Tag Archives: beef

Simple Stew

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Sorry about the slightly murky photo, but it’s that kind of a dish: essentially one pound beef, one pound veg, and a pint of porter.

In this case the beef was just some generic stewing steak, and the veg were some baby charlottes, a large carrot, and a leek. The beer was Guinness’ West Indies Porter, which is a strong, fruity brew, with undercurrents of bitter chocolate. The meat was tossed in seasoned flour before browning in oil and butter, the beer added, followed by some vigorous scraping and stirring to dislodge the fond and then the veg added after that. I had a small bunch of thyme handy, so that and a bay leaf were popped in for good measure. (You could use dried thyme and maybe also add a few peeled cloves of garlic.)

Brought to the boil, and then reduced to a firm simmer. It can’t just gloop gently, or the collagen in the meat won’t break down; it needs to be bubbling gently. Around two hours, but it’s one of those things that’s done when it’s done.

Serves two; obviously with more of the porter to wash it down.

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Beef Stew

Saturday morning has commenced with a headache, a mound of unwashed dishes, and a bunch of bills in the letterbox. I climb into the remaining three items of clean clothing on the premises and visit the bakery for an emergency lattè. Thence the posh supermarket for a plastic bag of ready-to-go casserole vegetables and a plastic bag of braising beef. After ten minutes’ work, they are merrily burbling away in the oven, in my grandest casserole. The flat fills with heavenly smells, which make the morning’s laundering, washing and hoovering pass with less than the expected trauma.

This dish requires one pot and one spoon. Here’s what you need.

  • 500g root vegetables, washed, peeled and chopped, or a bag of same from the supermarket – mine contained swede, onion, carrot and leek
  • 500g stewing steak, chopped into rough cubes
  • a glass of red wine
  • four cloves of garlic, peeled
  • thyme (dried is alright) and a few bay leaves

Fry the meat in a mixture of butter and oil, until browned on the outside, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Set aside, and then fry the veg, adding more fat if necessary. Return the meat, sprinkle with about a tablespoon (15g) of plain flour, and stir like mad. (You could toss the meat in the flour to begin with, but I don’t think it makes much difference.)

Add the wine, and stir like mad, incorporating any flour that’s stuck to the bottom of the pot into the liquid. Cover with boiling water from the jug, and some posh powdered stock, e.g. Marigold Bouillon. Add the garlic, a bay leaf or two, and the thyme. Maybe a tablespoon of tomato paste; more for colour than anything else. On this occasion, I popped in a large dried chilli (not chopped) which I fished out before serving: added a pleasant zing to the proceedings.

In my case, I then pop the lid on and consign the pot to the oven (140ºC, fan forced) for the next two hours. If you have a gas ring you trust, you could instead leave it on the hob, turned down nice and low. The aim is for a gentle simmer, with the occasional bubble lazily erupting on the surface.

After two hours, check the seasoning. The meat should have collapsed by this point, if not, another hour won’t hurt.

Variations

Use Guinness instead of wine.

Use lots of wine – Pomiane mentions a litre – and no stock. (Sans doute un litron de la gros rouge qui tache et pousse au crime.)

Whole baby onions, if you can be motivated to peel them.

Beware of spuds. Baby Charlottes work well, floury potatoes will collapse and turn the whole thing into starchy beef concrete.

Do it with lamb shanks; one per guest. The bones will ooze wonderful things into your stew. (Browning the lamb shanks first is harder work.)

Chilli

Back in the day, when grander households than ours referred to this as “chilly con carny”, it was simply known by my parents as mince ‘n’ beans. Of course, this is simply an excuse to then eat vast amounts of cheese, sour cream and guacamole. (Which we certainly didn’t have when I was a kid.)

I’m fairly sure this is neither Mexican, nor even Texmexican, but it’s tasty.

Key ingredients, for this flavour, are the dried oregano and cumin. Go easy on the chilli, as you can always splash a bit of Tabasco over it later on.

In tonight’s batch I used:

  • 300g beef mince
  • two small onions, diced
  • one red capsicum, diced
  • four cloves garlic, peeled and sliced finely
  • one 450g tin of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • one 450g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a teaspoon of…
    • ground cumin
    • dried oregano
  • half a teaspoon of…
    • dried chilli flakes
    • dried thyme (maybe)
  • you can also add some fresh coriander leaves at the end if you fancy

Start by browning the mince in a small amount of oil. If it ain’t brown, it’s grey, and grey ain’t right. A spot of salt and pepper will help it on its way.

Pop the mince in a holding bowl, add a bit more oil and fry the chilli flakes for about a minute, add the garlic, fry for another minute, add the ground cumin and fry for a slow count of ten, before chucking in the onion and capsicum, then stirring like crazy, to incorporate all the brown goo from the bottom of the pan into the dish. (If you’re using cumin seeds, add them at the same time as the garlic, so they get a good minute or so.)

The veg need to soften up, and get brown around the edges, so a good ten minutes of medium heat and the occasional stir are required – there’s nothing worse than crunchy capsicum in a dish like this. Boil the jug whilst you’re doing this. Once that’s done, return the mince, plus the tomatoes, the beans, and enough boiled water from the jug so everything’s almost submerged.

Stir in the herbs, bring to the boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer and leave for an hour to reduce. An hour? That’s enough time to whip up some tortillas and have a couple of beers.

Ragù

I have a cunning plan that will probably culminate in lasagne. So first, I’m going to need a pot of ragù.

This time, I used:

  • 300g beef or pork mince – this should not be the “premium” steak mince, but rather something cheaper and fattier – this will taste a lot nicer as it’s made from all the obscure, and in some cases, unspeakable, bits of the animal
  • 75g of diced pancetta (sweet cured belly bacon) leave the fat attached
  • four cloves of garlic, or more if the garlic is small; you know how much you like
  • two medium onions, and about the same amount of celery and carrots; I ended up with about 600g (uncooked weight)
  • four large (ish) portabella mushrooms
  • 800g tinned tomatoes
  • a small glass of red wine

You’ll need a large sauté pan, preferably with vertical sides, so the stuff doesn’t escape as you’re stirring.

  1. Get the pan warmed on a low heat, and put the pancetta in, no need for any cooking oil, and let it quietly sizzle away for about five minutes, during which time it will become medium brown, crunchy, and will have rendered up most, if not all of its fat.
  2. Scoop out the pancetta with a slotted spoon, and pop somewhere on the side, but not so close you’re tempted to nibble on it during the rest of the cooking.
  3. Add the mince to the pan, breaking it up with a spoon, and putting a pinch of salt, and a generous grind of pepper on. You can also sprinkle a quarter teaspoon of white or brown sugar over the mince at this point, which will help it caramelise. You’ll probably need to turn the heat up a whisker, as you’re cooking a much greater mass, but you still want a gentle sizzling, and again, get it brown, a little crunchy, and having given up its fat.
  4. Whilst that’s browning (you don’t need to stir constantly) peel and slice the garlic. Make a well in the middle of the mince, and pop the garlic in, moving it around with a wooden spoon until it’s gone translucent, and started to go a golden colour. Do not let it brown, as it will go bitter. Once that’s all done, rescue everything with the slotted spoon into a dish, and leaving the fat behind. By this point, you’ll have noticed a bit of a build up on the bottom of the pan, of brown stuff. Rejoice, for this is Very Tasty. This is what the French call the fond.
  5. Put the diced onion, carrots and celery into the pan, adding a little olive oil if necessary, and fry ’til the onion is translucent. You’ll notice that the juices from the veg deglaze the bottom of the pan, and the fond is incorporated into the veg. Mmmm.
  6. Add the wine and stir furiously, in case frying the veg builds up some goo.
  7. Add the tomatoes, the mince, pancetta, and about a teaspoon each of dried oregano and dried basil. (I will explain the Dried Herb Heresy another day.)
  8. Add the chopped up mushrooms.
  9. Bring to the boil, but don’t let it arrive there, and then reduce the heat so the surface is barely quivering, cover the pot, and then leave it like that for an hour.

Hints:

  • You can get vacuum packed bags of pre-diced sofritto – this is a fancy word for diced and fried onions, carrots and celery.
  • I also grated about a quarter of a nutmeg over it. Some people like mace and majoram.
  • Maybe you’ve found some fresh basil that isn’t bland hydroponic rubbish. In this case, shred it up and add it at the very end, i.e. about five minutes before the end of the simmer, or even after simmering, when you’ve switched the heat off. Fresh basil does not like being cooked.

Beef and Red Wine

Today was vexing for reasons that I couldn’t possibly disclose, save that they involved a great deal of bureaucracy and very little work. Something solid is required to restore the soul.

I wouldn’t dare call this boeuf bourguigon, but certainly in the ballpark. The important thing here is to use interesting tasting ingredients, and to cook them gently for a long time. (Food Science Tip: the acid in the wine helps break down tough meat.)

  • 500g interesting beef (I’m using feather steak that the butcher has cut into one inch thick slices)
  • 500g shallots (I’m using échallions)
  • 250g portabello mushrooms (or anything but white button mushrooms)
  • two cloves garlic, peeled and squished, more if you like garlic
  • bunch thyme (I’m using half a teaspoon dried, as there seems to be nothing but dill and parsley in the shop today)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 70g pancetta, cubed (more if you like)
  • a pint of red wine
  • a pint of stock (Marigold is fine for this)
  • salt, pepper, flour

Gently fry the pancetta in a pot/casserole until the fat is rendered, scoop out the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add half a glass of wine to the cook.

Cut the beef into cubes, removing any excess fat and gristle, and fry in the pancetta fat, a few pieces at a time, until browned. Set aside.

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Peel the shallots, and halve them if they’re large, and fry them till golden on the outside. A bit of brown won’t hurt.

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Add a knob of butter and stir in enough flour (probably a tablespoon) to make a roux, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in the stock gradually (helps if it’s hot) and add the wine.

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Return meat to pot, plus enough water to cover. It’s traditional to use Burgundy, but I’m using Cahors tonight. You may also want to add another half a glass of wine to the cook at this point, but make sure she does not become befuddled.

Add thyme, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, and bring to boil. Reduce heat immediately to as low as it goes, cover, and leave for two hours. You could put the pot in the oven if you fancied. The idea is to keep it below boiling, so a gentle “gloop!” every so often is permissible.

Add the mushrooms, washed and chopped, fifteen minutes before the end.

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The results, as you can see, were dark, gooey and meaty. Rather eighteenth century.

I would advise you to consume this dish with more red wine and some potatoes; preferably to candelight and a harpsichord.

Steak-Frites

Sometimes there’s just a ravening urge for protein. Maybe it’s the stress of the previous week, or the one coming up. Maybe it’s a hint that I’m about to get the flu. Whatever. What I need is meat.

I don’t think fillet is the meat for this: although useful in other contexts, it’s just not interesting enough on its own. Rump, sirloin, or onglet are the way to go. I have a pricey, but very good butcher not too far away, and I will simply say that I want some steak for frying, and they’ll suggest the most appropriate model. You want it sliced about 2cm thick.

Make sure the meat’s at room temperature, if not, get it out of the fridge. Rub it all over in olive oil; enough to make it glisten, but no more. Grind over some pepper if you fancy, but no salt. Chuck in a pre-heated grill pan and leave it for two minutes. Flip it, salt it, and leave it for another two minutes. This should give you rare. Another minute and you’ll have medium. But there is no shame in sawing off a corner to have a check: just remember that the centre will be pinker than the corner.

Pop the steak on a warmed plate to rest, and deglaze the pan with something. I use Madeira for this. If you were feeling particularly fancy, you could have a roux going in another pot, and pour the pan juices and Madeira into this. I just reduce and pour over the steak. True ritual gluttony would call for sauce béarnaise.

There must be fries. I think oven fries will suffice. They’re particularly good if you have a fan forced oven and crank it up as high as it will go for the last three minutes.

And of course a simple salad of dressed leaves to make it seem healthy.