© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

 

© 2009-2011 Quality Eating and Drinking London Ltd

Stewed beef with field mushrooms and dark beer

This warming stew is perfect for marking the clocks' going back in the autumn, and indeed it turns on its magic throughout the dark months till we put them forward again in March. And then, knowing the fickleness of the British weather, on through till May. It cooks slowly, suffusing the house with gentle aromas: this quantity should be enough for four or more, depending on how hungry the consumers are.

A good field mushroom will add its earthy taste to the mix of good mature beef and the dark roasty secrets which lie in the unseen depths of a black beer. These should be the dominant flavours, rounded out by the sweetness of the onions and carrots. Many recipes for such stews call for smoked bacon (some, unaccountably, for unsmoked): here, we prefer to use up an old end of a European smoked sausage, such as the kindziuk sold by the Polish Deli London at QED markets and more regularly at Covent Garden's Thursday Producers' Market. Any good delicatessen or supermarket deli counter should be able to provide a sausage end.

Like any such stew, it is at least as good reheated, so feel free to scale up and provide for more people, or more sittings. As well as the oven-going casserole, you will need a large frying pan: if you only have smaller pans, or if you are expanding the recipe, use two pans or the same one twice with half the ingredients each time. Allow an hour's preparation; if you have a chopping helper (human or robot), you can save a bit of time.

This looks like a long and involved recipe, but in actual fact, it is not that difficult. Oven temperature is only 140-150C, so it can be warming up while you are working on the hob.

800g shin of beef or similar cut
250g field mushrooms, wiped
200g onion, peeled
200g carrot, trimmed and peeled
smoked sausage end, the size of a small lemon

15g butter
20ml vegetable oil (olive, rapeseed, groundnut, etc.,
   according to preference)
2 Tbs flour (as thickening agent, e.g., cornflour)
300ml porter, stout or similar dark beer
1 Tbs tomato purée
1 tsp brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
zest of half an orange

100g shallot, peeled
as necessary: salt, pepper and paprika
   (mild: sweet or smoked according to preference)
parsley to garnish

  • Cube the beef into pieces no smaller than 2cm: you may go up to 5cm in two of the three dimensions
  • Separate stalks from heads of mushrooms. Reserve half the heads for later.
  • Reserve half the carrot for later.
  • Chop (separately) the unreserved mushrooms, carrot and onions to give pieces 2mm-5mm.
  • Cut almost through the sausage in a cross-hatch pattern, almost down to the flat end, to form a 'hedgehog': this will maximise the flavour transfer.
  • Melt the butter and heat it with the oil in a large frying pan.
  • Brown the meat lightly, no more than 200g at a time, and transfer to a waiting plate.
  • Make sure the oil is not too hot, and add the carrots to the frying pan, and stir them around until they begin to soften in texture and colour.
  • Add the onions to the frying pan, and stir until they begin to soften in texture and colour.
  • Now add the mushrooms, stirring constantly until they start to give back their juices.
  • Stir in the flour vigorously, to incorporate it well.
  • Now add the beef, stirring the whole mix well to incorporate the paste with the meat, before turning it all into an oven-going casserole with a well-fitting lid.
  • Pour half the beer (that's 150ml) into the frying pan, and loosen up the bits. Add the tomato purée and the sugar, let these dissolve, and then empty the liquor into the casserole. Pour the rest of the beer into the frying pan to catch any last bits, and add the liquid to the casserole.
  • Add the bay, thyme, zest of orange and sausage, pressing them into the liquor, and place the casserole in the oven for about 1.5 hours with its lid firmly on. Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper to overhang the bowl before putting the lid on if steam can escape quickly from under the lid. Bring the stew out of the oven, remove the thyme, and test the flavour of the liquor, re-balancing it with salt and sugar as needed.
  • In the unlikely event that the stew is drying out, add water, and a little mushroom ketchup if desired.
  • Now put the stew back into the oven for another half hour.
  • Peel the shallots: cut these and break up the remaining mushrooms into pieces about the size of half a shelled walnut (and a few shelled half-walnuts would be an exotic extra to add here, but don't overdo it).
  • Slice the carrots thinly (no more than 3mm).
  • Remove the stew from the oven: now retrieve the hunk of sausage, the orange and the bay leaves.
  • Add the shallot, carrot and mushroom pieces, and cook the stew for another 45 minutes, making final adjustments to the seasoning. If you decide to use paprika, take out some liquid into a small bowl, and stir the paprika in away from the heat, before assimilating it back into the pot: that way, the paprika will not burn and become bitter.
  • Remove it from the oven, and either serve after 15 minutes' rest or let it cool for reheating later.

This is a good one-bowl meal, or it may be served with potatoes or rice. If it is served solo, some hunks of good rustic bread — perhaps a rye mix — would be good for soaking up the gravy.

A lighter red wine — say, a beaujolais or a kékfrankos — would be a good accompaniment: a pinot noir would serve too, as long as its earthiness didn't clash with that of the stew. Alternatively, of course, a beer. But don't just go for the same as is in the pot: something with lighter tones will complement this well. Perhaps a good IPA or similar.

IL