March 5, 2010

The Beef That Stewed

While scanning my blog it occurred to me that I have posted very little in the way of dinners. Taking a moment and wondering why that is, I suddenly realised that dinner time is late arvo or evening and the "light" is not right. My 'photographic' daughter has well and truly ingrained in me that natural light is the best and for me to avoid using flash. So in taking this advice I now see that I am not getting any evening meal photos. Perhaps I may just have to settle for that flash because I don't really want to be a blog all about sweet things with the odd savoury dish thrown in. I would like to be a little more balanced than that.

No time like the present. Last night we had a beef stew that had lots of oooohs and aaaaaaahs emanating around the table, (well, at least some of us - more about that later.) So I shall try my best to recreate the dish. There was heaps of it to go round, so fortunately I have leftover to take a photo in "good light". The beauty about stews and casseroles is that there are no absolute measurements; you really can afford to bend the rules and come up with your very own unique creation.

When I came back from Sydney this time, I ended up bringing back with me my aunt's big Bessemer Pot that believe it or not had never been used. I noticed a picture of a young Margaret Fulton on the brochure so I cannot imagine how old it is. Margaret Fulton is now eighty! It's sad really. My dad and my aunt made these expensive purchases and then kept them locked away in the cupboard never to be seen again. I think it was always a case of "save it". I am not entirely what they were saving it for, but given that my aunt shall never return home again after her stroke and that dad passed away three years ago, I decided to revive the Bessemer. And boy am I glad I did. It is one hundred percent Australian made, heavy and solid as a rock.

I christened it in February and I have used it a few times since. It made the most fantastic stuffed capsicums; gosh I wish I had a picture of that. It was the evening of Mitchell's twenty first and he requested just a dinner with the family and of course our wacky neighbours Romano and Philomena. He loves them to bits and they adore him too. The stuffed capsicums stole the show, sitting gloriously in the centre of the table. They held their shape, were cooked to perfection and the base had lovely, crispy bits that were gorgeous. So I am growing fonder and fonder of my Bessemer and finally it is able to demonstrate it's remarkable possibilities.

Yesterday I found a couple of packets of meat in the freezer marked with a "stewing" label. I took them out and when they were half defrosted, I cubed the meat whilst partially frozen. It is always easier to cut the meat this way. I carefully brought out the Bessemer; I am treating it with lots of love and care; placed it on the stove top then proceeded to commence with the "stew of the day".

Today's Beef Stew

1 1/2 kgs beef, cut into cubes
2 large brown onions
6 spring onions, halved
2 large carrots, diced
2 long celery sticks, diced
a whole bulb of garlic, peeled
1 x 400gm tin whole roma tomates
1 cup red wine
1 packet of Maggi "cook in the pot Beef Goulash" powder
3 tablespoons Worstershire Sauce
3 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons caster sugar
heaps of cracked pepper
salt to taste
water as needed
olive oil
plain flour

Begin by tossing the cubed meat in flour and shake off any excess. Heat up a frypan and when fairly hot, put in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a handful of the meat. Do not be tempted to crowd the pan because the cold meat will reduce the temperature of the frypan and it will not seal correctly. Do this in batches until all the meat has been browned. Set aside. I usually pour about a cup of water in the frypan while still hot to allow all the pan meaty bits and pieces to lift off the bottom. Strain into a bowl; set aside.

Place the onion, crushed garlic, carrots and celery together with a good blob of olive oil in a big heavy based pot. Sautee for a good 10 or 15 minutes; turn the heat down if it begins to brown too quickly. Add the sugar; stir through; cook on low for a couple of minutes.

Add one cup of red wine; allow to boil; stir into mixture. Next add processed canned tomatoes; stir. Mix the Maggi powder into the strained liquid that has been set aside; whisk till smooth; add to the veggie mixture. Turn down heat a little; the mixture will begin to thicken after the Maggi has gone in; at this stage you will need to add a couple of cups of water. When this comes to the boil, put all the browned meat into the pot. Follow with the spring onions, bay leaves, worstershire sauce, loads of cracked pepper and season with salt.

Do not sprinkle with too much salt at this stage; you can always add more at the end and if you get the mixture to taste to your liking right now, then you will not have allowed for when it reduces heavily, thickens up a lot more and becomes fairly concentrated. At this stage you may find you have oversalted, so it is definitely best to undersalt in the beginning.

Place a tight fitting lid onto the pot and allow the stew to simmer for a couple of hours over a very low heat. Mine took approximately two and a half hours. After this time I removed the lid allowing the liquid to reduce some more. This took about half an hour. I was happy with the rich and pulpy sauce and with the meat which was almost at the falling off the fork stage. Bingo. It was spot on.

To accompany the stew, I actually went to quite a bit of effort for the family so that all their tastes were covered. I made roast potato and sweet potato, sprinkled with paprika and cooked in a combo of olive oil and butter.

I cooked frozen corn and peas, together with fresh carrots and broccoli. I drained this and tossed in a tablespoon of butter.

I boiled some basmati rice.

I warmed up some crunchy rolls with butter on the side.

To finish I lovingly set the table with nice crockery and placemats.

My timing was perfect. Hubby had rocked up ten minutes earlier, starving, and I asked him to please hold out because dinner was eight minutes away. The Borb (nickname for my son Mitch), arrived just as I was placing the food into serving bowls - how perfect. The girls were ready to go. One minute later I heard a tremendous thud outside; I peeked out the door and said "dinner's ready", only to hear a "well I'm not" thunder back at me. The Borb didn't even make it in the door because he had to help Hubby who decided at that very moment his newly delivered lathe needed housing in the garage.

I sat at the table with the girls who sensed my disappointment. They kindly tried to be cheery, for my sake I suspect, however all I could see was two vacant chairs. I told the girls not to wait and begin. I was so looking forward to having the whole family eating my carefully, lovingly, time consuming dinner that took most part of my afternoon to prepare; but oh well. The girls were great and made me see the humorous side of things after I spat the dummy saying that was it, the usual well you know how it goes, I'm fed up, I'm not valued, I'm tired, I'm leaving, gripe, gripe, gripe.

The fellas came in long after we had finished although we still sat at the table. Eating their cooled down dinner infront of a cooled down me, I saw the raised eyebrows and the nods of approval - the mouths were too full to say anything you see so I had to read the visual cues - and I realised that the food was really appreciated and was being devoured with pleasure. Okay, I'm not leaving; well not unless it happens again. I mean it. Truly.

It would appear my friends, that the beef wasn't the only thing that stewed that day. I did a fair bit of stewing myself. No matter how well we plan things, life's little unpredicatabilities pop up to throw our plans out the door. Hubby's dinner plate was nearly thrown out the door but I reserved judgement after realising I had set the good dinnerware. One needs a sense of humour and thank you to my little blog for allowing me to offload my 'stewing' so that I can get over it and get on with the next evening meal. I think a quick and easy stir fry is on the cards tonight. Or maybe an even quicker and easier cereal box. Don't be cynical - of course I'm over the stewing!


  1. One question first...who is Borbs? n you have 2 daughters? ok that was 2 questions.

    You know waht...Im leaving alwys grunting,huffing and puffing and feeling unappreciated...sometimes I throw little things around ..well maybe I whack something ...LOLOL I just laughed when I read about u planning to 'leave'! my sentiments EXACTLY.. But we never do do we...silly us...

    esp when I sweat like a dog cooking dinner for 6 people every nite...and people just come when THEYRE ready! imagine that.:D

    the stew sounds n looks amazing. m going to have to try that and how considerate that you made two kinds of side dishes....sometimes I try to too. sigh i dont know what I did to have everyone having different preferences. I swear I brought them up together!

    ur daughters are so sweet but at least the men loved the stew and tt youre not leaving after all. that was so funny.

    Oh I was just on the verge of buying a cast iron pot the other day ..a beautiful brilliant blue but I didnt....but i mite go back ;)I love thick n heavy good to cook with n the dish just always turns out brilliant.

    I so enjoyed ur was so funny.

  2. Oh is that you and your daughter down there? so cute.... Hi there!

  3. Your comment has overwhelmed me zurin as I see that you fully understand. And that you fully empathise with my situation. I had a good old laugh myself when you said that "you sweat like a dog, and they come when they are ready". Excuse me, but are we twins or something! I know, I know, I know exactly how you feel. And then of course with this comes the feeling of being unappreciated and taken for granted. I am so glad you connected with the "I'm leaving". Gosh I have been there many, many times.

    But it is all blowing off steam to release the stewing (there's that word again) and at then end of the day I have the feeling zurin that you and I both know we are the heart and centre of our respective homes. We are the warmth and the comfort to which everyone gravitates when needed. We are safe, we are part of the furniture, we are the best cooks in the world and we are dependable and we can always be relied on when our family is in need. So secretly we really aren't taken for granted, and I suspect like me, you know it too. I'm so very pleased I touched a raw nerve with you and that we both managed to have a damn good chuckle because of it. Once again, thank you so much for sharing and relating. Love Mariana xxxx

    PS. I am so pleased you brought The Borb to my attention. Way back in my blog somewhere I stated that I am a fan of nicknames and all my kids have too many affectionate silly ones named by me, but somehow I think they love it.
    The Borb is Mitchell, my son. I probably should say that everytime I use it, so thanks for your question.

  4. Thanks for authenticating my story Issy. Love Ma xxxxx

  5. That natural light thing is such a killer! I won't take pictures with a flash and it means I miss so many great dinners that I could put on the blog otherwise. Such is life!

  6. What can I say Apples and Butter - I know exactly how you feel! Unlike you though, I am going to brave it and use the 'dreaded' flash. Only if I have absolutely no choice like the evening meal. To me it's such a shame to have a blog and not post about the meal that brings everyone together at the end of the day. So many great dishes are going "unblogged".

  7. Very entertaining story and yes know the feeling too .........but oh that's right ......I did leave!!!

  8. I see that I touched you on a certain level my dear pal. And boy did you make me laugh with the "I did leave". So funny and I know that there are no regrets for you. I hope you are enjoying your free-spirited and wonderful life while I stay here cooking for my lot. Still!!!!!!