Monday, 17 May 2010


By the blue
Purple yellow red water
On the green
Purple yellow red grass

Well, it's Sunday, and only Sondheim could accurately express my melancholia *dramatic sigh* (or words to that effect anyway). Long dark teatime of the soul and all that, well it's rainy and grey outside and I have about three weeks to organise a fundraiser for the Guides.

Some people always cook a roast on a Sunday, I pretty much will only cook a roast on a Sunday but not always. Last week my Mum very kindly gave me some braising steak - I am officially so pale that there is a familial conspiracy theory that I am either a vampire or anaemic. One of these is more likely than the other, hence the donation of iron rich meat. Where was I? Sondheim? melancholia? braising steak? Oh yes, so today has rounded off a week of illness (not anaemia you'll be pleased to hear, doubly if you're a Spring Awakening geek I should imagine) and I felt the need for something wholesome, something filling and the sort of thing that my mother would describe as 'stick to your ribs' kind of food. Well actually my mother wouldn't, but I'm sure someone's would. I've got through the week by eating the contents of my freezer, which has a double edged benefit, it means I can fit the soap the Guides are making next week in there to keep it solid till we come to sell it. And it also means I get to batch cook and put new food in there.

So I defrosted the steak with a vague idea of making some kind of casserole. I had said to my sister's fiance that I was thinking about the Jamie Oliver Beef and Newcastle Brown Ale casserole, but last time I tasted that it was just a bit too iron-y (not irony, although with the anaemia and things? Too far? OK, I'll stop now) for my tastes. I had a bit of a Google and a squiz around Jamie Oliver's website which I am liking a lot, and came across Jools' favourite beef stew from Jamie's Dinners. I have the book so got it down and had a proper read through. It was like it was written for this very occaision. I had bags of frozen swede, parsnip, carrot and butternut squash from earlier in the year - I tend to chop veg like this up and freeze it so that I can use it when I want to - in the freezer and obviously the beef already. I was pretty much good to go. I must say I was impressed with how store-cupboard-y (it's a word!) this recipe was. Too often I'll flick through a book because I'm after inspiration in a particular vein, will find something that ticks one box and then still need to go to Sainsos for the rest of the ingredients, and even so there'll still be one that remains elusive (dried shrimp, I am looking at you). Anyway, so this wasn't that kind of a recipe, red wine? check. Beef stock? check. Root veggies... well you get the picture.

The only downside is that when prepping, this seemed to take up my whole worktop - now I'm not a hideously messy cook (the dissention you can hear is my mother in the distance) but there just seemed to be a lot of stuff for this. Maybe it's just me. Anyway this is the definition of simple, a real bung it all in, hope for the best and leave it for three hours jobbie. Hurrah!

I've taken in out and have to say it's lush, really tender meat and a gorgeous gravy with lovely soft veggies. Winner. Oh and aside from the beef - which I only knew from the label on the packet - I didn't weigh anything. I'm just flying by the seat of my pants here...

My only amendments would be:
  • to increase the stock and the red wine. I got slightly distracted and added about 3/4 of the bottle, but the sauce has reduced down a lot and I prefer a saucier stew. I was considering adding dumplings and I would definitely have needed to double both the wine and stock for that.
  • I only used 400g of braising steak and I think that has made more than enough for at least 6 people, I just couldn't see the need to use 2 big packs of braising steak. But that's a personal choice thing really.

• olive oil
• a knob of butter
• 1 onion, peeled and chopped
• a handful of fresh sage leaves
• 800g/1¾lb stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• flour, to dust
• 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
• 4 carrots, peeled and halved
• ½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced
• 500g/1lb 2oz small potatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• ½ a bottle of red wine
• 285ml/½ pint beef or vegetable stock
• zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
• a handful of rosemary, leaves picked
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 160ºC/300ºF/gas 2. Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 110°C/225°F/gas ¼ and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

Now Jamie says, to chop up the lemon, rosemary and garlic and add them to the hot stew just as you're ready to serve. I'm a bit nervous about this, but am going to give it a go anyway despite the thought of raw garlic giving me the heebie jeebies.

Also I'm going to serve it with green veg as there's potatoes already in the stew so I don't think I need to add any more carbs with it.

And I really really want to link to Finishing the Hat, but it's just not relevant. Boo. So let's have some Tick, Tick... Boom! instead

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