16 March 2009
Comfort and Restoration: Steak and Guinness Stew
Okay...I know what some of you are thinking...why on Earth would the daughter of an excellent South Indian cook find Steak and Guinness Stew comforting? No, I have no relatives from the Emerald Isle lurking in the deep recesses of my lineage (yet about 15 St. Patrick's Days ago, I was declared Irish by an employer at his annual St. Patrick's Day sloshfest (really...lawyers throw the best parties)).
But comfort lies within habit and tradition.
Whether it's the first cone of the season at the local independent ice creamery, the unwavering Thankgiving menu, annual food fests (like the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival) or even those weeks when shop shelves are laidened with seasonal goodies like Cadbury Creme Eggs, there's a sense that most (if not all) is right with the world when certain edible things appear when they should. Yes, seasonal eating--spring asparagus, summer cherries or October cranberries also count.
Then again, there's an equal sense that all (if not most) is right with the world when certain edible things we'd rather never see again appear when they should (or shouldn't). For some it's Christmas fruitcake or perhaps endless piccalilli canning sessions...for me it's birthday foreboding fed by my mother's obsession with Black Forest gateaux (shudder).
For the past half-decade or perhaps longer, March seems incomplete without Steak and Guinness Stew. It's warming and hearty and leaves the house smelling absolutely heavenly. Yes, it started off as part of a St. Patrick's day thang--and it still is. But now the chocolate-mint cakes and hot chocolates are secondary to the day's foodish symbolism in my mind. It also helps that I absolutely adore Guinness...but that's neither here nor there...or maybe it is.
The first time I had Steak and Guinness pie in our local pub I fell in love with it. Or should I say...I fell in love with their original version. That was when they first openened and were a bit more...creative with their food and used...umm...better...ingredients. After a year or two economics or boredom or a new chef (or perhaps a combination of any of the aforementioned) found the recipe changed...the gravy was no longer as unctuous, the filling no longer as mushroomy, the steak no longer as steaky (beefy:yes; steaky: no). It was no longer the dish I fell in love with...so I decided to create my close-to-perfect love with very satisfying results (how many women have not so secretly wished they could engineer such a feat? Trust me, it's easier with food than it is with men).
Like all favourited recipes, there have been tweaks over the years--sirloin steak instead of stewing beef, moving most of the cooking time to the oven instead of leaving it on the hob. My veggie mix changes, depending what needs to be used up in my veggie drawer. Peas, carrots, parsnips all work well. This year I planned well in advance and popped the marinating cubed meat in the freezer, thawing it the night before I made the stew. Like all soups and stews, this is tastier a day or two after cooking.
Steak and Guiness Stew
1 fat clove garlic, minced
1Tbsp mustard powder
1tsp black pepper
1 440ml tin Guinness
1.25 kg steak, cubed
500g mushrooms, cut into chunks
1tsp black pepper
4 medium globe onions, slivered nose-to-tail
2 fat cloves garlic, minced2 celery ribs, diced
750g mixed vegetables
1 798ml tin diced tomatoes (get the type without added herbs and spices)
1 440ml tin Guinness
500ml beef broth
1 156ml tin tomato paste
1tsp paprika (hot, preferably)
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leaves
4Tbsp soft butter
3Tbsp ap flour
3Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Mix marinade ingredients together in a zippy bag and add steak cubes. Let marinate overnight at the very least, but I've frozen the meat in the marinade with wondrous results.
In your Dutch Oven, sear the cubes on all sides and set aside--depending upon how much fat there is in the meat, you may need to glug a little oil in the pan beforehand. Do not throw away the marinade.
Melt oil and butter together; add salt and pepper. Tip in mushrooms and sauté until lovely and soft. Remove the fungi from the pan and set aside.
Tip in the onions, adding more fat, if required. Caramelise to a light golden colour. Add garlic to the pan and mix. When the kitchen is perfumed with garlicky goodness, stir in the celery for a few minutes, before adding the mixed veg. Cook for 10 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 140C/275F.
Add the seared meat, with its juices to the vegetables. Pour in the marinade along with the diced tomatoes, Guinness, and enough beef broth to cover. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the papricka, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Stir well. Let the mixture come up to a boil and keep it there for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Lid the pot and pop it into the oven for 90 minutes.
Just before your timer dings, knead the butter and flour together.
After the dinger dings, put the pot back onto a medium-low flame on the hob. Remove about a cup's worth of liquid and mix it with the beurre manié (the kneaded butter and flour) and pour back into the stew. Stir well. Add the mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce and simmer for 20 minutes before serving.