Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cold-snap casserole

After weeks of sunny weather, we were about due for a mid-Spring cold snap. The weather turned rainy and cold on Sunday night. Monday's heavy rain was punctuated with brief spells when the sky looked like it might be clearing - then the blue patches would disappear and the rain would come thundering down again.

It was during one of these clear spells that I ventured across to the mall to empty the PO box. By the time I'd got halfway, however, I was running through torrential rain, and trying to cross the road in a sudden hailstorm. On my way back I was picked up by Steve, who'd come on a rescue mission. He was a bit late though - I was already wet through.

By lunchtime I had dried out a bit, but was still feeling damp and quite chilled. I went back over to the mall to get myself some soup, this time taking an umbrella, which I didn't end up needing - but I did manage to lose it while I was over there (and, as I later discovered, the PO box key as well). I wound up retracing my steps all over the mall and supermarket, but didn't find it.

Also, the soup I got was revolting and I ended up biffing it.

So you've probably grasped the fact that Monday was not a good day. The sky cleared in the afternoon, but it was still pretty chilly, so I decided that a nice, warming beef casserole (p123) would be the ideal comfort food. I'd already made one of the variations of this recipe - beef and mushroom casserole - but I hadn't tried my hand at the basic recipe yet.

I started by frying some chopped onion while I cut up the blade steak and coated the pieces in flour. When the onions were done, I scooped them out of the frypan and into a casserole dish, then browned the meat in batches and added it to the onions.

The next step was to add stock gradually to the pan, stirring. I expect that the stock was supposed to pick up what remained of the flour coating from the beef in the bottom of the frying pan, which would help the gravy to thicken. That seemed to be the idea, anyway - but there wasn't much flour in the pan, and way too much liquid for it to have any thickening effect.

In with the boiling stock went some chopped carrot, then I was supposed to tie together a sprig of thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf to make a bouquet garni. Except I only had dried thyme, and when I opened my jar of bay leaves, I only had crumbled pieces left. Unfazed by this turn of events, I merely tied my bits of bay leaf in some muslin with the parsley and a shake of dried thyme.

My bouquet garni went into the casserole dish with the liquid and carrots, then it was into the oven for 90 minutes. Since I'd spent my early evening making a video of myself eating ginger bavarian cream, then incorporating it into a blog entry, it was around 8pm by the time I got the casserole in the oven. Dinner at 9.30? On a weeknight? Maybe this beef casserole wasn't such a great idea after all!

By the time the casserole had been cooking for an hour, a delicious smell of beef and thyme was wafting through the house. I was really looking forward to trying some when it was finally ready, but when I got the casserole out of the oven, it didn't look as good as it smelt.

As predicted, there hadn't been enough flour to thicken the liquid, and there was too much stock for the amount of meat and vege. Really it was more of a stew than a casserole - I feel like I should have put potatoes in it. Or dumplings! How did I forget to do dumplings?

Despite the watery texture, it was quite a tasty stew. The 1 1/2 hour cooking time had been long enough to make the meat nice and tender, and the overall flavour was richly beefy. With a couple of bread rolls to soak up the liquid, it doesn't make a bad meal.

I've still got a couple of variations on this recipe to go, and I think I'll try and find a way of thickening it next time - less liquid, more flour would be a good place to start!


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