I need better night lighting to do my food justice. Just believe me that it looks and tastes better than my photography would suggest!
Yesterday, I was looking at Nigella’s autumnal recipe for venison and it looked lush. But venison isn’t something to be had easily in Patissia, so I thought I’d improvise on her theme. I really liked the idea of caramelising onions and adding warming spices. Clove, cinnamon and nutmeg are often used in Greece with beef recipes and I thought I’d try and come up with a kind of Greek –British fusion stew. Something warming for the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. And I really think it worked. It’s a very nice stew; aromatic and with a hint of sweetness. I did not overdo the spices too much as I wanted a background hint rather than an upfront kick. I think this works better and makes for a more rounded overall flavour. Feel free to ignore my strictures though.
Some notes on the recipes:
I used Greek selino, so that’s what I give in the recipe. It’s a type of thin stemmed celery with more of a punch than the British kind. We use both its stalks and leaves. Replace it with a stick of celery.
The beer I used was Alfa, a bog standard Greek beer. Use any kind of ale you like or have around. You could use wine instead. Or even cider. The bog standard beer was just lovely though.
I only added the sun dried toms as they were the last few lurking in a packet. I just wanted to use them up. So they are entirely optional.
I used a mandolin to finely slice the onions. It’s a fairly cheap one from lidl and I can’t work out how to get it to slice up everything right to the end without risking an amputation so I just threw the off cut ends I couldn’t slice in the mandolin straight into the pot.
I cooked this in my cast iron casserole pot (30 euros from lidl ) but any good lidded oven casserole pot will do. If you don’t have anything with a lid then tightly cover with foil.
The fine green beans are ambelofassoula in Greek. This is how I normally do asparagus but it works with any veg at all. It’s just an alternative to simply steaming. If you don’t want to brown the veg as I do and don’t have a steamer, all you need is a lidded pan and a bit of water on a low heat for about ten minutes. Bob’s your uncle!
Beer Braised Beef
650g beef cut into chunky cubes
1 large onion finely sliced
1 carrot sliced or diced
a handful of porcini mushrooms soaked for 20 mins in a little hot water
3 stems of selino with leaves or a stick of celery chopped
3 or 4 pieces of sundried tomato chopped
1 cup of flour
330ml beer plus a bit extra water if needed
a level teaspoon of brown sugar
EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 good pinches each of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg
4 or 5 allspice berries
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven on low. Add to your casserole pot, the chopped carrot, selino/celery, the mushrooms with their liquid, the chopped sun-dried toms, the allspice berries and salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a lidded saute pan (or use a frying pan and a lid off a big pan) heat a little EVOO on a low heat. Add the onions, stir and put on the lid. After a few minutes stir again. When they begin to go golden, add the sugar. Stir for a minute and add the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg with a tablespoon of water or so. Stir and leave to slowly caramelize, stirring occasionally, til a sticky brown mush. This will take about 20 mins to half an hour or so depending on how low the heat is. Slow is best. Add the onions to the casserole pot with the other ingredients.
Toss the beef cubes in the flour. Add some EVOO to the saute pan and heat over a medium heat. Fry the beef off in batches till golden brown. Add the fried beef to the casserole pot. Deglaze the saute pan with some of the beer by adding beer to the pan and stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon or spatula to get all the meaty bits off the pan. Add to the casserole pot with the rest of the beer and a little water to ensure the meat and veg are just peeping over the top of the liquid. Bung in the oven covered with a lid or foil. Turn the heat up for ten minutes and then turn back down to low. Check after an hour. Give a stir and add more water if necessary. Should be nice and tender after around 2 – 2 ½ hours.
Fine Green Beans
300g of fine green beans such as Greek ambelofassoula
Top and tail the beans. Put in a lidded saute pan with a small glug of olive oil and about half a cup of water. Give the pan a good shake, put on the lid and put on a low heat. Shake the pan occasionally. Check after ten minutes. The desired effect is for them to be cooked through but not too soft and to have taken a little golden hue from the oil, which should give them a bit of a nuttier flavour.