A Hearty Winter Warming Casserole.
Beef, red wine, casserole – that’s right, winter is finally here! Well, in the past two weeks we have had to shut the windows and doors and find a cardy, which is the same thing as winter in Queensland. Time to have a casserole simmering away on the stove or in the oven, the rich smells filling the kitchen with warmth and welcoming people in. This Beef and Red Wine Casserole is a long time favourite in our house. Easy to prepare, easy to double batch, easy to freeze, easy to adapt to what you have, and most importantly for TM – lots of meat. Tm loves winter. Finally a break from those pesky salads that I keep serving up, filled with greens and other suspicious looking vegetables. TM is a carnivore through and through and loves these meaty long cooked dinners. I prepared this one the week before last, knowing that it serves 6 generously, and that I could prepare some to take to Toowoomba and pop in the freezer for Ted’s dad. Writing the post has taken a little longer. Best laid plans last week were thwarted by the stump grinder who took out my phone and internet connection, which had me in the garden digging instead of typing. Now, those of you who know me will be questioning the digging, but I swear it’s true. Well, I was in the garden with an array of garden implements, pondering which was best to use. After some experimentation, I used the forky one to move the mulch and got to ground level when I decided that the slab of concrete would have to be moved, you know the 25 kilo one? Employing my Pilates skills, I engaged my core, visualised my arms floating, got to almost upright when I dropped the blooming thing on my leg. Followed by swearing, crying, sitting in the damp earth until I remembered that High School teacher we had who used to tell us we would get “piles” from sitting on the concrete, which seemed like a far worse fate than a sore leg (what was her name Leanne? The teacher, not my leg) Anyhow, Ted came home to find me randomly digging holes in the garden trying to find the cut cable, and took over the job beautifully. I have been left with a right leg covered in 50 shades of purple and green bruising that has required much retail therapy to recover from, and a break from my normal routine of cooking and posting.
So, back to the casserole. This is a great basic recipe that can be altered easily to change the flavour. Add in some woody herbs like rosemary or thyme, or mushrooms would add an amazing earthiness (TM can spot a mushroom at 100 paces no matter how finely I dice them and then refuses to eat the dish, so obviously this is NOT an option for me!) I daresay you could even make this in a slow cooker. I just would not know how to use one. I had one, didn’t like it. Don’t try to persuade me how wonderful they are; I am happy to own that I am a control freak and the whole “set and forget” is not an option for me. So you can try this in a slow cooker if you want – would be happy to hear how it goes, see photographic evidence of your Slow Cooker success story, but I will stick with the bang- it- all- in- the- oven- option. Start by heating your oven to 160°C, and grabbing a large oven and stove top proof casserole dish.
Now to the beef. Something sturdy that will take the slow cooking time. I usually prefer gravy beef , but chuck steak is just as good and I usually make my choice by what is on special. Cut into a big cube – about three cm. Toss the beef in some flour that has been seasoned with salt and pepper.
Heat some oil in the casserole dish and cook in batches until browned all over. The meat does not have to be cooked through but this is where the flavour comes from, so you want to get some good caramelization happening at this stage. Cook in batches and remove to a plate, and repeat. Don’t be tempted to overcrowd the pan – the meat will sweat and stew rather than brown and you will lose out on flavour.
Add a little more oil and cook the onion, garlic and bacon or speck. I used speck because I had it in the fridge and like how the cubes hold their shape during the cooking. Bacon will sort of melt into the gravy, and if you get one lovely smoky rashers, the flavour will be different again. Or if you are Holly, you can leave the bacon out all together. Meanwhile, get your other ingredients ready as the prep is almost done:
When the fat has started to render from the speck and the onion is transparent, add the red wine, stirring to dislodge all the yummy flavours stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, then return the beef, along with the stock, tin tomatoes and carrots. Bring to the boil, cover and pop in the oven 2 hours.
If you are preparing this meal in advance to either freeze, use as a Care and Concern meal, or just cooking on the weekend preparing for your working week, you can simmer the casserole for 1 1/2 hours, remove and cool completely, then refrigerate/freeze, and reheat on the stove top for the final 30 minutes when you are ready to eat.
Remove casserole from oven, stir through parsley and serve with mountains of mashed potato, steamed greens and a nice hunk of bread to mop up this wonderful gravy. Generously feeds 6 (including the carniverous One) and dare I say, leftovers taste even better the next day!
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 4-6 rashers bacon, chopped, or 200g speck diced
- 1 large brown onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 kg gravy beef or chuck steak, cit into 3 cm cubes
- 2 tbs flour
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1½ cups beef stock
- 1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
- 3 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
- ½ cup fresh chopped parsley to serve
- Preheat oven to 160°C.
- Toss beef in seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a heavy based oven proof casserole dish and brown beef in batches. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining beef.
- Add a little more oil if needed and cook the onion, garlic and bacon/speck, until onion is translucent and the fat is starting to render from the bacon - about 5 minutes.
- Add wine and stir while this bubbles away, scraping up all the flavour from the bottom of the pan (also known in fancy circles as deglazing) for about 1 minute. Return beef to pot along with a bay leaf, stock, tomatoes and carrots. Bring to the boil, cover and place in the oven to cook for two hours.
- Remove from heat, stir through parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with mashed potatoes and steamed greens
The flavour of this casserole can be altered with the addition of different herbs such as thyme or rosemary, or the addition of other vegetables suitable to long cooking such as mushrooms or parsnips