There are many versions of Sunday lunch that I merrily trough my way through regularly, and then, after a huge sigh, exclaim,
‘That was just delicious!’
With stew however, there is a little bit more that happens. A certain je ne sais quoi of fulfilment which reaches the parts other lunches only dream about. I think it’s probably a combination of the slowly marinated meat, perfectly complimented by the creamy mashed potato, and today, broccoli.
When son #1 was little, one day he sat at the table to a meal which included broccoli, and declared he didn’t like broccoli any more. There was a slight pause and then himself, very calmly, explained to son #1 that his decision to not eat broccoli was his to make, but meant he would never be able to run fast, as the two things went hand in hand.
There was another thoughtful pause and we continued with the meal, by the end of which, all the broccoli had been eaten.
It has been thus ever since, and son #1 is a pretty fast runner. I’m not saying the theory is conclusive, but…
Now then, everyone has their own stew method, but most stews reach the top echelon of satisfaction by being cooked slowly. To achieve this I rise early to prepare all the components, in order that they are given as good a chance as possible to become perfectly combined. When I say early, my Sunday early is 8.30. Just so you know.
Anyway, toss the beef in flour, salt and pepper, then gently fry in butter and vegetable oil that has melted in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pan, until browned.
Take out the meat and set aside. Add chopped onion, carrots and turnip to the pan. These are softened before I add boiling water and put the meat back in. Give it a good stir, add a few sprigs of thyme, a good sprinkling of coarsely ground black pepper and some beef stock. Put the lid on, place in the lower part of the oven, gas mark 2/3 for me, and leave there for 4 – 6 hours.
The next part is probably one of the most comfort evoking things for me. The smell of the stew slowly wafts around the kitchen and gently infuses through everyone’s nostrils creating calm anticipation. Obviously, if you leave your crew waiting too long, they do start to get a little grumpy, so make sure that any potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, vegetables, etc are ready to go.
I like to indulge in a creamy mashed potato one day and then fill a Yorkshire pudding the next. You, of course, may decide to do both, or neither. I would however (if I may), gently suggest that a green vegetable such as savoy cabbage, broccoli, green beans etc. compliments the whole thing perfectly.
And of course, having this meal for Sunday lunch means that everyone can sit staring into space, or even enjoy a cheekie forty winks, for an hour or so afterwards, without a care in the world.
It makes that ‘early’ start absolutely worth it.