We live in a rapidly polarising and intolerant world. More and more of us have no room to share with anybody who has different views, different religion, different nationality, different colour or different sexuality to ourselves. It’s kind of easy for me to take a stand on this as I don’t have a religion, have very few views on anything of importance, am a citizen of the world, in my underwear, I am a pasty colour that is best kept covered up and you can mind your own business on the sexuality bit.
Occasionally, right out of the blue, somebody does something nice, something that they don’t have to do. This sort of thing restores my faith in humanity. Tim O’Brien from Western Australia is such a person. Last week, Tim sent me an email saying some lovely things about the blog. He told me some funny stories of a trip to Ireland and generally made my life better. We need more of this from more people like Tim. If I am going to encourage these random acts of niceness, I had better cook up something really tasty. A Mushroom and Beef Stew fits the bill.
- 5 trays of mushrooms. I used closed cap (medium and small), button, chestnut and portobello.
- 1.5 kilo of shin beef
- Extra shin bones
- 1 litre of great beef stock
- 1 large glass of red wine
- About half a kilo of mirepoix (2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, one part celery)
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
Side note on mirepoix: There is always too much in a bag of carrots and in a celery plant to make a mirepoix for one stew or soup. Carrots and celery don’t keep well. My solution is to make a big mirepoix out of a bag of onions, bag of carrots and two celery plants. I break it into batches and freeze it. This is really handy for cutting down the prep time on soups and stews.
The biggest job with this stew is preparing the mushrooms. They need to be peeled, cleaned chopped and cooked down.
While the mushrooms are being prepared you can brown the beef in a large casserole. Brown the beef in batches and reserve.
Add the mushrooms (there are lots of mushrooms) to the casserole. Add a very small bit of water to start the steaming process. Sweat them down for about twenty minutes, stirring to stop any burning or sticking.
The mushrooms will reduce and their flavours will concentrate in the process. Expect to see them shrink by about eighty percent.
Add back the beef in layers.
Add the remaining ingredients and bring the stew to a gentle boil on the stovetop.
Place a lid on the casserole and pop it into the oven at 160ºC (320ºF) and leave it there for four hours. I used one of those hours to prepare a herbed polenta. This is easy to do. Simply make a thick polenta and add the herbs and salt and pepper, before it sets. Pour it into a cake tin lined with cling film and let it set. Cut it into triangles, roll it in polenta flour and fry until crispy.
This stew is really nice. Just like Tim’s email, it brings pleasure and restores one’s faith. So, I encourage you to do two things. Firstly, make this lovely stew. The mushrooms and beef work perfectly together and the polenta adds a delightful bit of crunch and herby flavour. Secondly, follow Tim’s example and do something nice for somebody who is not expecting it. You can help make the world a better place. At this stage, our world needs all the help it can get.