Saturday, 15 March 2014

Beef and Guinness stew

Saturday morning, 5:20 am. I have survived my first week in the new job, in fact I more than survived it, I had a great time. I was eased in very gently and it almost felt like a holiday with a minimum number of emails and loads of time to read up on background material, a luxury I know I won't have later. But one thing that has been a bit of a struggle has been the early mornings. So I was looking forward to sleeping in today. But as fate will have it, I have come down with a bit of a cold, so I have been waking up for most of the night with a cough, aching sinuses and having to blow my nose a lot. So I thought I might as well get up instead of tossing and turning and constantly waking the poor Culinary Consultant. So I am sitting here in my crafting lair listening to a choir of birds sing outside welcoming the dawn, and sipping a cup of mint tea with honey, made from dried mint from my very own garden. I was really hoping I had managed to avoid the cold, I felt a bit crappy on Wednesday and Thursday with a sore throat, but I went to sleep really early on Thursday night and felt much better on Friday morning so I though I got away easily. Clearly not. But like the model employee I am, of course I got sick on the night between Friday and Saturday so that I can spend all weekend poorly and then be ready to go back to work on Monday morning. But at least I have an excuse to huddle up in bed under the covers for most of the day, and spend the rest of it crafting and blogging. 

Based on the contents of my RSS feed and all the green food that has cropped up over the last few weeks, you can't miss that St Patrick's day is just around the corner (for those of you like me who had no idea when it is, it is in fact on Monday the 17th). So I thought why not, I'll contribute a little something as well. I just pretty much made a regular meat stew as we usually make them, but threw in some Guinness for good measure.

Beef and Guinness stew (feeds 6-8, or 2 people for the better part of a week):
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
2 tbsp oil
800 g beef, diced
salt and pepper
3 giant carrots (probably corresponding to 4-5 regular carrots)
3 large potatoes
3 small parsnips
4-5 large mushrooms (this was what I happened to have in the fridge, you can omit or add more if you want to)
1 can of Guinness
dried thyme
salt and pepper
enough beef stock to cover the veg and meat
4 bay leaves

The howto:
Finely chop the onion and celery. Heat up a large frying pan and add 2 tbsp of oil. Add the celery and onion and let cook for a few minutes. Add half of the beef. Cook until beef is nicely browned on the surface, season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl. Add the other tbsp of oil to the pan and fry the second half of the beef, and transfer to the side as well. If there is a lot of brown goodness stuck to the pan, add a bit of water and let bubble away until the stuff from the bottom of the pan has dissolved into the water. 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Peel and thinly slice the carrots, spuds and parsnips. Slice the mushrooms. In a large lidded ovenproof casserole, add layers of potatoes, parsnips, carrots and meat adding in the mushrooms at some point as well. About halfway through, add two of the bay leaves, and sprinkle with black pepper and some dried thyme. Once everything is layered in the casserole, finish by sprinkling with thyme and black pepper and add two bay leaves. Pour enough Guinness and beef stock to cover everything in the casserole, and cook with the lid on for about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Then take off the lid to allow some of the liquid to evaporate and cook for another 40 minutes. Serve with mash or sweet potato fries.

The verdict:
We often make a big chicken or beef stew for Sunday dinner and then have leftovers for dinner the next week. It is a perfect way to get rid of whatever meat we happen to have in the freezer, or what happened to be on sale, and also to use up any root veg we happen to have around so there is a lot of variation. You can pour some wine in with the stew, and we are often using different varieties of store bought seasoning mixes for stews to change things up as well. Sometimes we have been able to go all the way to Thursday on one giant batch of stew. If you don't like to eat the same food many days in a row, just freeze the stew in appropriate sized servings and pull out later. After defrosting, you can either heat it up in the microwave, or in a smaller casserole in the oven. Usually the stew only gets better after standing a few days in the fridge so it's perfect food for re-heating. The stew itself was tasty and got even tastier over the next few days. If you are worried that it will taste too much of beer, it won't. If you really want to taste the Guinness, I would add more that one can to the stew, but if you add one can it just gives a bit of warmth and flavour to the stew but is in no way overpowering. I served the stew with oven baked sweet potato fries. Just chop up your sweet potatoes into sticks, coat lightly in oil and sprinkle with your choice of seasoning (I used just a bit of salt and pepper) and bake in 200 degrees C for 45-55 minutes depending on your preference of crispiness.

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