So here I am making enough stew to feed a family of 8, and we'll just have to see how things work out. I may be in the doghouse, or I may end up changing LW's mind! The challenge is on! And so is the slow cooker.
I'm starting with a kilo of cubed shoulder pork and 1.5 kilos of stewing steak. I wanted to see how the tang of the pork goes with the deep meatiness of the beef; rather like the combination that works so well in a good meatball. The meat is all batch-fried to brown & caramelise it, and then put in the slow cooker with a couple of glasses of red wine, a similar amount of chicken stock, 2 tbs of dijon mustard, loads of herbes de provence, a splash of light soy, a glug of red wine vinegar, and a generous pinch of chinese 5 spice for the indefinable, and a tsp of paprika for redness. I also added about 15 whole cloves of garlic and 2 finely diced onions. This all covers the meat (just) and is allowed to seethe for about 6 hours. I'm not there yet, so I'll write about what happens next as I go...
...I just tasted the liquid in which the meat is cooking, and it was tasting a bit "thin" so I've added a generous glug of oyster sauce, about a tbs of worcester sauce and a squish of anchovy paste. Now it has a much deeper taste.
I do have my work cut out for me though: LW's just wandered into the kitchen and pronounced: "It just smells like stew in here." Oh, the humanity! Will she like it, will she change her mind? Will anyone care?
...it's 4 hours into the cooking time and the meat is still not nearly as tender as I would wish. The stock is very thin, so I thought: "should I thicken this towards the end of the cook by reduction, or by making a roue and adding it?" So I went for neither option, and, instead, I made some dumplings to soak up some of the juice. Herb dumplings: Flour, baking powder, salt, grated cold butter (I'd have preferred suet, but there was none to hand) and chopped spring onion & coriander. All mixed together until a breadcrumby texture is reached, then a couple of tbs of milk to make a dough. Then rolled into little balls to put on top of the stew when the guests arrive. (And I'll put the whole lot into the oven to give it a bit more heat).
dumplings, newly rolled, and rather sputnik.
...6 hours of cooking and now the meat has become tender enough to cut with a spoon. Time for the dumplings to go in and a wee visit to the oven:
I'm serving this with a creamy mash, some glazed carrots and sauteed leeks. I'm not adding these to the stew, though, because I suspect that there's a good chance that this will return LW's default setting to "school dinner" and that's what I'm trying to avoid.
I have to say, this barely does the meal justice.
It tasted great.
And...p.s. The poor dogs. We have a load of out-of-date, freezer-burnt stewing steak. It's not fit for human consumption, but some creatures have no sense of taste:
This was going to be tonight's meal for us, but it wasn't.
mmm. Steak tatare for dogs.