Beef Stew with Root Vegetables

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Yes, it’s that time of year! After a few months of lighter meals, I am ready to put something on the stove and leave it all afternoon, filling the house with that cozy, nurturing smell of a hearty meal. This is all part of my method for making peace with seasons, and I do welcome the colder months for the sake of such rich meals, as much as for the opportunity to slow down.

One of my favorite elements of cold-weather eating is root vegetables– so sweet, earthy and satisfying, especially when they are given ample time to soften in meaty juices. So far, our family can’t seem to get enough of a root-y beef stew, and I thought I’d share the way I’ve been making Beef Stew with Root Vegetables lately with you.

If you’ve been around for a while now, you’ll know that I am not someone who follows recipes very much, and I tend to just cook based on what is in front of me. So the recipe I offer here is for those of you who like more structure– but please feel free to improvise, and tweak things to your own appetites.

Beef Stew with Root Vegetables

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 kilo or 2 lbs. shin of beef or other good stew meat
  • Bacon grease, beef tallow, or butter
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunky slices
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunky slices
  • 3 cups or 750mL beef stock, red wine, or dry cider (you can also buy traditionally made beef stock here)
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed 
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • A few juniper berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • Other veggies you have on hand, optional.

What to Do:

1. Start by heating up some fat to brown your meat in. I like to use bacon grease or beef tallow. Put your meat in, fattiest side down (to render some extra fat) and don’t crowd it too much. You’ll want to keep things nice and hot, so that the meat browns rather than steams. Take your time with this part of the process, as it is one of the best ways to build great, rich flavor into your stew. Turn and brown at least the other side of the meat, and all sides if you have the time. I had to do this in a couple of batches.

While you’re waiting for the meat to brown is the perfect time to start chopping vegetables, so it doesn’t end up being too time-consuming.Giving your meat time and space is key when you’re browning it– if you try to turn it or move it too fast, it will stick to the pan. Usually, it lifts easily when it’s nicely seared. And you really do want all that brown stuff in the bottom of the pan! By the time you’re ready to pull all of your meat out and set it aside, you should have a nice pile of onions cut into wedges (hopefully some carrots and parsnips, too, but you still have time to do that while the onions cook, anyway.)

2. Cook those onions, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan– for about five minutes. Add the carrots and parsnips, and cook the same way for a few more minutes.

3. Add your spices: garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries, fenugreek and some pepper and salt. Tip:  Don’t wait until the end of your cooking to season with salt and pepper– do that throughout your cooking, and it will build depth of flavor.

4. Give the seeds and garlic a minute to get aromatic, and then add the beef stock (or wine.)  Give it a good, firm stirring, to get any remaining sticky stuff off the bottom of the pan, and then add the browned beef back in.

5. Add more liquid if you need to, so that the meat is mostly covered. Add more salt and pepper. Put the lid on and and turn the heat down to low. Let this simmer for at least an hour. I try to let it go for three, since the longer cooking breaks down all of the sinew and cartilage in the meat into a really velvety sauce and incredibly tender meat. (If you have less time, cut the meat into smaller pieces, and that should help speed things along.)

6. About halfway through the cooking time, I add vinegar– for red meat, I usually use red wine vinegar, but apple cider vinegar is good, too. (If you used red wine for your liquid, you won’t need as much.)  The vinegar not only gives it a nice acidic flavor balance, but it helps to break down the collagen in the meat.
7. When everything is  looking and smelling like it’s about ready, you have the option of adding some quick-cooking vegetables, to add a little extra brightness and texture (and stretch the stew!)  At this point, I added some green beans, and let those simmer for five minutes. Then I added purple kale. (Greens cook very quickly, so I save those for the last couple minutes. The flimsier greens, I add after I turn the heat off, and just let them steam.)  Regardless of whether you add more veg, put in your thyme at the end, so the flavors will stay bright.

I added the kale and thyme, and just let it cook for a couple of minutes as I got the table set.

8. Always taste before bringing it to the table. I often end up adding a little more acid and salt. Usually, the liquid has reduced to a nice, thick sauce– even without any flour or starch. If it’s too watery, take out the meat and veggies, and cook it down at high heat for a few minutes, and stir some butter in at the end. (But that probably won’t be necessary!)
I served this meal with a creamy cauliflower puree and some home-made sauerkraut.

It was really good the next day, too! I am not sure how many I’d say this served. We ate a lot, as we tend to do, and then we had a smaller meal of it for leftovers the next day. So, maybe 6-8 servings?

Any questions? What’s your best cozy-time meal?

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Deeply-Rooted Beef Stew

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16 Responses to Beef Stew with Root Vegetables

  1. greatdana October 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    Yummy! I’ll have to try this and add some of those fun ingredients you list like the coriander, fenugreek and maybe, just maybe some kale. 🙂

    • Ariana Mullins October 31, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      Well, if you cut the kale up small enough, it’s possible that no one will notice! Fenugreek doesn’t have a very distinct flavor, so I like to throw it into things like this, where we’ll get the good anti-inflammatory benefits without any overbearing flavors (turmeric is a little harder to work in!)

  2. Melissa Page October 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    This sounds WONDERFUL! I have a cozy-meal time dinner that is quick and easy and my son and I love it! Here is the recipe.
    Sausage/Onion Quiche

    1 lb. sausage
    1 c. shredded cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
    ½ onion diced
    4 tbsp. flour
    1 deep dish pie shell
    3 eggs
    1/3 c. milk
    Parsley (optional)
    Brown sausage and onion. Warm pie crust. Add flour and cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Pour in to pie shell. Whisk egg, milk and parsley. Pour slowly over sausage/egg mixture. Bake about 30 minutes or until quiche is set and egg is done.

    • Ariana Mullins October 31, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks for the recipe, Melissa– I LOVE quiche, and so does the whole family. I don’t always have the same motivation to make it, now that we have gluten allergies to contend with, but there’s no reason for me to not make it without. I will definitely be giving this a shot some evening soon– with a green salad and a glass of wine, I can’t think of a nicer quick dinner!

  3. Amanda October 30, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    Yum! I have tried this recipe (or variations thereof) many times and can NEVER seem to get the flavor balance right! It’s too winey, too vinegary, too bland, or never enough charred beefy flavor. Yours looks sooo delicious though… yum!

    I have been on a super kale kick lately. We got a Vitamix blender a few days ago and I have been going crazy with it – my newest concoction is garlic-basil-kale pesto, which I have been devouring for lunch with gluten-free pasta!

    Kale Basil Garlic Pesto:
    1/2 cup good olive oil
    2 cups fresh basil leaves
    4 cloves garlic
    2 cups fresh kale
    salt & pepper to taste

    Throw it all in a blender and turn on high until all ingredients have become one smooth, garlicky, herby, healthful dressing that you can put on anything, really.

    • Ariana Mullins October 31, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

      Thanks for the recipe, Amanda. I love the idea of throwing kale into pesto– such a great idea, and I have never tried that before. Plus, having some pesto on hand is always SUPER handy– this would be great over spaghetti squash… Mmm… I just got a food processor, so this is HAPPENING. Thanks!

  4. Lindsey @ Homemade Mommy November 1, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I am for sure trying to this tomorrow! Can you recommend a substitute for fenugreek? I don’t have any on hand. I might just add turmeric because I basically add it to everything.

    • Ariana Mullins November 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Hi Lindsey, I’m so glad you’re going to give this a try! I wouldn’t worry about a substitute for the fenugreek– it doesn’t add much flavor, it’s just another way to get it into our meals. Turmeric sometimes has a strong dirt flavor (is it just me?) so I would go easy there. I think a few cardamon seeds would be nice, if your family isn’t too sensitive to accidentally biting into one (of course you could grind them, or drop in one whole pod of green cardamon, so it wouldn’t be spread through the whole pot.) But, again, I don’t think you’ll miss much of the flavor if you just skip the turmeric. Let me know how it comes out!

  5. Anonymous November 4, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    This looks (and sounds) absolutely delicious! My family loves stews and soups, especially at this time of the year; even though in our part of the country the season can’t decide if it wants to be summer or fall. Temperatures fluctuate so much during October and November. I’m interested in how you make the cauliflower
    puree. I’ve wanted to try it as an alternative to mashed potatoes (which we love) but just haven’t done it yet. Do you add butter or cream?
    Julie in Alabama

    • Ariana Mullins November 5, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      Hi Julie! I may write a post soon on some vegetable purees, but here are the basics:
      Cut the cauliflower into florets, and put them in a pot with water or chicken stock (preferred!) about an inch deep. Steam the cauliflower until tender, and drain any liquid if it’s more than a tablespoon or two. Add a good amount of butter (it varies depending on how much cauliflower you have, and your tastes, but don’t be shy about it.) Use an immersion blender to get it all even, or a food processor if you have to– but that is a lot more mess and work! Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
      I hope this helps– it’s a staple over here!

  6. Dina-Marie @ Cultured Palate November 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    This is making my mouth water! I would love to have you share this on Thursday at Tasty Traditions

  7. Robin November 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    I’ve been watching this recipe float around facebook and it’s because it looks SO GOOD. I love stew, and this look especially delicious. Thanks for the recipe.

    Thanks for linking up at Thank Your Body Thursday. Hope you’ll come back tomorrow!

  8. Elie November 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    I’m inspired to find some juniper berries. I have never cooked with them. Do you pull them out before serving? Or do you eat them?


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