Winter doesn’t want to give up this year and there is no better way to warm up during these cold days than making and eating a nice casserole.
I have always loved stews and over years I reached a good level of perfection in making them. The recipe below is based on my experience and was created by combining few methods together and choosing what works best. You can treat this as a base for any beef type casseroles and add other ingredients you like.
You will need:
600g diced beef meet (i.e. brisket or anything else your butcher recommends)
500 ml red wine
10 – 15 baby onions or few shallots
250ml Chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
Fresh parsley leaves
The above ingredients will make enough for two leaving some leftovers for lunch next day too. It’s true that it takes time to cook a perfect stew, it’s a really slow cook dish but especially after you get some experience you will see that it actually cooks itself and apart from some preparation and stirring there isn’t that much to do.
Start with seasoning the beef and heating some olive or vegetable oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the beef and allow it to colour on all sides. It’s quite important that meat is caramelised, not steamed so don’t stir it too much and make sure you don’t overload your pan. If you don’t have a pan large enough for all the meat just fry it in batches. You may also need to remove some of the juices or extra fat produced during frying – this will help to caramelise the meat.
Many cooks use their heavy casserole dishes already at this stage and feel free to do so but I have learnt it works better in a frying pan, especially in the next step when you add the wine and bring to boil. You will then need to reduce the heat and simmer the whole thing until most of the wine has evaporated and I find it is easier and quicker in a frying pan. If after 15min you still have plenty of wine left don’t worry too much it will add to the flavour of the dish.
At this stage move the meat and remaining wine to your casserole dish (if you don’t have one don’t worry, use any pot with a lid you have), add stock, bring to boil, reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for at least 1 and a half hour. Check the meat from time to time, and regulate the heat so it’s always just gently bubbling. You can uncover the lid a bit as well especially if there seems to be too much liquid in the pan. If at any point the beef looks dry just add some water.
You can now prepare the vegetables as well – dice carrots, peel onions (you can half them if they seem too large) and fry them gently in olive oil over medium heat until golden brown.
After the beef was cooked for around 1 and a half hour (it should be quite tender at this point) add vegetables, stir everything together and cover it with a lid again. Continue to cook for another 45min – 1h, following the same routine as before. Check the seasoning and add extra salt or pepper if needed.
If you want you can also add some fried bacon or pancetta cubes, garlic, bay leaves or even tomato puree or potatoes – anything works. After making the stewsfew times you will learn what you like most and how to make it perfect for yourself.
When meat is so soft you can easily cut it with a fork the dish is ready however, like with any casseroles it only gets better the next day.
Scatter some fresh parsley leaves over and serve with boiled or mash potatoes.
I don’t use any flour to thicken the casserole as it my opinion it simply doesn’t need it and the dish is naturally gluten-free.