Thursday, 26 April 2012

Beef and cannellini bean stew

The weather here has been so wet, cold and miserable that we’ve turned to cheering ourselves up with lovely casseroles and stews again!  After a few particularly miserably wet days I thought this delicious stew would be just the ticket to bring some much needed warmth to our bones and put a smile back on our faces! 

This is real hearty fare, and a complete meal in itself.  It takes no time to put together, and will require nothing more from you than an occasional stir while it sits in the oven for four hours.  It’s another one of those lovely frugal meals, the beans bag out the meat to stretch it further and uses one of those cheap cuts of beef that respond so well to long slow cooking. 

You could begin, as you would with other casseroles, by browning the meat and the vegetables; but to be honest there is so much flavour in this with the Guinness and the long slow cooking that if you skip that step, you won’t miss it. 

The quantities I give below will feed four people, generously.  You can either halve it for two people, or make the whole amount and keep half of it back for another day.  It won’t freeze very well because the vegetables will become too soft, but it will sit in the fridge for a day or two without coming to any harm.  

4 oz/1 cup of dried cannellini beans
2 baby or 1 large leek
½ a large swede (rutabaga)
2 medium carrots
1 stick of celery
1 medium turnip
1 medium potato
½ lb shin of beef (or any suitable casserole/stewing beef)
1 440ml can Guinness
1tb Worcestershire sauce
1 tb tomato puree
1 sprig rosemary
2 bayleaves
1 pint beef stock
1tb flour
Salt and pepper to taste 

Starting the night before you want to make your casserole, soak the cannellini beans in plenty of boiling water, with a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to soften the skins. 

Prepare the vegetables by washing and peeling and then start dicing the leek, chopping the stick of celery quite small, chopping the carrots, swede and turnip into quite big chunks and adding to a large ovenproof casserole.  Cut the beef into big pieces and add to the vegetables.  Add the tablespoon of flour and mix well with your hands.  Chop the rosemary and add that to the pan, together with the bayleaves and season to taste.  Pour in the Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, stock and then add the tomato puree.  Cut the potato into big pieces and add that, together with the drained cannellini beans and then give everything a good stir.  Put a firm fitting lid on and pop into a low oven to cook for 4 hours.  I cooked mine at 160oC (300oF / gas mark 2).  Stir it from time to time, and add some more hot water if it seems to be drying out at all before the cooking time is up. 

Best served on one of those days when the rain is lashing the windows, a gale is howling and with a good helping of freshly baked bread!!   

A brandy sipped quietly by a roaring fire would finish it perfectly; but we can’t have everything can we!

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