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Stew glorious stew

By January 12, 2015 , ,

What else could you want on a cold winters day?

It's a typical wet and windy winters afternoon and my stew/stoofvlees/stoverij/casserole is happily cooking away in the oven creating a lovely beefy aroma throughout the downstairs of the house. The kind of smell that cheers you up as you know that something tasty is on its way later on.

I'm a big fan of slow cooking, so for me some stews will be started a few days in advance. One in question is oxtail stew as it does require processes to remove the fat before slow cooking it. I don't use a slow cooker, I just don't see the point in using one when you have a perfectly good oven with a timer. The other thing you do need is a good pot, I have my trusty Staub cast iron pot, which I love, it retains the heat and the meat doesn't dry out because of the indentations in the lid. Now I used to have a Chasseur and a Le Creuset but after an impulse buy at De Bijenkorf during last years sales, I have never looked back. Though my other half was not happy with me when he had to carry a heavy cast iron pot back home on the train from Den Haag! 

As well as stews, there are also daubes and tagines, and no, you do not have to buy one of those stupidly expensive tagine pots, your trusty cast iron will do just as well, no matter what any TV chef will tell you. There was a time after a month travelling around Morocco that the word tagine would send me cowering behind the sofa as that is all we ate during our travels, tagine for lunch and tagine for dinner, so needless to say it took me a while before I could face one again. 

So back to slow cooking, I got a bit distracted by pots and tagines.

A good stew/casserole/whatever requires time, if you cook at a low heat it allows the flavours to develop and the meat to become tender. When cooking you need to use a tough cut of meat such as shin or shoulder, with some fat and not too much sinew for flavour. Over time the meat goes through a process of going from tough to tender and back again. Ensure the meat is cut into largeish pieces, so it doesn't disintegrate completely, when it is cooked through, the meat will not require a knife to cut through it but will fall apart quite easily with a fork.

I do like lots of different types of slow cooked dishes, but my current favourite is a dish I learned when I first moved here to the Netherlands. Stoofvlees, now at the time my Dutch was pretty basic and I thought it was called Stoverij, which is Belgian due to the fact I saw the Belgian chef Peter Gossens cooking it on Dutch TV (turns out it was a Belgian programme). I was quite rightly corrected by the proprietor of De Druiventuin (local wine, beer and whisky emporium) that in the Netherlands it was Stoofvlees when I went to buy a beer for cooking the dish.

So here's my version of Stoofvlees (Dutch readers look away now)

500g shin of beef
1 large carrot peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped to the same size of the carrot
2 medium onions finely chopped
1 bottle of Belgian beer, I use chimay blue
1 dessert spoon flour
1 dessert spoon tomato puree
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
100g smoked bacon lardons 
20g dried porcini mushrooms
200ml beef stock or 200ml water and beef stock concentrate
Sprigs of Thyme, rosemary
1 bay leaf
Oil for frying
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the beef off to seal the outside and put to one side

Next fry the onions, carrots and celery until softened

Add the lardons and cook for 2 mins
Add the tomato puree and cook out for 3 minutes
Add the flour this will help thicken the stew and cook out again for 3 minutes
Now add the beer and stir to ensure that any flour stuck to the bottom of the pan has been removed
Add the porcini and mustard and stir through
Tip in the beef, and add the beef stock, bring to the boil briefly for a couple of minutes.
Put a lid on the pot and place in a low oven 110 degrees celsuis for 4 hours.
Season before serving

This can be served with mash or just plain boiled potatoes.

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