking time stews usually require; it's simply a matter of putting all the ingredients together in a casserole, then pop the latter in the oven and forget about it until it's time to take it out. I went out for a long walk in the park, with a stopover to the shops, while mine was cooking. Upon my return, I was welcomed home by the most hearty, rich scent, announcing that my dinner was waiting for me. Another strong point in favour of stews is that their flavour develops with time, and they taste even better the following day. So make too much, to ensure you have leftovers to enjoy the following day!

INGREDIENTS (for four people)
  • 500 gr stewing beef
  • 280 gr baby onions, whole (or you can use normal onions, in that case cut them into chunks)
  • 4 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 250 ml beef stock (I had some I had previously made in the freezer, but you can use good quality ready-made stock)
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A handful of dried porcini
  • Three bay leaves
  • Some plain flour
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
First of all, prep all your vegetables. Peel and cut the carrots into chunks, dice the celery stalks, peel the baby onions and leave them whole. As mentioned, normal onions are also suitable, however the baby ones taste particularly sweet and look very attractive on the plate. Although I must say, I cried more peeling these little fellas than when I watched Schindler's list!
The next step is to heat up a casserole on the hob, over a medium heat, with a little olive oil; then lightly coat each chunk of meat in flour and fry them for a couple of minutes each side, in order to brown their surface. This process allows you to infuse the meat with more flavour than if you'd simply "boil" it in the sauce. In additions, the flour helps thicken the gravy. Do this in batches, placing the browned meat in a bowl on the side. 

As soon as your meat is ready, add the vegetables to the casserole; the moisture they will release will help deglazing the meaty bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the chunks of beef and the wine, and let the alcohol evaporate for a couple of minutes. Then in go the stock, tinned tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Slowly bring the stew to a slow simmer. While you are doing this, soak the dried porcini in boiling water for three minutes, then snip them in the pan. They will eventually dissolve completely, enriching the gravy with a deep, earthy flavour.

Cover the casserole with its lid and place it on the bottom shelf of the pre-heated oven at 150°C, for three and a half hours. Leave it to rest in a warm place for at least 30 minutes, then serve it with mashed potatoes or crusty bread to mop up the thick juices. 

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