Rich and Hearty Beef Casserole

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.

Rich beef casserole served with vegetable bake and rosemary roast potatoes

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.

Rich beef casserole

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

Ingredients
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
800ml water
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
Music

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

cubed beef

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.

browned shallots

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.

crushed garlic, diced onion and celery

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.

wine and stockpots

Add the red wine and stir well, making sure you scrape any  gorgeous, caramelised brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

bay leaf and thyme

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

After 3 hours retrieve your casserole from the oven.

mushrooms

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.

transfer to stove top to thicken

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.

add cornflour

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.

Rich beef casserole with veg bake and rosemary roast potatoes

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.

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Cod & Chorizo Stew

The weather had been fractious all day and by evening it was building itself up into a proper little temper tantrum – the wind was flinging things around streets and gardens, and the rain was sounding like small stones as it hit the windows in intermittent bursts.  It was a night most conducive to snuggling on the sofa, watching something silly on TV and eating something from a bowl.

Served codI’d taken some cod loin out of the freezer, intending to have it roasted with vegetables, but that plan was quickly cancelled in favour of this cod and chorizo stew.

In the process of making it I discovered a terrible gap in our spice collection…

Edvard_Munch_-_The_Scream_-_Google_Art_Project…no smoked paprika!! 😉

I’ve included paprika in the recipe because, although good without, the dish needed it to elevate it to wonderful status.

Ingredients
300g cod loin, cut into chunks
A splosh of olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2-3 celery sticks, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
100g chorizo, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½-1 teaspoon dried oregano
½-1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
Approx. 250ml dry cider (or dry white wine)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
10-12 cherry tomatoes
1 vegetable stockpot (or stock cube)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

(Always makes me think of Chef J 🙂 )

First, make sure the living room’s ready for your return – close the curtains, turn on the lamps, get the cushions just how you like them…

Ok, now we’re ready to cook!
Diced onion, celery and carrotYou need a pan with a lid.  Heat the oil in that pan and add chopped onions, celery and carrot.  Swish everything around to make sure it’s well mixed and lightly coated with oil.  Cook over a low temperature, with the lid on, for 15-20 minutes.  Stir and prod occasionally.

Chopped chorizo and dried oregano

Add chorizo, oregano, garlic, smoked paprika, and most of the thyme (keep some back for garnish) and cook for a further 3-5 minutes.Chopped red pepperAdd chopped pepper and continue to cook over a low heat, with the lid on, until your pepper is just soft around the edges and your mix looks…Cooked soffritto with chorizo and peppers…something like this!

CiderTurn up the heat a little, add cider (or wine) and simmer with the lid off until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Cherry tomatoes

Veg stockpot

Add tinned tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and stockpot (or cube).  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, with the lid off, until liquid has reduced and started to thicken.From this to this

Before and after reduction: not the best pictures but if you click on them to enlarge and study them quite closely, like a spot the difference, you can see the changes 😉
Add cod chunksAdd cod chunks, pop the lid back on and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.

Cooked codSeason to taste, sprinkle over reserved thyme and serve with mashed potatoes or crusty bread.  Or both.

Cod & Chorizo Stew with Mashed PotatoesNow, take your bowl and go snuggle up in your cosy living room 🙂
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Quick and Easy Creamy Seafood Stew

Much as I want to forge ahead with posting recipes from the birthday banquet, I really should finish up the Cupboard Challenge recipes first.  After all, one purpose of this blog is to help me practice discipline, to learn to see one project through before flitting off to another 😉

This seafood stew, from day eight of the challenge, used up some odds ‘n’ sods of fishy things from the freezer – a hot-smoked salmon fillet, a handful of king prawns and a bake-in-the-bag cod thing bought by Barn on an occasion when he’d been left to fend for himself.  You can easily amend the recipe according to what you have available.

To serve two

Ingredients
A glug of olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
A small portion of frozen peas
A really good slug of white wine. In fact, make it two.
300ml chicken stock (or even better, fish stock)
2 teaspoons cornflour, mixed to a paste with cold water
Approx. 400g mixed seafood (if frozen, defrosted; if fillets or large pieces, cut into chunks)
Approx. 2 teaspoons fresh parsley, roughly chopped
A pinch of fresh thyme leaves
About half a tub of crème fraîche
Lots of freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt
Music

Ready to make an easy, satisfying dinner?  Ok then, let’s get cracking…

Carrot, celery, onionHeat the olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, carrot and celery on a low heat, for 10-15 minutes, until soft but not brown.

GarlicAdd the crushed garlic and cook for another minute or so.

Frosty peas

Toss in the frozen peas.  They don’t have to be as frosty as these ones.White wineGlug in the wine and simmer on a high heat until reduced to about half.

Pour in the stock, add the cornflour mix, turn up the heat slightly and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes, until sauce has thickened.

SeafoodSeason, then add the seafood…

Chopped herbs…and thyme, and most of the parsley.

creme fraicheSimmer for a few more minutes, until fish is piping hot, then stir in the crème fraîche.

Creamy Seafood StewHeat gently for a another minute, just to bring the temperature back up, then scatter with the remaining parsley.  Add more black pepper.  Serve with buttered, crusty bread.
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The food week that was – 02/02/15

I believe, for a variety of reasons, that it is a good thing for me to have a regular publishing schedule for this blog; taking account of other commitments I’ve decided that I will post once a week.  There may be extra posts when things are happening, or if the mood takes me, but as a demonstration that I can stick to a schedule, I hereby commit to posting at least every Sunday.  Cakes and parties (oddly) come along in little clusters and so, on their own, will not promote regularity of posting.  If I have nothing else to bring to show and tell (like today), I’ll post about the week’s meals (oh, the thrills, I hear you gasp 😉 )

Oven 'Fried' Brie (Mon 2nd)Monday: Something extra yummy to take the sting out of the start of the working week – crispy coated oven baked brie wedges, oozing their unctuous goodness onto crisp cos lettuce leaves,  scooped up with crusty bread, with a dollop of deliciously sticky rich onion marmalade on the side.Carrot & Coriander Soup (Tues 3rd)Tuesday: Working late and having dinner there.  A homely, satisfying bowl of freshly made carrot and coriander soup for lunch before leaving.

Pizza collageWednesday: Mid-week pizza night to try out some new frozen pizza doughs I discovered – one flavoured with chilli, the other with rosemary.  I made a base sauce using passata, garlic and herbs, then with a selection of toppings we each came up with our own perfect creations. Making them was companionable and fun, and the dough turned out to be really good – the whole thing was a BIG success!

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