We have been asked more than once for a good beef stew recipe so turned to Darina Allen, Ireland’s best-known food ambassador, for one.

This recipe is really adaptable: Darina gives some ideas at the end of the recipe but you can make it your own.  For example, replace the plain flour with cornflour if you are wheat-free.  Darina suggests serving this with polenta and shares her recipe for polenta bramata, which is the traditional version.  For a dairy-free polenta, replace the butter and parmesan with olive oil – enough to give the desired consistency.  To be honest, most often I will make quick-cook polenta.  Stews are also delicious served with mashed potato or Colcannon, as Darina suggests.

This recipe is featured in Darina’s book How to Cook.

Darina says:

“Of all the beef stews I make, this is the favourite. It can be made in large quantities plus it reheats and freezes brilliantly. Gremolata is a fresh-tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest, which I use to sprinkle over roast or braised meat, pasta or anything pan-grilled. The polenta can be served the moment it’s ready or poured into a shallow, well-oiled dish and left to cool. It can then be sliced and chargrilled, pan-grilled, toasted or fried and served with all sorts of toppings. The quality of polenta varies so choose a really good brand.  It is also lovely with Colcannon (mashed potato mixed with kale or cabbage) instead of the polenta.”

SERVES 6–8

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 285g (10oz) sliced onions
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1cm (½in) slices
  • 1.35kg (3lb) well-hung stewing beef or lean flank, trimmed of any excess fat and cut into 4cm (1½in) pieces
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
  • 150ml (5fl oz) red wine
  • 150ml (5fl oz) beef stock
  • 250ml (9fl oz) homemade tomato purée or 3–4 tablespoons of concentrated tomato purée mixed with 225ml (8fl oz) water or 400g (14oz) can chopped tomatoes
  • 175g (6oz) sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE GREMOLATA (optional)

  • 4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

FOR THE POLENTA (optional)

  • 1 level dessertspoon salt
  • 225g (8oz) coarse polenta (bramata)
  • 110g (4oz) butter
  • 85–110g (3¼–4oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a casserole over gentle heat, add the onions and carrots, cover with a lid and sweat for 10 minutes.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan until almost smoking. Sear the beef on all sides, then add to the casserole.
  4. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and cook for 1–2 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, stock and tomato purée to the frying pan, bring to a boil and then add to the casserole.
  6. Season the casserole with salt and pepper, cover and cook in the oven for 2½–3 hours, depending on the cut of meat.
  7. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a pan over a high heat, sauté the mushrooms and add to the casserole with the parsley about 15 minutes before the end of cooking.
  8. To make the polenta, pour 1.7 litres (3 pints) water into a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil, then add the salt and sprinkle in the polenta very slowly, letting it slip gradually through your fingers, whisking all the time (this should take 2–3 minutes). Bring to the boil and when it starts to erupt like a volcano, reduce the heat to the absolute minimum – use a heat diffuser mat if you have one.
  9. Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring regularly. I use a whisk at the beginning but as soon as the polenta comes to the boil I change to a flat-bottomed wooden spoon. (If you stir constantly over a slightly higher heat, the cooking time can be reduced to about 20 minutes but it is more digestible if cooked slowly over a longer period.) The polenta is cooked when it is very thick but not solid and comes away from the sides of the pan as you stir.
  10. As soon as the polenta is cooked, stir in the butter, Parmesan and lots of freshly ground pepper. Taste and add a little more salt if necessary. It should be soft and flowing; if it is a little too stiff, add some boiling water.
  11. Just before you’re ready to serve, make the gremolata by mixing all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Serve the casserole topped with the gremolata, if using, and a good green salad alongside, as you wish.

GOOD THINGS TO ADD TO BEEF STEW

*Stir through 110g (4oz) green or black olives at the end of cooking.

*Add 225g (8oz) diced cooked bacon, pickled pork or chorizo a few minutes before the end of cooking.

*Add a couple of chopped anchovies a few minutes before the end of cooking.

*Add 225g (8oz) whole Agen prunes 10 minutes before the end of cooking.

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**Always check the ingredients of any food you’re cooking with to make sure it doesn’t contain something you or your child should avoid.

How to cook

by Darina Allen is published by Kyle Books.
Photography by Nassima Rothacker.