Simple stew oh so tender

Joan Bishop
Joan Bishop

This oven-cooked, one-pot braise simmers very gently for five hours with nary a bubble breaking the surface.

The long, slow, leisurely cook produces intense flavours and renders even the toughest cuts to pull-apart tenderness.

Ideal meats for slow cooking are the cheaper cuts that come from the parts of the animal, usually the front, that have worked the hardest.

These tougher, less expensive but more flavourful, cuts of meat require gentle lengthy cooking to produce delectably tender meat and velvety gravy.

This simple one-step stew is supremely succulent and so easy to prepare. Just mix all the ingredients together in a large casserole dish, pop it in the oven and forget about it for several hours. No pre-browning of the meat is needed and no rushing about at the last minute thickening the sauce.

However, do remember when all the ingredients are cold to begin with and the quantity being cooked is generous, the cooking time on a very low heat must be lengthy. Do not try to hurry things along.

I love the feeling of freedom this gives me - dinner is under control and the afternoon is mine to do as I wish.


Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Chilli beef and beans

Serves 7-8

1.2 kg beef braising steak, chuck, blade, shin or beef cheeks
⅓ cup plain flour
one½ tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp each ground cumin, English mustard powder, onion salt
½ to 1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 Tbsp each crushed garlic, crushed ginger
2 Tbsp dark cane sugar
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ cup tomato paste
400g can crushed tomatoes in juice
¼ cup beef stock
1 cup red wine
2 390g cans red kidney beans, rinsed and well drained

To serve
thyme leaves
sour cream

Trim any visible fat from the meat, cut into 3cm-4cm pieces and toss with the flour until the cubes of meat are evenly coated.

Choose a 9-10 cup capacity, lidded casserole dish. To the casserole dish add the following: sweet smoked paprika, cumin, mustard powder, onion salt, chilli powder, garlic, ginger, dark cane sugar, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and mix thoroughly until smooth.

Add the tomatoes, beef stock and the red wine and stir well.

Tip the floured meat into the casserole and gently and thoroughly stir all together.

Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for up to 24 hours if time permits. Remove from the fridge an hour before cooking to come to room temperature. If you don't have time to marinate the braise, don't worry, it will still taste great.

Pre-heat the oven to 140degC bake.

Cover the casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid or cover tightly with foil. This is important because if liquid evaporates off during cooking you will have a very dry braise.

Place in the pre-heated oven and cook for 4 hours. Remove from the oven and gently stir in the red kidney beans, cover the casserole with lid or foil and return to the oven and cook for another hour. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve each portion with a spoonful of sour cream.

Although this is a one-pot dish, I always accompany it with a crisp salad or seasonal green vegetables.

Sometimes, too, I serve it with warm, crusty bread, rice, coucous or fluffy mashed potatoes.

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