This is the recipe for Irene’s much-admired beef stew, which is as delicious as it is straightforward. Having said that it is straightforward, I have learnt a lot from watching her cook this – having the meat at room temperature, making sure it is dry and taking care with browning all make a huge difference to the final stew, so do take time with these steps.
Today we made it with three large slices of shin with the bone in. Using meat on the bone gives real body to the liquor of the stew, but this recipe also works well with other stewing cuts, though do try to get meat in large pieces – it is hard to get a really good result with finely machine-diced stewing beef. If using meat off the bone, reduce the weight of meat to 800g and the total amount of liquid to around 500ml. Serves 4-6.
1kg shin of beef, bone in
2 cloves garlic
A little oil
75g pancetta or bacon lardons
1½ tbsp flour
500 ml sturdy red wine
200 ml water or beef stock
1 small dried chilli
1 bay leaf
2-3 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
A few celery tops, roughly torn
150g chestnut mushrooms
A small knob of butter
A small handful of parsley, chopped
Take the meat out of the fridge at least 2 hours before you start cooking so that it is at room temperature.
Heat the oven to 175º C. Chop the onions roughly. Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Brown the pancetta in a large casserole. Remove it from the pan and put on one side. Soften the onions in the bacon fat over a medium-low heat, adding a little bit of oil if necessary. The onions should soften but not brown. After 5 minutes add the chopped garlic and cook gently for a further 3-5 minutes until just starting to colour. Scoop out of the pan and add to the pancetta.
Dry the meat using kitchen towel. Put the flour on a plate or shallow dish, season with pepper (not salt as the bacon is salty) and lightly coat each piece of meat in the flour. Heat ½ tbsp oil in a separate frying pan over a fairly high heat (you can do this in the casserole if you prefer). Brown the meat quickly in batches on both sides, transferring it to the casserole (or a plate). Don’t put too much meat into the pan at once, or it will steam rather than browning. When all the meat has been browned, add the wine and the water or beef stock to the pan and heat until just bubbling, scraping up any residue from browning the meat. If you have beef stock you can use less wine and more stock, if you prefer, providing the total quantity is about the same (but if you’re using water don’t increase the proportion of water to wine).
Put all the ingredients into the casserole, including the herbs, celery leaf and whole chilli, and pour over the hot wine and water or stock. The liquid should nearly cover, but not drown, the meat (see the photo at the top of this post) so adjust the quantity if necessary. Bring to a simmer and put into the oven.
After half an hour turn the oven down to 150º C and cook for a further 2 hours (1½ hours if using meat off the bone).
Wipe the mushrooms (if necessary), trim the stalks and cut into quarters. Heat a knob of butter with a few drops of oil, preferably in a good non-stick frying-pan. Sauté the mushrooms briefly – just 2 or 3 minutes – so that they are just colouring and add to the casserole. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Fish out the sprigs of herbs and the dried chilli and garnish with chopped parsley.
Serve with parsnip or celeriac mash and greens or, as we did in Amsterdam and again this evening, with Stampot. Beforehand we had smoked eel with a little salad, and afterwards Dutch cheese, and Simon Hopkinson’s Baked Quinces.