There are times in your life when you would love a really good home cooked meal but time seems to be of the essence. You find yourself standing in front of the frozen food section trying to work out which frozen delight you can stomach tonight. Maybe you have to help the kids with their home work and a full three hours organising dinner is just not going to happen.
Well, there is a light at the end of tunnel and it is not the microwave light. This is not exactly a one pot wonder nor totally without effort but it is not a stand over the stove and wilt recipe and fruits of the labour out weigh the labour.
Potato and parsnip mash.
Beef with red wine and juniper stew.
- 1 onion per two people
- 200 grams (7 oz) per person (approx) of beef, either a stewing steak or shin meat, cubed or divided along the lines with shin meat.
- 1 medium carrot per person
- 6 juniper berries
- 1 good quality beef stock cube or 250 ml (8 US fl oz) of liquid beef stock per two people.
- 2 generous tablespoons redcurrant jelly (this will go to 3 if you are cooking for more than four people)
- 1/3 of a bottle of full bodied red wine. (We used a pinotage merlot blend.)
- Splash of oil.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Peel the potatoes and parsnips and dice into small cubes. Pop into a saucepan with water and set to boil. (Trust me on this, it may sound odd timing but we are working on getting you out of the kitchen.)
Whilst the potatoes are coming to the boil, peel and cut up the carrot, chunky is good. Peel and cut up the onion(s) in chunks, half moon shapes.
Cube your beef. We used shin meat, a relatively overlooked cut of beef that is flavoursome and has the added bonus of having easy to divide portions and is cheap.
Mash the juniper berries in a mortar and pestle or crush with the flat side of a knife.
In another saucepan, add the oil and bring up to a medium heat. Throw in the beef and brown it, you don’t need a lot of oil as the fat from the meat will help with this as it melts.
Whilst this is happening put the kettle on and crumble your stock cube up in a small bowl. Add about 100ml (3 US fl oz) of boiling water and mix into a paste. Stock cubes can be the spawn of the devil but if you buy top quality ones with not too many E numbers and salt in them you are okay. If you are organised enough to have made your own stock then go for it, because homemade stock is the best and you can freeze if for future use!
Once you have browned off the meat, turn the heat down and added the carrot, onions, juniper berries and redcurrant jelly. Pour in the red wine, about a 1/3 of a bottle, if you are cooking for more than four people add a bit more, scrape in the dissolved stock cube or add your own liquid stock. If needed add enough water to almost cover the meat and veg. Season with pepper and salt, stir to combine all those flavours.
Bring the stew to a gentle simmer and cover. The potatoes and parsnips should be soft and tender about this point, drain them put them back in the saucepan with a lid on and set aside of the heat. We will come back to them.
Now you can walk away, the stew should take about 40 minutes to cook, plenty of time to help the kids with homework, clean the bathroom, do some ironing, catch up on emails, take photos or as we did, play some games of Wii tennis while we drank some of the left over wine.
Do check on the meal a couple of times so it does not catch on the bottom of the pan. It is done when the carrots have just a little bite to them, you can cook them a little longer if you desire soft carrots.
Turn on the heat under your potatoes and parsnips as quickly reheat them, stirring to avoid catching on the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from heat, add fat and a bit of salt and hand over to a kitchen assistant, if you have one, to mash. You may notice we have not added milk to this mash, there is no real need to but the reason is that if you use margarine or oil then this meal is meaty kosher.
Plate up on a square plate, placing mash inside a ring mould, forming a delicate circle of creamy mash, remove ring mould, place meat and vegetables delicately on top of the mash in a pleasing fashion and then drizzle with the sauce. Or you could serve it by scooping a generous amount of mash into a shallow pasta bowl and then piling the stew on top, a bowl is best for chasing around the last drips of sauce. Serve with the left over red wine that you used in the sauce, if you have any left.
You should have sweet creamy mash with a tender delicately flavoured stew that you may find people wanting seconds or thirds and exclaim that you must have spent hours in the kitchen cooking!