Beef and Guinness stew

The kitchen smells heavenly…looking forward to this. Sorry i don’t have any more pictures, but it’s still sitting in the oven, cooking itself slowly to perfection. Yum.

I haven’t done any slow cooking for ages, and I miss the comforting smells and sense of accomplishment ratio (lots of gain, for not much effort!).

It’s deep deep winter here, and going outside is a thought just too hideous to contemplate at the moment. So we are happily staying in and hibernating. I bought all the ingredients for this yesterday, so all that was left to do this afternoon was to put it all together.

I particularly love this recipe because the Guinness imparts a lovely rich, slightly bitter flavour to the stew*. And I can’t help but think of all that extra iron and vitamin B that we are ingesting, to boot. Thinking of either rice or polenta to go with this. Polenta wouldn’t be my first choice but Bruno has a hankering for it, and all it really needs is a warm, comforting starch to soak up all the delicious sauce. We’ve also had it with hot buttered noodles, which makes it top notch comfort food, in my book.

* Stew – now that is a word which I can never bring myself to like. Whenever I make a stew-type thing I always search around for better word to describe it, with not much success. Not sure why I dislike it so. Perhaps it is its remarkable closeness to the word ‘spew’ (!). Anyway, I guess I’ll just have to stick with ‘stew‘ (phew, I really needed to get that off my chest, thanks for listening).

Without further ado, here’s the recipe for your delectation:

Beef and Guinness Winter Warmer Stew for Hibernation Days

1 kg beef, cubed

2 onions, sliced finely

4 large carrots, chopped into half rounds

5 or so medium potatoes, in chunks

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

few sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

2 bottles of Guinness

2 Tb butter

3 Tb flour

Olive oil

2 Tb tomato paste

Beef stock

Salt and pepper

Optional: Gremolata – finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and lemon zest

How to

In a large oven-proof casserole, heat up a good glug of oil and brown the meat well. Now I was always confused when a recipe said ‘brown the meat’ because, well, the meat was already brown, wasn’t it? After much experience I now reckon (for slow cooking at least) they mean to cook the meat over a high heat until it is well-crisped on the outside, almost seared. The meat holds it appetising brown colour even after long slow cooking (cubes of pallid meat are pretty awful), and most important of all, creates a delicious savoury crust on the bottom of the pan which will then be melted into the vegetables and the stew in general, giving you an unrivalled depth of flavour. So don’t be faint-hearted, make sure that meat really is good and crispy brown! It will take a while for all the juices to evaporate and give you the savoury crust that you want, but persevere, it is well worth it. Once the meat is properly browned, take it out of the pot and set aside.

– Melt the butter and another good glug of oil to the pot. Start to scrape up the crusty bits on the bottom. Add the onions, carrots and potatoes and sweat for a good 10-15 minutes til all the vegetables are well softened. Add the garlic, bay leaves and thyme and keep sweating.

– Add the meat back in and any juices that have collected underneath it. Stir it all up and enjoy the smell.

– Add the tomato paste and flour, and stir well to ensure everything is evenly coated with the flour.

– Add the Guinness and about a cup of beef stock (the meat and vegetables must be covered with liquid). Bring to the boil and stir.

– Place into a preheated oven (around 180-200 degrees C) and leave to cook slowly for a few hours. Check every so often that it hasn’t dried out or stuck to the bottom – if so, add some more water or stock to loosen it up. The stew is ready when the meat is soft and almost falling apart.

– When you are ready to eat, take the stew out of the oven and season it. Add the gremolata just before serving, if using.

– Make sure to eat it with an appropriately stodgy (read: comforting) accompaniment – hot buttered noodles, rice, polenta, mashed potatoes etc etc. It really is a wonderful winter meal to warm the cockles of your heart!

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