So its shopping day today and I have some random leftover veggies in my fridge. Not much gets wasted around here, so I'm always proud when there are only a handful of sad looking pieces of fruit and veg needing to be used up. So what to make with it? Its a cool autumn evening and I think a great night for a beef stew!
This is a "template" recipe, meaning that you can interchange many parts of it. A bit like my curries and soups, this recipe is different almost every time I make it depending on what's in the fridge, in season or on special... but is a great hearty home cooked meal for a cool evening. This will take about 90 minutes (prep and cooking time) on the stove or if you have time throw it in a slow cooker for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Its also cheap, tasty and a great way to get more vegetables in your diet!
Ingredients for tonight's version (with other suggestions in italics)
500g diced gravy beef (or lamb or chicken or pork or no meat at all)
1 onion diced
1 red capsicum
2 carrots diced
2 stalks celery diced
1 tsp minced garlic or 1 clove finely diced
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons plain flour (I use GF flour but any flour would do)
1 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 400g tin borlotti beans (or use kidney beans, lentils, chick peas)
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock or veggie stock depending on what youre making)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 slop (about 100ml) of red wine (any wine or beer or brandy or sherry works great too)
All the veggies you can find (I used sweet potatoes, mushrooms, peas, parsnips, spinach, carrots, pumpkin but really anything works)
Fresh or dried herbs of your choice(I used rosemary, oregano, thyme and a bay leaf for cooking and parsley for garnish)
Start by using a heavy based pot - I use cast iron as it retains heat and gives a lovely even cooking temperature throughout. Dice your onions, carrot, celery and capsicum, throw in the pot with a slop of olive oil, the garlic and paprika and start cooking, stirring the garlic and paprika into your veggies.. It will need about 5-7 minutes until your onions are translucent and everything has gone a lovely orangey red from the spices.
While this is cooking, dice the hardest of your vegetables -in my case carrots and parsnips - and if you are using mushrooms I also add them now. I also add the dried herbs (except the bay leaves) at this point. Tonight I added dried oregano, thyme and rosemary. Give these veggies another 5-7 minutes, cooking and stirring, until everything is softened and well coated in garlic, herbs and spices.
At this stage add your meat. I used diced beef - but any meat of your choice is fine. Just vary your herbs, wine and stock accordingly. Add your beef and 2 tablespoons of plain flour. Mix everything together roughly so the beef is well coated with flour and the flour will absorb all the juice from the pan. (this well ensure your stew has a nice thick gravy at the end). It will brown slightly as you stir but will remain mainly pink, this is fine. Some recipes want you to fully brown and sear the meat- I don't think its necessary and it actually ends up more tender this way in my experience.
Add a slop of red wine into the pot and stir it through. Next add your tin of diced tomatoes and your tin of drained and rinsed legumes (I used borlotti beans) and mix them in. Add 2 cups of beef stock and if you like an extra rich flavour a few tablespoons of tomato paste. Add the remaining vegetables roughly chopped into small pieces. (if you are using peas spinach or green veg don't add them yet).
Pop on the lid and pour yourself a (small) glass of wine. Turn the heat to low and simmer for half an hour, stirring once if need be to ensure nothing sticks on the bottom. After half an hour check on the flavour. At this point I usually add a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar for a yummy caramel flavour, add the peas, spinach and any other green veg and stir through any additional fresh herbs plus the bay leaf (remember to remove it before serving). Season with plenty of ground black pepper. Sit down with your feet up and finish your glass of wine for another 20 minutes or so for it to finish cooking and thicken up. Your kitchen should be smelling pretty awesome by now.