As I write this, the world outside is white for it has snowed over the past weekend. I don't know what the weather is like wherever you are, but here it's quite a big deal when it snows and it doesn't melt during the day. The last time this happened was supposedly in January 2013, but I was in Asia and missed it. Not that I mind, because I prefer - to my husband's displeasure - a world without snow and ice. Nevertheless, I do enjoy crispy cold weather. Especially when I get to be outside for a good long walk, and then get back to a warm and hearty meal. So this seems to be the perfect week to share this recipe with you.
In November, Matthijs and I stayed in a cabin in the woods, a two hour walk away from the nearest bus stop. So we had to bring everything we needed for two nights with us. And we had to keep in mind that we had to cook on a wood burning stove. Thus, we decided on a beef stew. Firstly, because it sounds quite romantic to have a stew on while you read a book by the fire. And secondly, because the ingredients travel well. Yes, even the beef cubes when you bring them frozen. They thaw overnight and are ready to go the following morning. What we forgot to take into account was the endless hours it takes to heat everything up in a cast iron pan on a wood burning stove. So I expect that making this stew on a regular stove takes about five to six hours less than it took us on that particular Tuesday in November. That being said, the longer you let it simmer, the better it gets. So you might want to give it that little extra time anyway.
- Slowly heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. While the pan heats up, add 2tbsp garlic oil, a pinch of asafoetida and 1tbsp tomato paste.
- Peel and dice 3 carrots and 1 parsnip. The pieces should be roughly the same size as the beef cubes.
- Add the beef and vegetables to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- When the vegetables are softened and start to caramelise, add 3 bay leaves, and pour in 500ml stout beer* and the tomatoes, breaking the latter up with the back of a spoon.
- Bring just to the boil, season with salt and pepper, and cover with a lid. Simmer slowly until the meat falls apart easily.
- When the meat is ready, but the stew is too thin for your taste, make a slurry with potato or corn starch and water, add it to the stew and cook for a couple of minutes. That should do the trick.
- Taste the stew, tweak the seasoning, then serve with bread, rice or mashed potatoes.
* If you prefer to cook without alcohol, simply replace the beer with an extra tin of tomatoes.