Beef Stew Basics

I am slightly addicted to food shows. The latest being ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan. It’s clever, insightful and broad. Pollan might be a bit self-righteous, but on most things he’s right. On one of the episodes – Water – he talked about how water becomes the element that brings together meat – particularly cuts of meat that aren’t so tender – vegetables and herbs to make thick, unctuous stews, and quite how magic that is.

The bit I loved was also how simple he made it seem to make a good stew, so this weekend I was inspired to give it a go. What’s important:

Some meat – I went for beef dice and some leftover sirloin that needed using up.
A Mirepoix – this is a mix of finely diced onion, carrot, celery and perhaps garlic. I used all of these, and actually I pulse in my magimix to make sure they are super fine.
A base oil – start with butter, which you’ll fry your mirepoix in.
More meat – I added bacon, for depth of flavour, saltiness and smokeyness.
Mushrooms – can add an earthiness to the stew.
Herbs – thyme is my fave – it’s got such a nice flavour, but isn’t too overpowering.
Good red wine – not 100% necessary, but to me an essential!! I used a bottle.
Stock – I had some really good beef bone broth in the freezer luckily but otherwise use what you have.
A little flour to put the beef in before you add it to the stew.
Time – let the stew stew baby! It needs time for the flavours to meet, greet, and start dancing together.
Heat – well, it isn’t a party without some heat on the dancefloor, so keep it low and slow for the ultimate result.

See above

Start by putting a little oil in the Le Creuset or another large heavy based pan and add the mirepoix. Allow it to soften gently for about ten minutes. When they’re all soft, start frying the bacon in a separate pan. Meanwhile, turn up the heat on the mirepoix, which will sweeten it slightly. Once the bacon is fried, add to the veg. Then add mushrooms into the frying pan and fry them off before adding to the mirepoix pan. Next, put the beef in a bag with a couple of tablespoons of flour and shake it up. Add the beef to the frying pan where the mushrooms were, and brown off. Then transfer to the mirepoix saucepan. Pour the wine into the frying pan and deglaze before putting everything into the main pot together with the thyme, and stock. Turn the heat down low and let it simmer away for a couple of hours.

Enjoy with softly mashed potatoes and steamed greens.



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