Classic casserole

I've simplified and updated this rich winter classic - beef and mushrooms in red wine. The addition of fresh rosemary and dried apricots with their tangy-tartness packs a well-rounded flavour punch to this deeply-flavoured beef stew.

The magic begins when these ingredients are slowly cooked together for several hours - their rich and robust flavours mix and mingle, developing a heady succulence.

This is fast and easy to assemble. I just combine everything in a large casserole dish, no need to sear the meat, put the lid on and pop it into the oven for several hours - a busy person's dream.

The cooking time may seem rather long but bear in mind the casserole dish and all the ingredients are cold when they go into the oven so time is needed for them to warm up before any cooking begins.


Beef and mushrooms in red wine

Serves 6

1.2kg chuck or blade steak, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 4cm pieces
200g lean bacon, rind removed, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup standard flour
1 Tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 1/2 cups red wine
1/3 cup beef stock
1 400g can tomatoes chopped in puree
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
200g Portobello mushrooms, wiped and sliced
100g New Zealand dried apricots, halved

Heat the oven to 160degC, bake.

Place beef, bacon, onion and garlic in a large lidded casserole dish (9-10 cup capacity). Sprinkle the flour and the smoked paprika over the top and toss to combine and stir well.

Mix the red wine, beef stock and tomatoes together and pour over the meat. Scatter over the rosemary and stir gently to mix everything together.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and place in the heated oven and cook for about four hours until the meat is meltingly tender.

Add the mushrooms and dried apricots and stir through. Cover and return to the oven for final 40 minutes' cooking.

With very slow-cooked oven casseroles, it is not possible to successfully roast vegetables alongside - the low temperatures do not do justice to roast vegetables. So as a side I would serve couscous, rice, maybe mashed potatoes or a mixed root mash and accompany with seasonal vegetables or a salad.

As with most stews, this is at its best when made a day or two ahead of time to give flavours time to develop. Refrigerate and reheat when needed.


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