Disclaimer – All characters are purely fictional. Although if you want to find any resemblance, it will be very easy. It’s the story of a brother and sister.
The sister has been a mother figure to the brother since time immemorial. Although, family folklore says that during their childhood, the brother was immensely harassed by his own sister and also his cousin sister, who happened to be of the same age. So much so that once the brother was made to crawl the entire house on fours with a dupatta tied around his neck and made to bark like a dog. With time, the love for food amongst many other things, got them together. Both started fighting the weight issue as the Basal metabolic rate soon started going downhill for them. From hating each other in their childhood, the sister became the main support system for the otherwise shy and reticent brother. The sister got married but the bond remained undeterred between them. It was his sister’s cooking which he missed the most and time and again, whenever he used to visit the sister, it was her cooking which he craved for. The brother also eventually got married with a beautiful girl but the love for food and craving for sister’s cooking remained unchanged.
After many years, it was one such afternoon, in the midst of an emergency and a professional crisis and almost on the verge of a breakdown, the brother comes and starts staying with the sister and her family. Just to cheer him up, the sister cooks this beef stew which has been his all time favourite. Over lunch, the sister kisses his forehead and says – It’s alright, don’t worry everything will fall in place. Who says food cannot heal?
I have grown up with Stew (chicken stew and not beef stew) as a resort to healthy healing. Long bouts of illness, chicken pox, etc etc meant Ma cooking light yellow coloured chicken Stew, which was like a magic potion and crushed black pepper sprinkled on top to make it tastier. Somehow, in this part of the country, Stew is like a reliable, without an after effect character. I could relate stew to Dravid, who could never be as flashy and flamboyant as a chicken Korma or Kosha Mangsho like Sehwag was. Coming to Sports, there is a special flavoured Chicken stew which is available in most of the canteens of Sports clubs of Kolkata – light flavoured, a big quarter of papaya, carrot and a chicken leg piece. Deckers lane, has the famous Chitto Da’s dokan serving this stew and with a slice ot toasted bread, this is still the economic lunch option for many.
Depending on the place and local weather, a stew can be more flavourful and thicker sauce in cold areas. The choice of the protien also varies from place to place. Beef stew in very popular in Western countries, especially Irish Beef stew. Lamb stew is also quite prevalent. Whereas, here in India, a stew generally means chicken stew and sometimes down south, they do have a mutton ishtew. One noteworthy point is that in every place, the stew will have some root vegetable- either a potato or carrots, onions or papaya and is mostly slow cooked.
This beef stew may be ideal for colder weather but if it’s good food, weather is not a limiting condition of the outcome of the decision. So check this out.
Beef Stew for all seasons
- 500 gms beef cubes better to get a brisket since it will be slow cooked
- 2 large potatoes cut into halves
- 2 nos carrots cut into big pieces
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 nos shallots cut into halves
- 8 nos garlic cloves chopped
- 3 nos cloves
- 1 no bay leaf
- 10 nos peppercorns
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp All purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups beef stock or any other stock that you have
- 1/2 cup red wine I used a basic port wine
- 1 sprig rosemary You can even use thyme instead of rosemary
- salt as required
- In a crockpot or any other heavy bottomed pot, drizzle some olive oil (not all of it) and brown the meat over medium heat. Sprinkle some salt over the beef cubes. Once they are nicely browned, take them out and keep aside. Do not worry about parts sticking to the bottom since they will all add to the flavour later on.
- Drizzle the rest of the olive oil and add the chopped onions and garlic. Sweat the onions and scrape the bottom of the pan in the process.
- Once th onions are a bit translucent, add the balsamic vinegar and properly scrape off all that was sticking to the pan. Caramelise the onions while making sure to not burn them.
- Add tomato paste, red wine and all the spices. Bring them all together.
- Sprinkle some flour over the browned meat pieces and then add them to the pot.
- Add the stock and season if required.
- Give it all a good stir and then cover and cook for an hour and half in low to medium heat.
- After that add the potatoes, carrots and rosemary and some more water and transfer the pot to a pre heated oven for further cooking at 180 degrees for 2 more hours.
- In case you want a faster cooking with the same result, after adding the root vegetables and rosemary with some water, transfer everything to a pressure cooker (my failsafe). Cook for 20 to 25 minutes in the pressure cooker.
- Release the steam and check if the meat is done. The meat should ideally be quite tender by now. Add the shallots and give it another boil.
- Add more liquid if you feel the need.
- The beef stew is ready to be had with some bread on the side or even with some herbed rice.
- Other than cooking in the oven or in the pressure cooker, you can even cook it completely on stove top. In that case it has to be covered and cooked over low heat over a long period of time- at least 4 hours. And one needs to check every now and then to see if anything is sticking to the bottom and adding liquid if required.