Sunday, 27 September 2015

Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon

We’re going back a fair while here: back when I first got a slow cooker. I’d wanted one for ages, but I’d also wanted a pressure cooker and frankly we don’t have room for both. It was a tough call - I had done tons of research on both and I think deep down I kinda wanted a pressure cooker but but in the end plumped for the slow cooker for 2 reasons. The first being that winter was on the way so in theory I would be cooking lots of heart stews and the like (although as I’ve mentioned previously I’m almost as likely to cook a stew at the height of summer if that is what I fancy - the slow cooker will also be helpful then as the kitchen won’t get so hot!) and the second being that in my bun in the oven state at the time I thought it would be handy, closer to D day to knock up lots of one pot meals that we could just defrost and reheat once we were back from the hospital. And I’m happy to state that was exactly what we did.

But back to this - the question was what to do for our first meal? Well in all honesty it wasn’t that much of a competition as, to me, Boeuf Bourguignon seemed a pretty obvious choice. That said, I’d a few other ideas up my sleeve for the coming weeks and months.

Slow Cooker Boeuf Bourguignon
Serves 4

6 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon, sliced into thin strips
1kg beef shin, cut into 1-inch cubes, patted dry & seasoned with salt & pepper
300ml good red wine, divided
2 small/medium onions, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp tomato paste
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
250ml chicken or beef stock, plus more if necessary
300g button mushrooms, thickly sliced (halve very small ones)
parsley, chopped
crusty bread

Warm a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden and crispy. Transfer the bacon using a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Pour off all but a tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan, reserving the rest.

Return the pan to the heat and when the bacon fat is shimmering and you see a wisp or two of smoke, add a single layer of beef cubes to the pan to sear — do not crowd the pan; sear the meat in batches: you’ll probably do about 3 in all and add a little extra bacon fat as needed.

Transfer the seared meat to the slow cooker. When all the batches are done deglaze the pan with 50ml of the wine.

Pour the deglazing wine and any scraped up bits over the seared meat in the slow cooker.

Add 1 tablespoon of the leftover bacon fat (or olive oil if needs be) to the pan and reduce the heat to medium lowish. Cook the onions with ⅛ teaspoon of salt until soft and slightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, and cook for a further 5 minutes or so until slightly softened.

Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook until fragrant then transfer the vegetable mixture to the slow cooker.

Wipe the pan clean and warm a little more bacon fat over medium heat (using olive if no more remains). Cook the mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt until they have release all their liquid, the liquid has evaporated, and the mushrooms are golden brown.

Transfer the mushrooms to a clean bowl, rather than the slow cooker, and set aside as they get added later.

Stir the beef and vegetables (excepting mushrooms) together in the slow cooker, tucking the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf into the mixture. Pour the stock and the remaining wine over - the liquid should come about 3/4 of the way to the surface of the ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. When finished, the beef should fall apart easily with a fork.

Once the meat is cooked, stir in the reserved bacon and mushrooms. Cook with the slow cooker on high until the mushrooms are warmed through, about 10 minutes.

Serve in bowls with crusty bread on the side. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Lamb, Bulghur & Butter Bean Stew

Despite having thrown a little shade at Martha Stewart not that long ago it seems that I have found myself adapting one of her recipes: it is something I repinned onto my lamb recipe inspiration board and didn’t even realised it was Stewart until I decided to cook it the other day. It’s good though and dead easy so I’m glad I did.

You’ll have noticed that due to the lag of cooking / writing up blog I am totally out with my seasonal cooking and in the summer was posting a lot of stews, casseroles and the like. And recently I seem to have posted some lighter and more salady fare. The fact is though that I don’t often take much notice of what I should cook when - if I fancy quiche and salad in the dead of winter that is what I will have. And if I fancy a lamb & bulghur stew in August, as was this case with this recipe, then that is what I will bloody well have.

By the way, the original had oregano in it which I have omitted here simply as I forgot it. I didn’t miss it and in honesty I’m not sure it is necessary but if you do want to add it, do so at the stage where you stir in the spinach and feta: 1 tablespoon of fresh or 1 teaspoon of dried. 

I’d added olives to the recipe which I think was a good call as they added a nice salty tang to the finished dish: the feta does a similar job and they complement each other well so I’d probably add a little more of that sprinkled on top next time.

Lamb, Bulghur & Butter Bean Stew
serves 2

1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
200g lamb mince
75g bulghur wheat
½ tsp red-pepper flakes
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp harissa paste
small tin chopped tomatoes
125ml water
½ tin white beans, drained & rinsed
5-10 kalamata olives, stoned and roughly chopped
75 g spinach, chopped
50g feta cheese, crumbled, plus a little extra to serve

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot (that has a lid) over a medium heat and add the onion, lamb, bulgur wheat, red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring to break up lamb, until the lamb is cooked which will take about 5 minutes.

Add the paprika and harissa, stirring for a minute until fragrant.

Add the tomatoes and water, bringing to a fierce simmer then turn the heat down to low and cover. Let the stew gently simmer, with the occasional stir, until the bulgur is tender, about 25 minutes.

Add the beans & olives at about 20 minutes in.

Once the bulgur is tender, stir in the spinach and feta and cook until feta is almost melted and the spinach wilted, about 2 minutes.

Serve in bowls garnished with a little extra feta if you like.


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