A Spicy Beef Stew

Stews can be wonderful things for feeding a crowd of people.  You prepare them hours (or even a day or two) in advance so you don’t have to be worrying about cooking at all when you’re friends are there.  This stew is made with rose wine rather than the normal red, which makes it a bit lighter, and then it’s given plenty of body and flavour by the harissa and ras el hanout.  I’ve been slightly obsessed with harissa recently – I really recommend having a jar in the fridge as it can spice up any meal in seconds.  Belazu make a really nice one and I’ve been stirring a tablespoon through a slaw (of cabbage, carrot and onion, or whatever’s in the fridge), with a bit of mayo and lemon juice and then tucking into it with a baked sweet potato with melted goats cheese.  A very simple and deliciuos dinner.  Mmm.

Anyway, back to the stew… Here’s the recipe, it serves 8:

2 onions, sliced

6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon ras el hanout (Barts sell this in Waitrose)

1.5kg stewing beef, cut into 2cm chunks

1 bottle rose wine

1 tbsp rose harissa

3 bay leaves

1 stick cinnamon

1/2 orange, juice and a few strips pared zest

handful of dried apricots, chopped

2 tbsps yoghurt

small bunch of dill, chopped

small bunch of mint, chopped

Preheat the oven to 160c. In a large oven proof dish, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil.  Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes and then add the ras el hanout and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove this from the pan and place in a bowl.  Heat some more oil in the pan and brown the beef in batches, seasoning as you go and placing it in the bowl with the onions, etc.

Once all the beef has browned, pour the bottle of rose into the empty pan and bring it up to the boil, let it bubble away for five minutes.  Then return the beef, onions, etc to the pan along with the bay, cinnamon, harrisa, orange (zest and juice) and dried apricots.  Taste and season, add more orange juice if you think it needs it and perhaps a pinch of sugar (or a bit of honey).  Crumple up a piece of greaseproof paper, wet it and lay it across the top of the stew.  Place the lid on top and put it into the oven for about 2 hours, until the meat is nice and tender.

To test if it’s done, spoon out a piece of meat and you should be able to tear it apart easily with two teaspoons.  If it does this remove it from the oven, stir in the yoghurt, dill and mint, check the seasoning – I added a bit more orange at this point – and serve.  If the meat is not ready cook it for longer, testing every 20minutes or so.

I served it with some baked sweet potatoes (they take about 45mins to 1hour at 180c) and a bowl of cabbage and broccoli that I’d quickly fried off in butter, lots of pepper, some salt and a bit of orange and lemon juice.

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