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Simple stew

Discussion in 'Cookery' started by glitterkid, Jan 14, 2011.

  1. Hey all, promised OH I'd make a stew for him tomorrow and have the following ingredients in the house already: carrots, parsnips, turnip, potatoes, stewing steak. Anyone got an easy recipe?

    PS Bethannie, I don;t have a slow cooker anymore (my pal took her slow cooker back [​IMG])
  2. modelmaker

    modelmaker Senior commenter

    Stews are easy, nothing is any easier than a stew. The only thing you need to remember is to stew it, which means cooking on a low heat until it's done. The bit that makes a stew worth the effort is the gravy. For this you need to develop some flavour and the simplest way to do this is by browning the meat first.
    At some stage I would add flour to thicken the gravy and add silkiness to the texture. You can do this by coating the meat in it before you brown it. I do this the easy way by putting a tablespoon of flour in a plastic bag, adding the meat and give it a good shake. Pour the lot into a colander over the sink and toss to remove the excess flour.
    I'd personally leave out the parsnips and potatoes, at least for most of the cooking. Parsnips will turn to mush if you cook them too long, far better to use them as a vegetable in their own right.
    Mushrooms would be good, and you'll need onions as well. Adding something spicy like a pinch of crushed chilli enhances the eating experience but don't go over the top, you can taste it and add more later if you wish, and you'll need some herbs. I take it this is your first stew or you wouldn't be asking for a recipe. Dried herbs are fine, again you can add more later if need be. It might need an Oxo cube and it will need salt and pepper, oh and how did I nearly forget water?
    Finally, in my opinion, every stew needs dumplings. Dead simple to make. Self-raising flour and suet, half the weight of suet to the flour, a pinch of salt and just enough water to bring it together so you can form balls to drop into the stew during the last 20 minutes of cooking. For 2 people, 3 oz of flour is enough. Add some herbs and pepper to the mix and they taste finer still.
    Good luck! Lets know how you get on.
    Next time you tackle a stew try boeuf bourguignonne. Again, it's not that difficult, but a bit more impressive.
  3. modelmaker

    modelmaker Senior commenter

    One thing I forgot to add is that stews take at least a couple of hours to cook on the stove or in the oven. You can cook them when it's convenient and reheat later but the dumplings have to go in at the end.
  4. anon468

    anon468 New commenter

    modelmaker - nice to see you back, I've missed your posts on 'cookery'!
    Listening to an interview with Clarissa Dickson Wright on Radio 5 Live last week (excellent interview by the way) and she advised the addition of a couple of anchovies to a beef stew for added 'depth' Not sure whether you'd chuck 'em in whole and fish out at the end, or chop them up, add and leave.
    Might give it a go tomorrow when I do my beef in Guinness stew and report back... [​IMG]
  5. If you like, you can also add a couple of tins of tomatoes - if you use the juice, you need less water and stock.
    You can also then thicken up with some tomato puree rather than flour, which personally I never use for thickening a stew, but we will all have our own preferred methods.
    And you very definitely should add some onion - there is no real need to chop them very fine if you don't want to, they will soften and fall apart as the stew is cooking anyway.
    I generally add a bay leaf too.
    And cook for a good 1 1/2 to 2 hours at least on low heat.
  6. Thanks for the replies! Will let you know how it goes! Bit nervous about dumplings but haven't had them in years so might attempt them. How long before the end will they go in?
  7. 15 to 20 minutes before the end should be fine.
  8. Thanks, CQ, I just realised that ModelMaker included the time in his instructions, silly me!
  9. Don't be too nervous - you can't do a lot wrong with a stew [​IMG]
  10. anon468

    anon468 New commenter

    You have clearly never enjoyed stew perfectly ruined by yours truly...
  11. modelmaker

    modelmaker Senior commenter

    I've missed you all too.
    Bye-bye BT, we're back in the real world of comunication. I'll pay the bill you said was your final bill when I get around to it and I don't care how many more additions you think you will con me into, a bill that says it's your final bill is, in my view, a final bill.
    Either chop them up or grind down in a pestle and mortar. They will add depth but it all depends on how strong the other flavours in the stew are. Surprisingly, although anchovies on their own are a bit special, once you cook with them, you'd need a hell of a lot to taste the anchoviness.
    And Celtic, I love tomatoes in a stew, but your raising the stakes from a simple stew. Are they tinned or fresh? A can of tomatoes could ruin a stew or it could make it in the hands of a skilled cook. The flavour is so intense it's difficult for the beginner to know how much to use. Fresh tomatoes, now that's a different matter entirely. Sweeter, silkier stew.
    I think at this stage we should stick to basics and encourage this dear girl to cook. In a month or so, once she's grasped the basics and loving it, she will be telling us where we all go wrong.
    And I shall love her if she does.
  12. One mental trick I got from reading Stephanie Alexander's mighty opus. When we cook 'tough' cuts of meat in stews and casseroles, the important thing is slow, slow heat for a long time -
    ..... to 'melt' the connective tissue.
    Most of us don't use the really difficult cuts, but keeping this 'melting' in mind has made it easier for me to turn down the heat a bit and keep it on for a bit longer.
    And yes, caramelising the surface of the meat by browning first does wonders for the flavour.
  13. modelmaker

    modelmaker Senior commenter

    You're a cook and no mistake, adelady.
    It's rather sad I never thought to say this isn't it? Fundamental to a decent beef stew.
  14. anon468

    anon468 New commenter

    I always brown the meat first, then chuck the veg in with the lovely caramised juices to soften (onions, carrots, swede, parsnips, 'shrooms).
    Then a tablespoon or two of flour scattered over the meat & veg (stir and make sure all the juices are absorbed - about one minute tops).
    Then the stock, maybe some beer (I like my Guinness), a splash of Worc sauce, a dollop of tomato puree if you fancy, a bayleaf and a small sprig of fresh thyme, plus salt & pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and...
    Whack in the oven at 130c (fan oven) for about 3 hours.
    p.s. I use cheap stewing steak. 750g for less than a fiver from local butcher, so I know exactly where it's come from
  15. I always use shin of beef - never anything labelled stewing steak in the supermarket, especially if it has already been cut into pieces. Lord knows what's in it!
  16. Yeah, I did it in two batches but maybe should have done it in three. Was using a fancy cast iron pan I got as a wedding present so hadn't used it before (it's been languishing in the attic for two years, maybe now it'll get some use!).

    Thanks again for the help!
    PS, Manashee, a good memory is both a curse and a blessing sometimes, eh?

  17. Si N. Tiffick

    Si N. Tiffick Occasional commenter

    Those dark sticky bits on the bottom of the pan are what gives the stew its flavour- you want this to happen!
  18. inky

    inky Lead commenter

    You can replace the water with beer,of course.A 500ml bottle for I Kg of meat.liquid evaporate at Abbot or some other nice bitter is good.Whatever fluid you use, let some of it evaporate towards the end of cooking so that the sauce isn't thin.
    A couple of bay leaves go well. Just dust the meat with flour [too much and the stew will be too thick] and brown it. Don't bother frying the onions. Chop them into quarters and let them go silky in the cooking.
    Mushrooms are nicer if you fry them in butter and add them towards the end of cooking but I rarely put them in a stew.Carrots are the only essential besides onion. Parsnips can make a stew too sweet but are lovely mashed on the side.
    If you cook the stew in the oven, you can bake potatoes alongside and save on fuel.
    Dumplings? Up to you!
  19. inky

    inky Lead commenter


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