Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Beef and Ale Stew

This week I have a plan, and it involves stretching a kilo of cheap beef across three very tasty meals. The trick with cheap cuts of beef is to simmer them for a long time, until the gristly fatty connective tissue breaks down and becomes a thickener for the sauce. By this point the meat itself is tender and falling apart. Wonderful!

First off is the world's simplest stew, something I can always throw together if I have just a few minutes to do the preparation before I go do an hour's work -- or telecon as is usually the case on Tuesdays. Tomorrow I want to use the remaining stew in Cornish pasties, but tonight it's just as-is, with delicious fresh bread spread thickly with margarine to dip in. This recipe serves six if you were to eat it all straight away.


  • 1kg diced beef
  • two large brown onions
  • a couple of bay leaves
  • 500-600ml dark ale (so a pint or a demi depending on your country of origin)
  • 15 shallots (optional)
  • two large carrots
  • four potatoes
  • two large tomatoes
  • 300g frozen peas (optional)

Chuck the beef in a large heavy-lidded casserole pot (e.g. a Le Creuset) and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, finely dice the onions. Once the meat is a little browned on the outside, add the onions and bay leaves and fry for a further 3-4 minutes, until the onion has lost its raw smell. Pour in the ale and bring up to a simmer; allow to cook uncovered until it stops frothing. If you're using the shallots, cut off the root and peel them, and drop them whole into the stew. Cover and simmer for an hour, checking halfway through to stir and make sure it is not looking dry.

After an hour, check a piece of meat - it should slice easily with a knife, and any fat should be transparent and wobbly. If the meat is still tough or the fat is white and stringy, simmer for a further half hour and check again. Meanwhile, scrub and cube the carrots and potatoes; finely dice the tomatoes. Add to the pan, cover and simmer for a further twenty minutes, until the carrots and potatoes are soft. If using the peas, pour directly into the stew, stir to cover, and simmer for 2-3 minutes until sweet. Chcek the stew for seasoning; it may need 1-2 tsp of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Serve with hot fresh bread.

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