Good-quality beef is slow-cooked in a tomato-based sauce, taken to the next level with some red wine. As the casserole dish is sealed, the meat tenderises in the acidity of the crushed tomatoes, absorbs the scent of Italian herbs and picks up the warmth of the bay leaves. The steaming hot, thick, full-flavoured dish is served with contrastingly bright parsley leaves.
750g stewing beef (See ‘notes’ section) – ask your butcher to cut it into 1” dices, or larger for a more rustic feel (whatever you prefer)
2 rashers of bacon – trimmed and neatly chopped, optional
1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes with Italian herbs
1 cup/250ml dry red wine – See ‘notes’ section
1¾ cups/450ml beef stock – use homemade or out of a tetra pack
2 tbsp/30ml flour – All-purpose/ Plain, whole wheat, use whatever you have
2 carrots – peeled and thickly sliced on the diagonal
1 large onion – peeled, sliced into rings, and the rings separated
4 garlic cloves – peeled, finely chopped and crushed under the knife blade
2 bay leaves
½ tsp/2.5ml Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp/30ml olive oil
Flat-leaf parsley – chopped, to garnish
Mashed potatoes, to serve
- Sift the flour with a little salt but enough pepper to season it. This would ensure that the seasoning is distributed evenly in the flour. (If the black pepper you are using is coarse and wouldn’t pass through the sieve, merely sift the flour along with salt, and mix the pepper using a wire whisk later.)
- Pour the seasoned flour into a large sealable zip lock bag. Put the beef in the bag next and seal it. (Depending on the size of the plastic food bag, you may need to do this in batches. If the bag you are using has room for only half the meat, remember to use just half the flour. Use the remaining with the other half of the beef.) Shake vigorously until the pieces are evenly coated in a thin film of flour. Remove the beef chuck to a bowl.
- We need a ‘large’ heavy-bottomed/ heavy-based, a flameproof casserole dish with a lid for this preparation. Place it on medium heat and let warm for 30 seconds. Then pour in the olive oil. Once the oil is slightly hot, tip in the bacon. Cook for 2 minutes, allowing it to infuse its flavour into the oil.
- Add the onions and the garlic. Reduce the heat to low and give a good stir. Add a generous pinch of salt. This would draw out the onion’s juices, and they would first fry & then braise. Cook, occasionally stirring, until the onions are just starting to brown. Now remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Keep aside.
- Preheat the oven to 165°C/ 325°F/ gas mark 3. A slow cooking process at a rather low temperature means that the meat would absorb all the flavours from the pan.
- In the meanwhile, add some meat to the same casserole pan. (If you think that the pan is too dry, add some olive oil first.) This has to be done on medium heat. If the temperature is too high, the flour is going to burn, and if it’s too low, the meat is going to release its juices, going dry. Don’t hurry up with stirring the beef. Brown it on one side, then flip the pieces over. Once well-browned, remove to a large plate. Proceed with the next batch.
- Once all the meat has been adequately browned and removed from the pan, it's time to reduce the heat to low and pour in the Shiraz wine. All the flour and meat residue will leave the base and sides of the pan, ‘deglazing’ it.
- Now add all the browned meat, carrots, sautéed onion mixture, bay leaves, canned tomatoes, beef stock and Italian seasoning. Mix thoroughly. Now raise the heat to be high and bring the ‘sauce’ in the dish to a boil. Switch off the heat and cover the casserole pan.
- Transfer the dish to the preheated oven and cook for 2 hours to 2 hours 15 minutes, during which the meat will slowly simmer in its juices, and take on the depth of the wine, the fragrance of the herbs and the fruitiness of the tomatoes. Remove from the oven, and check for salt & pepper, ensuring that you don’t burn your mouth. Adjust accordingly.
- Strew with the vibrant chopped parsley and serve with plenty of creamy mashed potatoes.
1) It’s cut from the chuck or round of the animal, i.e. neck, shoulder blade and upper arm, or round of the rear leg.
2) Don’t bother about trimming all the fat from the meat. Leave a little – it adds to the flavour profile of the dish.
4) No need to use extra virgin olive oil for cooking. Reserve it for salads. Use regular olive oil here.
5) The beef is browned in batches here as we don’t want to crowd the casserole pan. It needs to ‘fry’, not braise in its juices.
6) Ensure that the meat is well-browned. As the meat browns, so do the flour. If not browned well enough, the casserole will smell ‘off’ and uninviting.
We look forward to your honest reviews in the comments section!