This is about as winter warming and comforting as food can be, and just perfect for all the snowy weather we’re all getting at the minute! I made this last weekend when it was minus 9 outside and in the midst of a snow storm!. I didn’t actually set foot outside all day. We all tucked in and devoured it with fervour.
Strangely enough the first time I ever cooked beef in Guinness, or black beer, was in the semi tropics of Bolivia. Staying in a picturesque mountain side hut overlooking the Andies with my friend Enda we made the most of having our very own outdoor kitchen for a few days and cooked up some triumphs with great local produce from the village a steep 3km trek away. Not only did the village have fresh homemade pasta for sale (this is extremely rural South America, not Italy, we’re talking about!), but we managed to find some very novel in those parts black beer (and some pretty good local red plonk to boot too!). And as the beef looked particularly scraggy and distinctly unappetising I figured the best treatment for it was to stew it up for a few hours in the beer. And what a result, I remember it being the best meal we’d had in weeks. Admittedly not the best choice of dinner to be eating in 35 degrees of heat but nevertheless it tasted damned good at the time. Happy happy memories!
Anyway, I digress! Here’s a considerably more refined recipe for Beef in Guinness cooked with winter veggies and pearl barley. I used some pumpkin in mine which melted beautifully into the gravy, but I’ve usually used swede or parsnips in the past, even some turnip, but more often than not a mixture of what I happen to have in. These root veggies hold their shape a good deal better than my pumpkin.
For a family of four:
800g of braising steak
2 tbsps of plain flour
salt & pepper
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced (a little thicker than a pound coin)
2 sticks of celery, sliced
500g of pumpkin/squash/swede/parsnips/turnips or a mix of a few of these. Peeled and cut into a 2 cm dice
2 tbsps of tomato puree
750ml of Guinness – equates to 1 and a half cans (some unfortunate person gets to finish the can!)
500ml of beef stock
4 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
125g of pearl barley
Place the 2 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Cut the beef into 3 to 4 cm chunks and roll around in the flour until evenly coated.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole or saucepan and brown the beef off on a medium heat. Turn the meat every few minutes until all sides are browned. Once browned remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Into the same pan add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. If there’s not much fat left from the beef add another tablespoon of olive oil. Continue to cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring everything regularly so nothing catches.
Add the browned beef to the pan along your chosen veggies and 2 tablespoons of tomato puree. Give everything a good stir then add the Guinness, beef stock, bay leaves and thyme. You can leave the thyme sprigs whole, and remove the empty stalks at the end of cooking just as you would the bay leaves (far less fiddly than removing the leaves I find). Last but not least stir in the pearl barley.
Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 2 hours with the lid on. Stir periodically so as to ensure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan. The stew is ready when the beef is very very tender.
Serve with oodles of mash and the rest of the Guinness, or like myself a large glass of vin rouge.