It was a very cold February. I’m pretty sure it was record setting cold, whatever that means. I’m very much over the whole boots, and scarf and big puffy coat and snotsicles thing, you know? And then there’s the snow. When it’s not rip-off-your-face-windchill-and-freeze-your-eyes-shut cold, it’s snowing. O Canada, you cruel mistress.
We’ve been in hibernation mode the last few months weeks. It took us all of 2 weeks to get through a months’ worth of internet data this month and I don’t even want to admit to you how many seasons of Friends I’ve breezed through on Netflix. Read: too many. And with hibernation comes long naps and hearty food. In that order.
Nothing says winter comfort food like beef stew. It’s rich, and rib sticking, and …healthy I think? Plus, it gives you something to do on an otherwise unproductive Sunday. My day went something like this: wake up, chop some veggies, lie down, chop a few more veggies, lie down, brown some beef, lie down, deglaze the pot and get everything in there to start cooking, lie down, transfer from the stove to the oven and lie down for 3-4 hours until it’s ready to serve. A nice little Sunday.
About 1kg of stewing beef, in chunks the size of an ice cube. You’re going to cook this low and slow so it’ll be very tender – don’t fret too much about getting a nice cut of meat. Save that money for wine.
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 onion, chopped roughly
3-4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2-3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
About 3 cups chopped potatoes – whichever are your favourite. I did a mix of red and yellow, because I’m an equal opportunist eater.
½ cup frozen green peas
2 cups beef stock
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 bottle of beer – I used a light pilsner but something dark and hoppy would also be good
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp ground basil
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion salt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Dash of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
How to make it:
1) In a large pot over medium high heat, warm up 1-2 tsp of olive oil. If you have a coated cast iron pot, use it. If you don’t, any big oven-safe pot will do.
2) Chop all your veggies in between naps. I went for chunks about the size of a toonie. You can go larger or smaller, just make sure all your chunks are roughly the same size so they cook evenly. (Put your rules away, I’m not talking that precise.)
3) Lay your beef chunks on a cookie sheet and lightly dust with about half the flour, trying to get even coverage on all the pieces. Shake off any excess.
4) In small batches, brown your meat in the pot. “Don’t crowd the pot!” the experts always say. I think what they mean is leave a little daylight between all the chunks of meat so that they have enough room to brown up and not just sweat each other out, like a Grade 9 dance.
5) Once all your meat is brown, set it aside on a plate.
6) The bottom of your pot is going to look all brown and gooey and a little crispy. THAT IS PERFECT. This is when I suggest adding all your spices and Worcestershire sauce. Scrape it around until it forms a paste.
7) Add in your beer and bayleaf and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for a couple minutes so the beer starts to reduce.
8) Add your tomato paste and stir it around to loosen it up and get the flavours activated. Like a tomato machine…ACTIVATE.
9) Add your veggies (except the green peas!), beef, and beef stock. The stock should juuuust cover all your ingredients.
10) Cover and let it simmer for about half an hour.
11) Have another lie down.
12) Remove the cover and give it a stir.
13) Place it in a 300 degree oven, and maybe put a cookie sheet underneath the pot in case you’re like me and filled your pot too full and have a little stock overflow.
14) Go have a 3-4 hour nap
15) Remove the stew from the oven. At this point your house probably smells amazing. That means it’s working!
16) Remove the cover and let it stand for about 5-10 minutes.
17) Skim the top of pot to remove excess fat. This is easier than it sounds. Take a small spoon and just go around the edges of the pot, scooping out as much fat as you can. It will feel tedious but it’s worth it. If you get a bit of the stock in with it that’s okay. (Sidenote: I am all about fat. Fat = flavour. In moderation, etc. But if you leave too much of the beef fat in the stew it’ll coat your mouth when you eat it and it’s super unpleasant.)
18) Place the pot back on medium heat on the stove and add the green peas.
19) Drop in flour, one tbsp at a time, and stir and simmer until your sauce starts to thicken to the consistency you like. Give it about 5 minutes between flour bombs to gauge how it’s working.
20) Taste your broth and season with salt, pepper and anything else that tickles your fancy.
21) Serve with warm garlic bread and red wine and then go back to bed.