Food: Squash in a bit more goodness.
If you're looking for a winter warmer for the family, here's an easy-to-cook traditional beef casserole with a bit of a tasty twist.
It is the final instalment of my series of one-pot, easy-to-prepare meals and it's ideal for these colder months.
The main difference with my dish is I add the vegetables to the pot along with the stew rather than the usual approach of serving them on the side.
For today's recipe I've used chunks of butternut squash alongside the beef but you could easily use potatoes or even a mixture of both.
In fact any root vegetable works really well in this stew. You could try parsnips, carrots, sweet potato or celeriac.
Remember, when adding your main vegetable to the casserole, it will take a good deal less cooking time than the beef.
The typical casserole will take between two and three hours, depending on the size of the chunks of beef and the temperature of the oven.
Unless you want your veg to turn to mush it's advisable to add them with around 30 or 45 minutes cooking time left.
When you're buying beef for your stew, look out for the cheaper cuts of meat.
These are often sold ready-cubed as stewing steak.
These are generally the fattier, more muscley cuts which are the best for long, slow cooking.
It's a good idea to dust your beef in seasoned flour before frying it at a high heat in a pan to brown it.
Firstly, this seals in the flavours of the meat and also gives a nice, caramelised flavour on the outside.
Secondly, the flour helps the stew, acting along with the fat as a thickening agent.
Flour and fat are a common method of thickening in cooking.
Think of butter and flour used as a roux - the base for any thick, white sauce - and you will get the idea.
BEEF & BUTTERNUT CASSEROLE
1.5kg stewing beef
200g bacon, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary and 1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
1 tbsp brown sauce
Splash Worcestershire sauce
450ml red wine
450ml beef stock
2 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut in to chunks
75g plain flour
Salt and pepper
Dust the beef in 35g of seasoned flour and brown in a pan. Add oil and fry bacon and all veg except the squash for 5 mins. Place in casserole dish, put a splash of the wine in the pan to deglaze it then pour into the casserole.
Add stock, wine, herbs and sauces and mix well. Cover and cook for 90 mins at 175C. Add the squash and cook for 40 mins then remove the meat and veg. Beat rest of the flour and butter together and whisk into sauce. Simmer on the stove for 5 mins to thicken before replacing the meat and veg. Mix before serving.
You can use braising steak rather than chunks of stewing steak. It's prepared and cooked in the same way but you're left with a nice whole steak to serve on the plate that will be just as tender and tasty as the chunks of beef in the casserole. Also try adding whole button onions to the stew instead of chopped onions. After you've browned your beef, brown the peeled baby onions before continuing with the casserole in the normal way. A handful of fresh parsley at the end is nice too.
You don't have to use red wine in the stew if you're not keen on it but it does give a wonderful flavour to the dish. White wine doesn't have as much body but works well if you use lamb instead of beef. Other options are Guinness or ale - just use the same amount of Guinness as you would red wine and the same amount of beef stock. Basically as long as you make the liquid up to 900ml, you won't go far wrong.