At some point about 2 years ago in February I got an email from my friend Pierce containing a recipe for a stew he likes to make. Pierce, as well as his partner Helene, have been friends of mine online for longer than I can really remember. They both live in Ireland and since knowing them we've swapped a recipe or two, from banana bread to popsicle recipes to, I think, at one point, a recipe for Limoncello. This sort of connection, sharing food even when not physically able to actually share food, is what really initially inspired me to start this site and of course my radio show. While we've yet to share a meal together in person, there's plenty we've been able to share across continents and on the internet in general.
When I received the email containing his personal stew recipe I was absolutely delighted. It was a very thoughtful thing to send along because at that point I had been going through a rather difficult time, in addition to enduring the normal doldrums I always experience in late winter. I'd previously had the idea for Reciprocity Radio and was trying to get it off the ground, when suddenly I found my life had sort of turned itself on its head. All of the positive associations I'd felt about being in the kitchen, sharing, creating, feeding people I loved, it had all sort of faded away - and suddenly. I found myself mostly unmotivated to even eat, never mind actually cook. But knowing myself, knowing I needed to stay busy and inspired to sustain my spirit, I slowly tried to find my way back to the kitchen. And I can say with certainty that Pierce's recipe, and general thoughtfulness, really helped with that. There is a great kindness in giving someone who’s grieving a meal or kind letter, and this was both. Although, doubly better for me because it also gave me motivation to get up and actually cook!
The stew itself turned out beautifully. This was my first time ever making a stew! It’s not something I was exposed to growing up, and based on my experience is not as much of a staple food here as it is in other countries. I can’t imagine why not though, with its richly layered flavors and warmth there is hardly a better or more satisfying meal for a cold winters day. One thing I loved in particular about this recipe was its use of orange peel. I feel as though that, paired with the wine and the deep stout flavor, really elevated the classic combination of meat and vegetables. As Pierce wrote, this recipe pairs beautifully with potatoes. When I prepared this I made Smitten Kitchen’s Melting Potatoes to go along with it, but feel free to use any method you prefer. If you really want to up the Irishness, I recommend Stella Park’s recipe for Soda Bread, which would soak this up beautifully.
700g stewing beef
3 tbsp of flour
1 tsp Cayenne pepper
4 streaky bacon rashers (smoked is nice, or unsmoked)
2 largish onions
3-4 sticks of celery
3 cloves garlic
Half glass of red wine if you have it, not important
1 500ml can of Guinness or other porter
2 tbsp tomato purée
A large tbsp of mustard
A beef stockpot/stockcube if you have one, not important
1*2 inch piece of orange zest
A bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and bay leaf
Pat the beef dry in a tea towel or kitchen roll. Toss the pieces in flour and cayenne pepper, and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. Brown in plenty of olive oil in a cast iron pot.
Remove the beef to a bowl once it’s browned. The pot will likely have become coated with dried flour. If it’s not too burnt by the time the meat is browned, deglaze with a bit of water and keep the resulting gravy aside. Otherwise you may have to clean the pot!
Preheat oven to gas mark 5/6 (375-400 F)
Slice the streaky bacon in small pieces and render it in the cast iron pot.
Once the fat is softened, add the chopped onion. Fry until translucent, then add the cubed carrot and chopped celery. Leave that for five or ten minutes, then add the mashed garlic cloves.
Once the veg seems nicely softened, add the wine if you have it, otherwise skip. Return the beef to the pot and mix well, heating for a few minutes more.
Open the Guinness and pour over. Bring it to the boil, adding everything else on the list (including the deglazed gravy) as you do so. The liquid should cover the solids, but if not add a little more water. Not too much liquid! Once it’s simmering, cover with lid and move it into the oven. Cook for 2-3 hours at gas mark 5/6. Stir every half hour.
note: Goes very well with mashed or baked potatoes.