Saturday, August 28, 2010

Slow-cooked stew

I love slow-cooked stews. I love the simplicity of the preparation, the suitability of cheap cuts of meat that often taste the best, but need ages to break down the collagen in them, and the results! I love the falling-apart, unctuous, makes-it's-own-gravyness of the slow cooked dish. However, LW doesn't share my delight in these foods. I think she may be recalling, only too well, the school dinner stews where the cooking process seemed to turn meat into gristle, and the veggies all took on a uniform grey starchiness. And if that's correct, who can blame her?

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?'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.

nearly ready...

...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:

and my, the dumplings have puffed out

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.

1 comment:

  1. I asked for a small helping of meat and a large helping of dumplings. I cleaned my plate and when Lloyd asked me if I liked it I had to sheepishly admit I did. It was a far cry from school dinners, which incidentally Poppy ( one of our lovely guests) said they get almost every night at school - but she said Lloyd's was 1000 times better and if the school ones were like his then she wouldn't mind having it every night.