Monday, 31 May 2010

At Home: Slow-cooked beef

Drizzly Bank Holiday Monday. Grey limbo, and ripe ground for spiritual malaise. Days like these call for a soothing soulful slow-cooked beef stew. Nothing heavy about this stew, though. It's a vibrant dish, no thickening agents or heavy stocks required. The orange peel and fresh thyme add a zesty Mediterranean note, perfect for a cool May evening. Serve with new potatoes and braised lettuce with minted peas.

Slow-cooked beef
Serves 3-4
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g chuck/stewing steak, cut into generous bite-sized pieces
  • 10-12 shallots, peeled but left whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 3 ripe salad tomatoes, or 10 cherry tomatoes
  • half a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, or similar hearty red wine
  • 350ml chicken stock (Marigold or Kallo brand is fine, if you don't have fresh)
  • 5in strip of orange peel
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based casserole. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper, and brown it in two batches over a high heat. Remove each batch of browned meat to a plate. Place the whole shallots, bay leaves and bacon in the hot casserole, and fry until the bacon has rendered its fat and the shallots are golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the celery, carrot, bay leaves, garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and fry for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes, followed by the browned meat and its released juices, the wine, and the stock.

Simmer over a very gentle heat for 3-4 hours, covered with a lid on the hob (or in a preheated 150C oven). Stir once in a while, to make sure the meat isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan. In the last 30-40 minutes of cooking, add the orange peel. Remove the bay leaves and herb sprigs before serving.

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