Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recipe - Red Wine Beef Stew

This recipe is a result of "mutating" several traditional versions of meat stews into something that is very close to a pub favourite that I frequently had when I was studying in UK. This is a very forgiving recipe (difficult to screw up) and you can always substitute the wine for stout or ale although red wine gives it more body and better texture. DO NOT use expensive red wine - a sub-$20 bottle from the supermarket will do.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1Kg beef (stewing or chuck variety - DO NOT USE EXPENSIVE CUTS)
500ml red wine (dark and full bodied if possible, i.e. burgundy or pinot noir)
3 bay leaves
4 carrots (medium size, peeled and chopped into medallions. can add more if you like carrots)
1 onion (medium-large, roughly chopped)
2 stalks leek (medium length, chopped into 2 inch lengths)
2 stalks celery (medium length, chopped into 2 inch lengths)
3 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
3 sprigs thyme
2+ tablespoon flour
3-4 spuds of potatoes (cut into equal sizes for even cooking)
1 400gm can of chopped or peeled tomatoes
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons of cream (optional)
2 loaves of crusty baguette or rye bread to mop up the liquid
canola oil
salt and pepper


1. clean and prepare the mirepoix of leek, celery and carrots in a large bowl. put the onion and garlic in 2 different small bowls.

2. dry the beef with kitchen towels then season it by rubbing salt and pepper. after that coat each piece with a layer of flour.

3. in a large pan, heat 2 tablespoon of canola oil over a high heat then brown (sear) the meat. you will want to use a pair of tongs and work your meat in batches to prevent over-crowding. the pan needs to be hot and you want to see some caramelization on the surface of the meat but NOT thoroughly browned or even cooked! the oil is going to spit so it is a good idea to wear an apron and cover the floor with newspaper for easy clean up. put the seared meat into a clean bowl or pan and set them aside.

4. in the same pan, over a medium fire, sauteed the onion first until they turn soft then put in the garlic for a further 30 seconds. finally toss in the remaining mirepoix and sauteed for another 3 mins. deglaze with the red wine and bring everything to a boil until the alcohol smell is not so strong (another 2-3 mins).

5. lower the heat, add in the meat, bay leaves and thyme then pour in the can of tomatoes (if you are using peeled tomatoes, crushed them with your hands). bring everything to a boil again while stirring the pot, then lower it to a simmer (very light bubbling) and put the lid on, leaving a very small hole for the steam to escape. the liquid should be able to "barely" cover the meat - top up with water if it isn't. *** you might want to transfer everything to a larger saucepan/pot before the actual stewing starts ***

6. stew for 2.5 hours but check and stir the pot every 20 mins to make sure the meat does not stick and prevent them from getting burnt. drink some of the remaining red wine while waiting.

7. 30 mins before the stew is done, blanch the potatoes in a seperate pot by filling it with just enough water to cover everything and salt it with a small handful of salt. bring the water to a boil and let it continue boiling for 1 more minute (or until a knife can pierce through a piece of potatoe with minimum effort). drain and let cool. *** the reason i do this is because potatoes disintegrate when you overcook them so they should not be in the stew for a long time ***

8. when the stewing is done, add the potatoes into the stew pot and stir in a couple tablespoonful of cream and then throw on some chopped parsley before serving. personally, and because i find them unsightly, i will also remove the stalks of thyme, leeks and celery before serving. serve up the stew with a nice chunk of french bread or rye loaf while finishing off the leftover wine.

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