Saturday, November 6, 2010

Just call it a stew

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I made beef casserole. It was nice, but I had a few ideas about how it could be improved. Since there are several variations on this recipe, I wanted to try out another one while I still had these theories of improvement in mind. Luckily, a spell of grotty weather coincided with my having a certain amount of stewing steak that needed using, so it looked like a good time to have a go at beef and mustard casserole (p123).

Beef and mustard casserole follows the exact recipe of plain beef casserole, with one difference: you stir through a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard at the end. Still, by the rules I've set myself, it has to be considered a separate recipe. But since I've already made two of the four variations of beef casserole, I felt I was familiar enough with the recipe to make a few small alterations of my own.

The first thing I chose to do differently is to cook the casserole in the crockpot. Since the casserole uses stewing steak, long, slow cooking in the crockpot would be the best way to make the meat nice and tender.

Secondly, I didn't have the fresh herbs needed for a bouquet garni, so instead I just added some mixed dried herbs to the onions as I cooked them preparatory to adding them to the crockpot. The next issue to address was the excess liquid I'd noticed when I made the plain casserole. I doubled the amount of flour used to coat the cubes of beef, which achieved a better coating and would help thicken the casserole.

I also reduced the amount of liquid added to the casserole - in fact, I couldn't have put the full amount in if I'd wanted to: all the meat and vegetables in the crockpot (including some potatoes that weren't in the recipe, but I decided to add anyway) took up so much room in the crockpot that only about 2/3 of the beef stock would fit in without overflowing the pot.

I set the crockpot on low, and left it to stew away for about 8 hours. At the end of this time, the meat was lovely and tender, and the vegetables were cooked. Of course, in order to turn it from a plain beef casserole into a beef and mustard casserole, I stirred through the all-important mustard before turning off the crockpot.

Despite the extra flour and the reduced liquids, the casserole was again very thin and watery-looking. Well, it might look watery, but it tastes pretty good. I suppose I just need to think of it more as a stew than a casserole: then it's about the right consistency.

Instead of my usual dumplings, I served my stew over a generous helping of mashed potatoes (forgetting momentarily that I'd also put potatoes in the stew, but it didn't matter really) which was quite effective in absorbing the liquid and thickening the whole thing up.

This made a very pleasant meal, very much suited to a chilly day. The mustard didn't make much difference to the flavour, but I enjoyed the texture of mustard seeds amongst the meat and vegetables. Using the crockpot definitely made the meat more tender, so I'd recommend using one if you're making this recipe. My other slight amendments to the recipe made no great difference, but I'm still glad I tried them out.

So that's three out of four variations of beef 'casserole' under my belt - only one more to go! But I think I'll leave that one for a while: I've had enough stew for the time being!


  1. Making a stew in the crockpot requires quite a lot less liquid to cooking one in the oven or stovetop remember.Check what is used in your crockpot book. You can always thicken the liquid at the end with a cornflour or flour slurry as long as you cook it for a short time or throw in a handful of rolled oats.Yum stew my favourite meal!!c

  2. It's coming into stew weather here now. Hooray!! Gotta love a good stew!

  3. No, I didn't know you need less liquid in a crockpot.. but I do now! It thickened up nicely overnight anyway.


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