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I was a vegetarian for 16 years.

We’ve been over this, remember?

Little me embracing my inner T Rex? (Not the band?)

Um. Anyway…

Sealing off the beef for this recipe was making me salivate and wonder wildly to myself what on earth had ever possessed me to reject the way of the carnivore. Morals, that’s what. Clearly, my morals had forgotten about bacon sandwiches and my mum’s sirloin stir fry. Silly morals.

Anyway, after years of cooking vegetarian dishes, I’m eager to get a few tasty meat-oriented recipes under my belt. Among other things, it seems that the general attitude here in the UK is that a meal isn’t a meal unless there’s meat involved, and furthermore, I have a human pet I’m dying to cook for who responds much more favourably to dishes if there are large chunks of ex-animal heaped upon them.

I wanted to do some alchemical experimentation, complete with taste tester, before springing any of my meaty concepts upon the world, and was graciously invited to my mate Ant’s new flat for a Sunday evening kitchen invasion.

I mention the ‘new’ bit in case anyone’s wondering why I decided to make beef stew in a wok. It was the largest cooking vessel available. That’s the fun of a new place, along with drinking wine out of mugs and eating bowl food off plates – hey, it works, so don’t knock it!

Also, I didn’t have a bag to do the flouring, so I feebly stirred the beef in a bowl of flour for a bit before getting my hands in there and doing things the, um, rustic way.

Ant and I stuffed ourselves with this delicious stew, followed by a few chunks of freshly baked cheesy bacony bread and a particularly weird episode of Dr Who.

Beef and Sweet Potato Stew
Adapted from Joy the Baker, adapted from Epicurious

Ingredients

• 3/4 cup Plain flour with a generous pinch of salt and pepper
• 795g Stew beef, cut into 1-inch chunks
• Olive oil
• 2 Smallish yellow onions, coarsely diced
• 2 Medium courgettes, coarsely diced
• 6 Cloves of garlic, minced
• 3 tablespoons Tomato paste
• 1/2 cup Stout beer
 455g Sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks
• 4 cups Beef broth (more if you’d like it more soupy)
• 1 Bay leaf
• 3 teaspoons Rosemary, coarsely chopped
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1-2 tablespoons Sugar
• Salt and pepper to taste

In a large brown paper bag, place flour, salt, and pepper and add the diced beef. Close the bag, hold it tightly shut and shake.  Open bag and make sure that all of the beef is lightly coated in flour and seasoning. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat.  Add as much beef as will fit around the bottom of the pan in a single layer. Cook, browning on all sides – the beef doesn’t need to be cooked through, just browned.

Once all of the beef is cooked, transfer it from the pan onto a large plate. Set aside.

In the same pot (no need to rinse it) heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add onions and courgettes and cook until the onions are translucent – about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic, and cook for another 3 minutes.

Add tomato paste and incorporate completely.

Deglaze the pan with the stout, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the beer warms.

Add the sweet potatoes and cover with beef broth.

Add the bay leaf, rosemary and Worcestershire sauce.

Add the beef.

Turn heat to low and let  simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are all cooked through.

Taste and add sugar, salt and pepper as necessary.

Serve over couscous, rice, or egg noodles – it’s also perfectly thick and delicious all on its own.

For my money, it could have used a bit more Worchestershire sauce – Just a bit more ‘oomph’. Using fresh rosemary would have helped but none of the shops I pawed my way round had any other fresh herbs than basil and coriander. Maybe some whiskey could have added a little something… Should have used red onions, perhaps.

Have a play! Tell me what you think – it’s not cheating in alchemy to put heads together, after all.

While you do that, I need to put my own head down and have a think about what to meddle with – er, investigate for you next. I’m torn between wintery cookies and party nibble ideas.

Let’s face it, it’s just a matter of which one to post about first.

Until then…

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