Warm and hearty beef stew
With the onset of winter coming early here in Moscow my thoughts turned to hearty warming meals such as stew, soups and casseroles. Beef stew with dumplings is a meal I always remember as a kid – fighting over who will have the most dumplings. There’s something about a stew that always makes you feel warm and cosy and happy to be indoors whilst it’s cold outside. It’s a dish that is always better cooked slowly during the day and the longer you cook it the more tender the meat and the more flavoursome the gravy becomes.
For the meat I used medium thick beef steaks and cut them into 3/4 inch cubes and covered them in seasoned flour and put in a plastic bag with excess flour, sealed and then put in the fridge overnight. When it comes to stock I used to always use the stock cubes that you just add water too but you can’t beat homemade stock as you can make it to your own exact taste. Lets be honest do we really know what’s in a stock cube? Is it really healthy? Make it yourself and you know what is going in your stew. When I cubed the meat I reserved a small hand sized piece to use in the stock and put it in a saucepan with 2 bay leaves, 1 red onion quartered with skin on, 1 green onion quartered with skin on, 4 cloves of garlic crushed but with the skin left on, 1tsp salt, 1tsp pepper, 1tsp dried thyme, 1tsp dried rosemary, 2 bay leaves, 1tbsp dark soy sauce and 750ml water. The I then brought it back to the boil then simmer for 40 minutes. I Poured it into a container with a lid and allowed to cool and store in the fridge until needed.
The next morning I started preparing the vegetables for the stew. I chopped 2 green onions, 12 large mushrooms, 2 large carrots, 4 cloves garlic and peeled and chopped 8 potatoes into inch cubes the same as the meat. I heated some oil in a large deep stainless steel saucepan and browned the cubes of meat and removed when done into a small bowl to use later. I then heated some more oil in the same pan making sure to scrape the bottom getting all the meaty goodness off the bottom and then added the onion and garlic and fried until soft. Then I added the meat back to the pan with the stock I made the night before, 500ml of red wine (I just used a cheap bottle of Russian red wine which tasted surprisingly good), 1 tsp dried thyme, 1tsp dried rosemary, 3 bay leaves, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1tbsp dark soy, salt and pepper and bring to a boil for a few minutes and then simmer on a very low heat with the lid on stirring occasionally. After approx 1 hour add the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms and stir in and replace the lid and let simmer once again. You can leave this bubbling away gently for a long time as the longer it cooks the better flavours you get and the meat becomes extremely tender. If necessary to thicken slightly which I had to do you can leave the lid off for a while to cook off some of the liquid and/or mix a little flour and cold water and add to the stew. There are many other ways of thickening and maybe you have your own way so stick to what you’re familiar with. I’ve heard of someone using potato flakes to thicken stews and also some people use lentils. Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving.
The best thing to serve with this dish in my opinion is a chunk of crusty bread to soak up the tasty gravy as nothing else is really needed because it’s a meal in itself.