This is a great basic Stew Formula that works every time. Chunks of meat are cooked in liquid until they are meltingly tender, the flavour is deep and the liquid has developed into a thickened gravy. The way I’ve written this recipe allows you to easily chop and change it, using different meats, herbs and liquids, and in no time you’ll be making up some of your own variations.
– 3 tbsp rapeseed oil
– 2 onions, chopped
– 2 carrots, chopped
– 2 celery sticks, sliced
– 3 bay leaves
– 2 tbsp plain flour
– 300ml (½ pint) chicken or beef stock (from a cube is fine)
– 1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
– 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
– sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Beef and Beer (3 hours)
– 900g (2lb) diced stewing steak
– 1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh thyme
– 750ml (1 ¼ pints) beer (preferably an Irish craft beer)
Pork and Cider (2½ hours)
– 900g (2lb) diced stewing pork
– 1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh sage
– 750ml (1 ¼ pints) medium-dry cider
Chicken and White Wine (1½ hours)
– 900g (2lb) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2cm (¾in) cubes
– 1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
– 750ml (1¼ pints) dry white wine
Lamb and Red Wine (2½ hours)
– 900g (2lb) diced stewing lamb
– 1 heaped tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
– 750ml (1¼ pints) red wine
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F/gas mark 3). Heat a heavy-based pan or casserole with a lid over a medium-high heat. Pat dry any excess liquid from the meat or chicken with kitchen paper.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of rapeseed oil to the pan or casserole, then add the meat or chicken and brown it in batches, leaving plenty of room around each piece to ensure that they brown nicely and don’t end up stewing. Set aside on a plate.
3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan, then add the onions, carrots, celery sticks, bay leaves and your chosen herb.
4. Season with salt and pepper and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are just beginning to caramelise and soften. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for another minute or two, stirring.
5. Gradually pour in the booze that you’re using and then the stock, then add the sugar and vinegar. Return the meat or chicken to the pan or casserole and bring to a simmer.
6. Cover with a lid, then transfer to the oven for the times shown above, removing the lid about halfway through to help the liquid to reduce and to concentrate the flavours.
7. To serve, put some mashed potatoes into each warmed wide-rimmed bowl and ladle over some of the stew scattered with the parsley or just serve with some crusty bread. Have a bowl of some steamed greens alongside so that everyone can help themselves.
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