The weather is still pretty chilly here, and last weekend we had snow. To me, this means it’s a perfect time to cook a good old fashioned beef stew and carrots. Or any other type of stew for that matter. Cooking it in a pressure cooker means you don’t have to wait hours to tuck in either. But, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t worry. You can cook it on the hob or in the oven as well, it will just take longer.
Ok, I know it’s basic, but sometimes basic does just nicely. To my mind, this is no fuss, home cooked food. I’m pretty sure my mum had a pressure cooker, as I seem to remember seeing one in the cupboard but I don’t remember her using it much. Stews like this would just bubble away on the stove for hours or before my dad had a fancy new electric oven, they would be cooked in the old gas oven in the bakery. I grew up in a bakery and the old gas ovens were lit at night ready for baking in the morning, and they seldom got completely cold.
Maybe that’s why I like stews so much, they are a taste of my childhood. Now, of course, I don’t have an oven that is permanently on and I’m also not always organised enough to get the dinner on to cook hours in advance. Which is exactly why I like using a pressure cooker. Prepare your dish and what seems like a very short time later the meat is cooked and tender. If I’m honest, the flavours are probably better in a slower cooked stew as they have more of a chance to meld together, but when time is short a slight loss of flavour can be accepted. That said there is more than enough flavour for a midweek meal even in a dish as simple as this.
I like the flavour of root veg that has cooked to almost mushiness in a stew (unlike overly boiled veg which is just watery). So, I have kept this traditional and cooked the carrots the full time. If you prefer, you could cook the meat first, add the carrots to the pot and cook again either at high pressure for 5 minutes or without returning to pressure by simmering the stew for about 30 minutes. To me, that’s a bit of a faff though. Incidentally, you can use other root vegetables such as swede, waxy potatoes, turnips or parsnip or any combination of them instead. As with all basic recipes, it’s there to be tweaked!
Step by Step
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 2 onions sliced
- 500 g carrots cut into large chunks
- 1 kg braising or stewing steak cut into bite sized chunks
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 500 ml water
- 1 beef stock cube
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- mashed potatoes to serve
- Heat a little of the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions over a medium heat until softened and beginning to brown . Remove from the pan and place in the pressure cooker along with the carrots.
- Toss the meat in the flour, seasoned with a little black pepper until coated. Brown the meat in batches adding a little more oil as necessary. As each batch is browned, remove with a slotted spoon and add to the carrots and onions.
- When all the meat has been browned, stir the red wine vinegar into the pan with a little of the water, give it a good stir, scraping up any caramelised meat juices from the base of the pan.
Tip over the meat and add the remaining water. Crumble in the stock cube and add the thyme. Give it a good stir then close the lid and bring up to high pressure. Cook for 30 minutes, then release the pressure slowly.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as required, Serve with mashed potatoes to mop up the juices.
To cook on the hob - Cook in a large saucepan. Add an additional 250 ml/9 floz(1 cup) water. Bring to the boil. Cover and reduce the heat. Simmer for 1½ - 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding extra water if required. To cook in the oven - preheat the oven to 140℃ (130℃ fan)/275°F/gas mark 1 Place the onions, carrots and meat in an ovenproof dish with a well fitting lid. Add boiling water including an additional 250 ml/9 floz (1 cup) water. Cook for about 3 hours. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost fully before reheating until piping hot.