The best ever beef in beer?

The butcher has won me round. There is no way that I am going back to buying most of my meat at the supermarket. As I wrote about in this post, I’ve only been regularly shopping at my local butcher for about a month. So far I’ve tried chicken, lamb shoulder, pheasant and the chunky Castle and Bonfire Boy sausages, but it has to be this shin of beef that has made me realise that you really are getting a worse deal for your dollar at Tesco. I bought 800g from the butcher for £7 exactly, which is enough meat to serve 4-6 people, and good value, considering regular Tesco casserole steak costs £8 a kilo.

I made a traditional beef in beer with the shin of beef last night, and boy was it good, the meat was succulent and well-flavoured and a world apart from the ‘blandness cubed’ variety of stewing steak that you plop out of a plastic carton. Here is my recipe, you’ll see that I have omitted the usual carrots and spuds from the cooking. To be honest, I’m not a massive fan of ultra-soft and squidgy stewed vegetables, I’d rather have them served still firm on the side to mop up a clean, meaty gravy.

Beef in beer

800g shin of beef, cubed
Oil and butter for frying
5-6 onions, each cut into 6 wedges
2 fat cloves garlic
1 carton brown chestnut mushrooms
500ml brown ale – I used Harveys Old, my local brew
1 cup hot water
Bouquet garni with thyme, rosemary and bay leaves
Salt and fresh-milled black pepper

Heat a mixture of oil and butter in a deep-sided casserole and brown the meat on all sides before removing from the pan and setting aside.

Halve or quarter the mushrooms depending on their original size and add them to the pan, along with a little more butter if needed. Brown them over a fairly high heat until they have colour. If you don’t overcrowd the pan or add any salt when browning the mushrooms they will hold their juices and stay fairly firm through the cooking. Remove the browned mushrooms and set aside with the meat.

Add some more oil or butter to the pan and fry off the onion wedges slowly until soft and caramelised, this should take between 15 and 20 minutes. It’s a tip I learnt from Nigel Slater, and I think it’s well worth taking your time over cooking the onions if you want to make a really rich casserole gravy.

When the onions are just about cooked, add the chopped garlic and fry off for a minute or two before returning the meat and mushrooms to the pan. Give the whole lot a good stir and then add your beer and hot water.

Tuck in the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper before clamping the lid on and leaving the stew to simmer for about three hours over a low heat. Make sure the hob isn’t so low that your stock isn’t bubbling, it needs to reach a healthy simmer to render down the sinews in the meat, which is what makes the beef so tender and the gravy so rich.

When the meat is melt-in-the-mouth soft and the gravy is dark, strong and has reduced to about half its original volume, your stew is ready. If you want even more intense flavours, make the stew the day before you intend to serve it and let the flavours mature overnight. Serve with lots of spuds to soak up the juice. Once you’ve tasted this, you will not want to make a stew with shoulder steak ever again.

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