Rustic beef stew
Thanks to my friend Joyce, I learnt to make a hearty and rustic beef stew. Joyce is a very good cook and she selflessly imparted her secret beef stew recipe to me (well, not a secret anymore since I’m sharing her recipe here, with her permission hehe). I have an inability to follow recipes to a T, so this recipe came with my own adjustments (browning the meat first, adding worchester sauce, peas, thyme & beef broth) but overall it is built around her original recipe. I think dishes such as beef stew or whole roast chicken make a cook look very clever, though they are actually quite easy to prepare. Thus, it is great for entertaining or during festive (such as Christmas) dinners & parties – you’ll impress your folks while feeding a lot at the same time. Beef stew is usually enjoyed by those staying in colder regions, but in tropical Singapore, I’m determined not to be deprived of this delicious dish. Perhaps December is the best month to enjoy this stew with our wetter days and slightly cooler nights.
This recipe calls for the stew to be slow-cooked in the oven instead of simmering on the stove top. To do that, a cast-iron Dutch oven will be perfect for the job, though you can use any oven-safe casserole. This recipe feeds about 4 to 6 persons, but I actually cooked this huge pot for two, with intention of leftovers for the next day. The thing about beef stew is that it stew tastes great the next day (can’t resist the pun) so it’s worthwhile to cook a bit more.
- 800g stew beef cubes (chunks)
- 200g berastagi potatoes (or any hard potatoes)
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut to chunks
- 2 cups beef broth (or 2 cups hot water mixed with 1.5 knorr beef cube)
- 1.5 tbsp Worcester (Worcestershire) sauce
- 1 glass red wine
- 250 packet portebello mushrooms, quartered
- 6 sprigs of thyme (can also use mixture of thyme and rosemary)
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 1/2 tbsp slightly crushed black peppercorns
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large white/yellow onion, diced
- 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves and peeled
- 1 cup frozen vegetables(peas, corns and carrots), thawed
- olive oil
- plain flour
- Dutch oven or oven-safe casserole, at least 3-litre capacity
- Kitchen tongs
- Oven gloves (preferably silicon material as it can withstand higher temperatures)
Step 1: A tip about the beef to use from my friend Joyce. You could buy ready-cut stew beef cubes, but you can save money if you buy a whole chunk of meat and cut it yourself. She recommended me to get the “chuck tender” cut found at the chiller section of Giant hypermart in Singapore and yes, I find it economical and good.
Step 2: If slicing your own meat, rinse and pat dry the meat with kitchen towel, then cut them to large cube chunks.
Step 3: Season the beef cubes with a bit of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Grease dutch oven or casserole with a thin layer of olive oil. When the oil is heated, add beef cubes one at a time (you will hear a gentle sizzle and see slight smoking) to form one layer on the pan. Do not overcrowd the meat. Let the cubes brown on one side, then flip over with kitchen tongs and brown on the other side. Take out browned meat and set aside. Add more oil to the casserole if needed and repeat till all the beef cubes are browned. Do not discard the brown bits or juices collected in the casserole. I learnt from watching cooking shows that browning meats is an important step when making stews and doing so adds a lot of flavour to the stew.
Step 4: My browned beef cubes. For the lot of beef cubes I had, I browned them in 3 batches.
Step 5: Add a bit more olive oil to the casserole. Then add diced celery and onions and ‘sweat’ them on medium low heat (about 3 -5 minutes). You will see them turning brown from soaking the juices left in the casserole.
Step 6: Pour a glass of red wine in and saute the celery and onions till the alcohol has evaporated and you smell the nice aroma of the wine.
Step 7: Stir in 1 tbsp plain flour and cook for one minute more to thicken the mixture.
Step 8: Add beef stock and when it comes to a simmer, add carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, garlic, mushrooms and Worcester sauce. Bring the stew to a simmer.
Step 9: While waiting for the stew to simmer, peel potatoes and quarter them.
Step 10: By the time you are done with the potatoes, the pot will likely be bubbling away and the mushrooms would have shrunk somewhat, making space for more ingredients in the casserole.
Step 11: Add potatoes and browned beef cubes to the casserole.
Step 12: When the ingredients come to a simmer, off the stove. Cover the Dutch oven or casserole with lid and transfer to an oven. Bake the casserole at 180C for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Step 13: After the baking, take the Dutch oven out (using silicon oven gloves). Check the consistency of the stew. I find mine a little too watery so I add 1 more tbsp plain flour to thicken the stew. Stir through to dissolve the flour. Adjust to your liking. If it’s too dry, you can add more beef broth or hot water.
Step 14: Add thawed frozen vegetables and mix into the stew.
Step 15: Cover with lid and bake for another 15 minutes, or till the beef is tender. Test taste the stew and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, if needed.
Step 16: Serve beef stew with rice or bread.
- If you do not wish to bake the stew, you can simmer on the stove top till the beef is tender and the gravy is reduced to a consistency of your liking.
- To adjust the consistency of the stew gravy, add beef stock or hot water for more liquid and plain flour for thicker gravy.
Add 1 canned tomatoes (either whole or chopped type) if you like tomato flavour for your stew. Your stew will be red instead of brownish.