Sunday, November 04, 2012

Beef stew with red wine

The standard way to cook a stew – apart from a pale one, such as a blanquette – is to brown the meat, and then to submerge it in barely simmering liquid. The browning adds flavour, and the submerging ensures that the meat is not subjected to an overly aggressive heat.

If the liquid does not cover the meat, the exposed surfaces will brown while the stew cooks. In theory, this method should be less satisfactory, because a temperature that is high enough to brown meat will eventually dry it out. But you may find, particularly with cuts that have plenty of lubricating fat and connective tissue, that the result is perfectly tender anyway.

Serves 2 to 4

Sunflower or olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
500g stewing steak
250ml red wine (I had a small bottle of Marks & Spencer Claret that I had received in a goody bag)
1 bay leaf
1/2 star anise
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
Salt to taste
1 carrot, diced

In a heavy casserole over a gentle heat, soften the garlic and onions in a couple of tbsps of oil, adding more oil if the vegetables threaten to stick. When the onions are soft, add the rest of the ingredients, apart from the carrot. Bring the contents of the dish just to simmering point, cover it, and put it in the oven at gas mark 2/150C. Turn down the heat to gas mark S/130C once the contents are simmering again. Stir from time to time. A cooking time of two and a half to three hours is usually about right.

In most stew recipes, you would soften the carrot with the onions. But I think that you get the best flavour from carrots if they are not overcooked. Throw in the dice half an hour before the end.

The next bit is slightly tedious. Tip the contents of the casserole into a sieve over a saucepan. Pick out the meat, return it to the casserole, cover, and return the casserole to the oven.

Press down on the vegetables in the sieve, and scrape the thick juice that adheres to the underside of the sieve into the saucepan. Discard the vegetables.

Put the pan on the hob on a medium to high flame, and boil until the sauce thickens slightly, has a rich flavour, and seems to be of the right volume to satisfy two or three people. Take the casserole out of the oven, pour the sauce over the meat, and serve.


Judie said...

I cooked this yesterday (27 Dec 2012) (for 16...) adapting the quantities, and using the recipe from Don't Sweat the Aubergine. Because of the quantities, I experimented by cooking a third in my Tower slow cooker (and heating all including the stock to simmering point before putting into the cooker) and the other two thirds in the oven, fan, at 125 dgrs. This was just showing lazy bubbles after one hour, so timed it to turn off 1.5 hrs later, and went off to Boxing Day tea with family... The slow cooker cooked for 7.5 hours. Yes, it is v. boring removing that much beef from the veggies (my husband was incredulous that I should bother..) but I have an intolerance to onion, my father won't eat garlic, and someone else doesn't like cooked celery...

Reheated today, adding carrot rounds freshly steamed, and mushrooms.
Served at major family gathering with our father - possibly the last such...
Oh, the compliments! (...and there's enough left for another meal here at home.)

I think the gravy / sauce was richer from the oven baking version - as I expected - and the texture probably better too (I mixed them together before reheating.)

It was all worth it - and thank you so much for teaching me (at 62) how to actually brown meat. Brilliant.

Nicholas Clee said...

Thanks very much for reporting back, Judie. It's always a pleasure, and a relief, to hear that recipes have worked for other people.