Winter is my favourite season. I love the changing colours, the crisp mornings, the smell of wood fires, the clear blue skies. I especially love wintry food – soups and stews – dishes that nourish and warm. Nothing brings me greater pleasure than preparing food for the ones I love, celebrating friends and family.
As I write this, my father is at the doctor’s rooms having a biopsy. The outcome will confirm whether or not he has cancer. On the night we first learned that there may be something wrong, I prepared this dish, because it was simple and comforting. My dad is a quiet man, he enjoys a glass of red wine from time to time and if he’s had enough he’ll regale us with stories from his childhood. One that springs to mind, is when his brother, Calvin, ran away from home with all my father’s clothes and then proceeded to steal a bus. Fun times.
I don’t know what the outcome of the biopsy will be, if it is bad news, we will deal with it. We may not be able to walk this journey for the people we love, but we can support them, nourish them.
A Hearty Beef Stew
Adapted from Jamie’s Dinners
A knob of butter
1 red onion, peeled and finely sliced
A handful of fresh sage leaves
800g free-range stewing steak or brisket cut into cubes
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour to dust
A few shakes, paprika
5 carrots, peeled and halved
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and the flesh cut into cubes
500g baby potatoes, halved
3 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 bottle of red wine
300ml organic beef stock
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
a handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 150C. Put a little oil and a knob of butter into a casserole pan. Add the onion and sage leaves and fry for 3-4 minutes. Toss the meat in seasoned flour made by combining 3 tbsp flour, salt and pepper, and a few shakes of paprika. Add the meat to the pan along with the vegetables, the tomato puree, the wine and the stock. Gently stir together. Season generously with Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper (the amount of salt you add, depends on how salty your stock is. Remember that as it reduces it will become saltier, so exercise caution when seasoning). Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. This took roughly 2 hours in my oven, after an hour I added a little more stock and some hot water and continued cooking the stew until the meat was tender.
To serve, ladle the stew into your prettiest bowls, accompanied by some crusty bread and a glass of good red wine. Combine the lemon zest, garlic and rosemary and scatter a little over each person’s plate before eating – it will release the most amazing fragrance. Enjoy.