Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Festive Beef Stew

You know Christmas is coming when supermarket starts playing 'A spaceman came travelling' while you're buying cloves.

With ten days to go now, it's coming right for us again like a snowballing reindeer and I'm starting to get that unnerving feeling that I haven't pulled my preparatory finger out as much as I should've. The ghost of Christmas Last Minute will be a guest at my table once more. Eek.

But apart from the panicked retail spree on Christmas Eve that I seldom seem capable of avoiding, I actually really enjoy the festive season - probably more so than the people who end up with the mediocre gifts I impulse-buy on December 24, anyway.

I enjoy the music, I enjoy the board games, I enjoy the not having to go to work (although I might very well end up with more of that than I'd like in 2012!). And I enjoy the food and drink, obviously. 

Maybe add some tinsel...
I probably said something very similar this time last year and if not I definitely thought it. 

Anyway, I had to do something with those cloves, so I've come up with a new recipe - a variation on my classic beef stew with a festive twist in the form of a mulled wine-style sauce.
I'll include the original version too, as this dish is good at any time during the winter, especially if you can get bargain packs of winter vegetables which tend to be very good value. 

My hunch (or indeed haunch) is that the festive variant would work equally well with venison or perhaps rabbit. Enjoy! 

Beef Stew / Festive Beef Stew

Ingredients - makes four portions. If you don't have all the vegetables it doesn't really matter!

Don't overcook too soon, mind!
Diced stewing beef, about two pounds
Onions, two or three quartered
Leek, one sliced
Carrots, a few sliced
Swede, one sliced
Celery, two sticks chopped
Chestnut Mushrooms, chopped bite-size
Tomatoes, three or four, quartered
Plain Flour
Garlic Salt
Celery Salt
Chilli Powder
Black Pepper
Worcestershire Sauce
Olive Oil

Green Pepper,  one sliced
Dark Beer, about 2/3 pint
Maille Mustard, a generous spoonful
Parsnips, two sliced
Red Wine, about half a bottle
Ground Ginger
Ground Cinnamon
Ground Nutmeg
Whole Cloves, about 6-8


Peel/chop/slice your vegetables as required, and place them in a big casserole - make sure there's room left at the top for the beef.
Mix up the flour with the garlic salt, black pepper, cumin, chilli powder and celery salt (and if you're doing the festive version include cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger as well). Aim for a roughly 50/50 mix of flour and spice.

Dust your meat with the seasoned flour, and brown in a big pan with a little oil, but don't let it overcook. Take it off the heat and add to the pan the beer (or wine), Worcestershire sauce, mustard (or cloves), and maybe another pinch of all the required spices - but if you're doing the Christmas edition, be careful not to overdo the cloves as a little goes a long way in the cloven realm.

Pour the meat and sauce into the casserole, making sure there will be enough liquid to more or less cover the meat and vegetables - eg not quite up to the top because the liquid level will rise during cooking.

Put the lid on the pot and whack in the oven on a low heat (~100 degrees) for at least three hours, taking it out the oven to shuffle the ingredients around and make sure nothing is exposed and burning mid-way through. 
You can slow-cook the stew almost indefinitely, so it's a dish that can easily be prepared the day earlier and heated up before serving.
Serve piping hot with your choice of fresh bread, potato or rice, and enjoy!!!.

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