Stews and casseroles need not be tragic bowls of salty yet somehow tasteless meat in some ghastly sauce from a packet! Shame on you if this is your idea of such a meal, I will be around to beat you with a wooden spoon as soon as I’ve finished typing this up..
It’s very simple for all that is has a lot of ingredients and elements to it .. so don’t be scared, give it a go one cold wintry day – everyone will rave about how clever you are, trust me!
Oh and yes, it can be made the day before it’s required – in fact, most stews / curries taste better the day after they’re made – so this makes for the best entertaining dish ever!
Anyway, here tis – have fun!
1T good quality olive oil
12 rashers of best quality, free range smoked bacon, diced
2kg chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
(This dish needs some fat, so don’t buy lean meat)
Salt & Freshly ground black pepper (to taste, but at least 1t of each)
500g carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 white onions, sliced
2t chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2c Cognac or Brandy
1 (750 ml.) bottle Pinot Noir
2c beef stock
1T tomato paste
1t fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 bay leaf (dry is ok)
4T butter at room temperature & 3T plain white flour
500g whole baby onions
500g fresh mushrooms – thickly sliced (Discard the stalks)
Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove to serve ..
Or spuds and approx. 1/2c chopped fresh parsley
(See the end of the recipe for more on this..)
Preheat the oven to 250deg F / 120deg C – yes, barely warm 😉
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven.
Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon and set aside.
Dry the beef cubes with paper towels, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
In batches in single layers, (Don’t over crowd the pan – take your time with this bit!) sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.
Remove the beef (chuck it on a plate with the bacon) and continue until all the beef is browned.
Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the dutch oven and cook for around 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Now comes the fun part!
Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Too scared? Ramp up the heat and burn it off but the matches way is much more fun!
Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices.
Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef stock to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme.
Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 & 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.
Next steps to finish the stew:
Combine the butter and flour with a fork and stir into the stew then add the onions.
Sauté the mushrooms in 2 T butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew.
Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Season to taste. Be careful of over salting this dish ..
To serve, toast the bread, rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley .. Or a sprig of fresh thyme if you have some leftover / in the garden.
Another option is to serve direct to the table, from the casserole dish alongside a bowl of baby potatoes that have been tossed in some butter and parsley.