When the weather is cold, a warm stew is a small but tangible moment of joy. If you manage to get a head-start on the evening, this stew cooks in 2 hours, which is doable to eat that same night. Otherwise it keeps very well when reheated the next day. The liquid of choice in this stew is beer. As my current location is Germany, and what is Germany without beer, I found a local brew to use – darker than a Helles but lighter than a Porter. But a medium to dark beer would work equally well if you don’t happen to have Alt-Oberurseler Brauhaus on your doorstep. Something like a London Pride in the UK, or one of the delicious, darker Emerson varieties in New Zealand spring to mind. A stout is probably too dark for this recipe, although I’m sure it would be very tasty regardless.
500gm beef, cut into large chunks. Choose a cut for stewing like chuck steak
1 bottle of medium-dark beer
1 carrot, cut into thick rounds
1 leek, washed and cut into rounds
1/4 celeriac, cut into chunks
1 large sprig of parsley, stalks and all. A bay leaf is also nice.
1 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp tinned tomatoes, pureed as much as possible
Water, salt and pepper
Cooking time: 30 minutes preparation, plus 2 hours cooking.
In a large pot with a lid, heat some olive oil and brown the beef pieces. Once the meat is adequately browned, remove it and set aside on a plate. When browning the meat, if you wait long enough, the meat will release itself when it’s ready to be turned. This reduces the likelihood of you having to tear the meat off the bottom of the pan. But if it starts to burn – sticking or no sticking – it’s time to turn it over!
Switch the heat down to medium and if need be, add a little more olive oil to the pan. Tip the chopped vegetables in together, along with the herbs, salt and pepper then stir, scraping up any remaining bits of meat stuck to the bottom. After a minute or so, turn the heat up to hot again and add the tomatoe paste. Stir this around until it’s all mixed into the vegetables. Then pour in the beer so it hisses when it hits the pan, reserving a small amount for later. You’ll need this at the end of the recipe, not for swigging as you cook. (But ideally, buy a large bottle and have a drink alongside, as I did).
Turn the spoon in the liquid to scrape up any remaining brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Everything will incoporate into the sauce and give a lovely flavour. Stir in the remaining tomatoes and about 1/2 cup of water to top the liquid up so you can still see the top of the beef in the sauce. This will enable the meat to braise but still have a nice crusted top.
Bring to the boil then immediately turn the heat down to low, so it’s still just bubbling, but not rapidly. Pop the lid on and leave it for two hours. When there is 30 minutes cooking time remaining, pour in the remaining beer to give it a nice flavour to finish, because the taste of the beer can disappear completely due to the long cooking time. And if you have gone to the trouble of finding a truly delicious beer, it’s worth tasting it.
The meat will be ready when you can gently break it apart. I like to keep the meat in chucks to serve it and pour the sauce and vegetables around it.
It will go nicely with mashed potaotes or cauliflower cheese. I made a very version tasty version using miso.
Beef swimming in it’s delicious pool of beer. The accompanying image is the beer it’s swimming in.