Okay, this is the one where we really cheated and broke all the rules! First the rules – always seal meat before stewing it and always fry off and soften the onions. But the circumstances around this stew meant we literally had 5 minutes to throw it together and get it in the oven. It was recorded before Christmas when Jo was still seeing clients at home (she is a psychotherapist). Everything had got late and Archie and I had to be out of the house before her next client arrived (chatty 3 year olds are not very conducive to good therapy!). This meant there was only time to throw everything into a cold casserole dish and then bung it in the oven – no sealing, no browning, no heat, no nothing.
And… it was still delicious! I was speaking to Becky from Englishmum.com (who is a food blogging Don. Or is that Donna?) and she pointed out that slow cooker recipes don’t involve sealing and browning. So there you have it, I made a slow-cook beef stew without even realising it!
As for the star anise, that was a great idea from Barney Desmazery, food editor of BBC Good Food Magazine. He was a brilliant guest on my BBC Radio Show and made a beef cheek stew (the “proper” way!), with added star anise. It may sound like an odd match to use an oriental spice but it works so perfectly with the richness of the beef and the “tomato-ness” of the sauce. It adds an aromatic sweetness to the stew and Archie lapped it up.
I love this slow cook beef stew because it backs up something I say very often – if you are using good ingredients and flavours, there really is only so “wrong” it can go, even if you are not a confident cook. And let’s face it, when your cooking during a busy week, practicality matters more than anything…
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 4 hours (can be prepared in advance and left in an oven with a timer to start cooking when you are out!)
500g stewing beef. We used shin, which is relatively cheap.
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely sliced
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 beef stock cube
About 400ml water
3 (or more!) star anise
A sprinkle of thyme (fresh or dried)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to season
Preheat your oven to 160-170C/ 325F
Throw all the ingredients into an oven-proof casserole dish, mix well, cover and bake for 4 hours.
Keep an eye from time to time if you can, the dish may need a little more water occasionally.
Serve with simple steamed potatoes or mashed potatoes.