When you wake up in the morning and the world looks like this, you need something hot, substantial and nurturing on the menu for dinner.
I think you’d be hard pushed to find something more fitting to that description than this beef casserole – chunks of beef and baby button mushrooms in a meaty, onion rich gravy – real heart-cockle warming stuff. Bear in mind, of course, it doesn’t have to be snowing in order for you to have it for dinner 😉
To get the very best from the beef this wine infused dish is cooked low and slow in the oven, allowing the meat to gently relax and get to know its fellow ingredients – it is by no means an ‘in a hurry’ recipe. The good news is that although it takes 4 hours to cook, it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare and needs to be tended only once during the cooking time (and then once more just before serving).
Ideally, it’s cooked in a pan or dish that can go from hob to oven (and back again), that way you don’t lose a scrap of flavour. Ideal for the washing up situation too.
To my mind all this makes it an excellent dinner for a weekend/day off: a stupendously good meal with just enough preparation and attention required that you can justifiably say you made an effort, but plenty of ‘hands off time’ in which to do weekendy/day off-ish things.
As a bonus, your house gradually fills with the drool inducing, appetite stimulating aromas of herbs and garlic and meat and wine – so good. By the time it’s ready, believe me, so are you!
Serves 3-4 if presented with side dishes
Serves 2 if eaten with nothing but thickly buttered crusty bread
400g diced beef braising steak
4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, each cut into about 6 pieces (use scissors – so much easier than a knife 😉 )
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 sticks of celery, diced (if they have leaves on, chop those up and throw them in too…they’re full of flavour)
12-14 shallots, peeled
Several tablespoons of olive oil
2 beef stockpots/stock cubes
1 mini bottle (about 200ml) red wine
2-3 heaped teaspoons cornflour, in a mug or small jug, mixed to a paste with a little cold water
200g button mushrooms, cleaned but left whole
1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Ok, have you got everything together and done your prep? Let’s go then…
Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/300°F/150°C
With the heat reasonably high, heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole dish or oven safe pan and brown the beef, a few pieces at a time; remove cooked pieces from the pan and set to one side.
If necessary add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, allow it to heat, then quickly brown your shallots and bacon. Remove from pan and set to one side.
Having cooked off some of the bacon fat it’s unlikely you’ll need more oil in the pan, but add a little if you need to and allow it to heat up. Now add the celery, onions and garlic and cook until just starting to brown.
Return the meat to the pan.
Add the red wine and stir well, making sure you scrape any gorgeous, caramelised brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
Add water, stockpots, bay leaf and thyme and bring to simmering point.
Put the lid on the pan and put it in the oven.
Set a timer for 3 hours.
After 3 hours retrieve your casserole from the oven.
Add bacon, onions and mushrooms, and a little more water if you think it’s going to dry out too much over the next hour. Don’t add too much though, you’ll dilute the flavours.
Put the lid back on and put the pan back in the oven.
Set a timer for 1 hour.
After 1 hour take the pan from the oven and put it back on the hob on a medium heat. Fish out the thyme twig and the bay leaf and discard.
Ladle a little of the gravy into the mug containing the cornflour paste, stirring to mix well.
Pour the liquid back into your pan and cook, stirring continuously, until gravy has thickened.
Serve with whatever you fancy…mashed potato and green beans…or tiny boiled potatoes, carrots and broccoli…or baked potatoes and mange tout…or…
Shown here with rosemary roast potatoes and cheese topped vegetable bake.