This is a traditional recipe for rich, English stew/casserole. The ingredients can be varied according to what's at hand. It's best using the cheapest cuts of beef, cooked slowly, and the amount of vegetables can be increased to 'pad it out' to feed more people. It can also be topped with sliced or mashed potato to make a pie for the ultimate winter comfort food.
- 2-3 large onions
- 2 large carrots
- 1-2 parsnips (optional)
- 1-2 sticks of celery (optional)
- 2-3 large, flat, mushrooms cut into chunk
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1-2 rashers of streaky bacon (optional)
- 1 kg stewing beef
- oil or fat for frying
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1-2 cups water, stock and/or red wine
- salt and pepper to taste
- a little cornflour slaked with water to thicken
- rice, vegetables, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Slice the onions thickly and cut the carrots into rings (not too thin). Slice the other vegetables and garlic, and cut the bacon into lardons, if used. Cut the beef into 2.5 cm cubes.
Heat the oil or fat (beef dripping may be politically incorrect, but gives a wonderful rich flavour) in a cast-iron casserole dish. Gently fry the onion until soft and a light brown, along with the bacon, if used, being careful not to burn them. Add the carrot and any other vegetables being used and fry gently until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain (I use a sieve over a basin).
Reheat the fat to smoking point, add the beef and brown well. You may have to do this in batches to stop the pot from cooling down. The meat needs to be sealed quickly and shouldn't be allowed to ooze moisture. It also needs to be well browned - nice and crusty - to give the best colour and flavour.
Once all the meat is well browned return the vegetables to the pot along with the bay leaves and most of the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Add water or stock, cover and simmer gently for 2-3 hours. Don't add too much liquid - the meat and vegetables should provide plenty of moisture.
The length of time depends on the cut of meat. Blade will cook in 90 minutes, gravy beef should have a good 3 hours, or even longer. Alternatively, put in a slow oven.
When the meat is tender, add the slaked cornflour and bring to the boil for a 1-2 minutes to thicken. Serve with boiled rice and green vegetables.