Food Blog Friday: Hearty Beef Stew

This is a super basic recipe. So basic that I wondered if it was even worth sharing here. But I think it’s a staple dish for busy families that is so simple, so hearty, and it goes a long way with a few cheap ingredients. This time of year in Canada there isn’t a lot of fresh, local produce you can get your hands on. I always have a sack of carrots, a sack of potatoes, and a sack of onions in my basement, and stewing beef in my freezer. ALWAYS. If I don’t, it means I haven’t been to the grocery store in months and there’s probably an apocalypse happening outside. 

It’s a slow-cooker recipe, and the quantity of ingredients is just a rough guide – it’s really difficult, if not impossible, to screw up.

beef stew.jpg

Again, qty of each ingredient is really flexible and up to your liking. 
Ingredients:

  • Stewing beef
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • And/or other roots vegetables
  • Onions
  • Frozen peas or corn
  • Bay leaf, other dried herbs (e.g., thyme)
  • Beef broth
  • Optional: butter (or other fat), flour

Add to your slow cooker:

1 lb stewing beef (I chop it into smaller pieces than it comes in so it’s bite sized and stretches to more bowls). You can put it in frozen. Doesn’t matter.

2 large carrots halved and roughly chopped

2 potatoes (any kind will do, peeled or not peeled) cubed

1 onion, diced. You can caramelize it beforehand or not.

1 or 2 bay leaves, other dried herbs you have on hand (e.g., thyme, rosemary, parsley…).

And any other root veggies you like or have kicking around in the fridge/root cellar (e.g., parsnip, turnip, leeks…).

For the broth:

If you want super simple, just add enough beef broth to cover all the ingredients in the slow cooker. If you want a little thicker stew, make a roux. If you don’t know how to make a roux, there are hundreds of YouTube videos that will show you how.  But here’s how I do it (this stew is so simple that its not much of a recipe share if I don’t share how to make the roux, too).

For the roux, add 1-2 tablespoons of any kind of fat you like to a deep frying pan or a pot on the stove top (butter, vegetable oil, bacon fat…). If you wanted to be fancy and caramelize your onions and brown your beef before adding them to the slow cooker, use the same pot for extra flavour in your roux. Melt the fat and add flour to the pan, one tablespoon at a time, whisking in over med-high heat. I usually get to the consistency I want with 3 or 4 tablespoons of flour. It should be a thick paste. Whisk continuously for a minute or two to kind of cook the flour, and then slowly add beef broth. You’ll want enough broth to cover the ingredients in the slow cooker, so use your discretion. I usually need about 4 cups of broth. Whisk the broth into the roux, slowly, and keep whisking until it thickens, at a simmering temperature. When you’ve reached the stew-like consistency you like, dump the broth into the slow cooker.

Add salt and pepper to the levels you like. 

The cook:

Cook on low for 8 hours. High for 6 works too, but depending on the quality of your stewing beef (I’m super cheap so the cuts of meat in my freezer are usually the worst), the lower and slower you cook it the more tender it becomes.

Last minute add-ins:

With about half an hour left on the cook, add in about a cup of frozen peas. You can also use canned corn (or any other light and sweet pop of vegetable). 

Serve!

I like serving this stew with tea biscuits, but tea biscuits are for another Food Blog Friday. 

Variation:

If you have these ingredients on hand but don’t feel like stew, you can make a beef pie by adding just a little broth (like 1 cup instead of 4), throwing an edible lid on the whole thing, and finishing in the oven to crisp up your “lid”. 

If you have mushrooms, make a beef and mushroom pie. Kidney in your fridge? Steak and kidney pie. Puff pastry is great for on top, but if you don’t have puff pastry, omit the potatoes from the stew, boil and mash them separately, and put those on top like a shepherd’s pie. 

There are so many meal options when you have these few easy to store root vegetables and a thing of stewing beef if your freezer. 


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Food Blog Friday: Best Bread Recipe

I’m starting a new section of my blog: Food Blog Friday. Let’s start with one a month and see how it goes… I’m not a food blogger, but I cook and bake enough that I could have the content to be one. The only problem is that my cooking and baking is pretty hit and miss, so when all is said and done and tasted, there really are only a handful of gems good enough to blog about. This bread is one of them.

I got the recipe from my wife’s aunt who has been making the bread for herself every week for 30 years. At new year’s this year I sat down with her and had her write out the recipe that she has tweaked to perfection. I baked two loaves this week already, and I might have to make another. This bread freezes really well too, so I’m making it in advance because, with the baby, baking isn’t necessarily something I can do in a pinch if I discover I’m out of bread!

The instructions are tailored to the use of a stand mixer. Adjust kneading times if doing it by hand.

To start:

Lightly stir up the following ingredients in your stand mixer bowl

1 1/2 cup warm water

2-3 tbs oil

1 tsp salt

2 tbs brown sugar

2 tsp yeast

Let it soften in the bowl for 10-15 minutes.

The dry ingredients:

In a separate bowl blend

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup white flour

+/- 1 cup your choice of seeds.

E.g., 1/4 ground flax, 1/4 chia seeds, 1/2 sunflower seeds.

Set aside a spare cup of white flour to thicken the dough later if needed. 

Add the flour and knead:

Start up the mixer on low with the bread kneading attachment. Slowly add in the flour/grain mixture. Knead in the mixer for 10-15 minutes, adding in the spare cup of flour as needed.

The dough should be dry enough to touch and not get stuck to your finger.

First Rise:

Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl to rise for an hour. I like to preheat the oven and then turn it off, and place the bread in the warm oven to rise. Putting a dish of water in the oven helps to prevent the dough from drying out too much while rising. No need to cover the dough.

Second Rise:

After an hour, punch the dough down to get all the air out of it. Shape into a greased bread pan and let rise again in the same warm environment, this time for about 45 minutes. An egg wash before baking gives a nice golden brown crust, but be gentle so it doesn’t collapse. I found it even worked to do the egg wash before  the second rise just to be extra careful with the risen dough.

The Bake:

Bake for 10 minutes in a 400°F oven

Turn down to 375°F for another 20 minutes.

Cool and Eat.