As much as I cheerfully kept my food blog going last year, I felt like I didn’t cook all that much. Well, I did, but I didn’t cook very many NEW recipes. I kept returning to old favourites over and over again, like chorizo pasta, peanut curry, coconut dhal and burrito bowls.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents wouldn’t have minded if I’d made something different every night, but I minded. I didn’t want to be under their feet all the time, so I relied heavily on batch cooking, which meant I’d spend a day once a month or so to fill up our freezer drawer with meals.
And it worked, but I missed what I love most about cooking – learning new skills, finding new flavours and experimenting with different things. So when we moved into our house, one of the first things I unpacked was my cookbooks.
You see, having my own kitchen again is so much more than just space. It’s having complete ownership of what’s in the cupboards and the fridge, which sounds like a little thing, but when you’re sharing that space it’s sometimes hard to remember what’s in there, or even to guarantee that what you left in there will still be there when you get home. We’ve all been in that position, right?
Buffet catering service St Albans
1 tbsp vegetable oil
100g silverskin pickled onions
1 large red onion
3 large carrots
4 sticks celery
15g fresh thyme
20g dried porcini mushrooms
800g braising, stewing or skirt steak
1 beef stock cube
220ml Guinness (half a can)
Cornflour, as required
1. Preheat the oven to 180c / Gas Mark 4. For this recipe, I recommend using a large casserole pan with a lid that’s suitable for cooking on the hob and in the oven.
2. Put the pan on a medium heat with a tablespoon of oil and the pickled onions. Peel and quarter the regular onion, then pull the quarters apart into petals and add to the pan.
3. Keep an eye on it, stirring regularly, while you slice the celery and carrots into 1/2cm thick, and chop the mushrooms into chunks.
4. Add it all to the pan, then strip the thyme leaves from the stem and add them too.
5. Allow everything to cook for around 10 minutes, stirring regularly, while you peel and chop the swede and finely chop the dried porcini (I used scissors to cut the porcini because it was so tough!).
6. Stir both into the pan, then add the beef (if it’s not already diced, chop into 3cm chunks).
7. Add the Guinness and crumble in the stock cube, now add the water. My pan wasn’t quite big enough for a litre, so I just filled until I could fill no more.
8. Bring to a simmer, give everything a gentle stir, then cover with the lid and cook in the oven for two hours.
9. After two hours, transfer back to the hob and add 1-2 tbsp of cornflour slurry to the pan, and bring up to a simmer to thicken the sauce. Add more cornflour/water as required until you get to your desired consistency. I cooked it for about another 20 minutes to thicken it sufficiently.
10. Serve with green vegetables and mounds of buttery mashed potatoes. And a glass of red wine. You’ve earned it.
This is delicious. It’s cosy and hearty and warming, but also packed with vegetables and really not unhealthy, even though it tastes as it should be. I made this yesterday when I had friends round for lunch – it’s an excellent dish for entertaining, as it only uses one pot and you can keep it warm in the oven for as long as you need to. Plus, it even made a couple of portions for the freezer. Lovely.