guinness stew is good for you

the stew. it was perfect. rainy outside, toasty inside, the whole apartment smelling like my grandmother’s house on a wintry afternoon. it’s amazing how very primal the smell of slow-cooked meat and veggies can be. my husband, k, and i kept poking our noses into the pots to inhale a big old whiff–it was almost enough to stave off our hunger.

almost.

when we sat down to eat (along with our roommate, j-n, since there was far too much for just two people to eat), we practically inhaled the food. it might have been because we were eating at 8:30 since, as usual, i got a late start with preparing things, but i think it was because the food was so undeniably soul-nourishing that we just couldn’t stop.

now, i was a vegetarian for many years (as you might have guessed from my previous rant about veggie works), but have been eating meat for the past three or so. i do my best, however, to eat only what i call “ethically sourced” meat: local, grass-fed, and, preferably, direct from the farmer. i am lucky to live in a place (vancouver) where farmer’s markets are prolific even in winter, and there are a good number of cattle-farms, chicken-coops, and fishermen set up and selling their meat at a good price. in general, i eat meat maybe twice a month. it had been a while, so at saturday’s farmer’s market i picked up two pounds of stew beef, mostly because it was the least expensive cut available and i’d already spent too much on wild mushrooms and apple chips. i knew it’d be delicious, though.

k is a vegetarian. it is for this reason that i rarely cook meat at home, instead eating it at restaurants, buying pre-cooked meat to put on a sandwich, or sometimes picking up a package of sausage to add to spaghetti sauce (that winds up sitting half-used in my freezer for…well…it’s still there.)

last night, however, was different. k had been telling me after weeks of watching me drool at non-veg recipes online that he would be fine with me cooking myself a meaty dinner and leaving him to fend for himself. as i planned out my beef stew, i realized that we could have it both ways, with the only added trouble of one more pot to wash. i made the meaty part of the stew in one pot, simmered for two and a half hours, and cooked the veggie part separate for only an hour. we served it up with barley cooked in no-beef stock, k taking a heap of vegetarian stew and j-n and i mixing the two stews together in our bowls. it was delightful, and luckily, there was enough guinness left to satisfy us all.

here are the recipes for both stews. if you want to make both, like i did, only put two carrots, one onion, and maybe a handful of mushrooms into the beef stew. the other amounts can stay the same.

beef & guinness stew

(from The Complete Book of Irish Country Cooking)

serves 6-8

  • 2-lbs. lean stewing beef
  • 3 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato puree, dissolved in 4 Tbsp. water
  • 1-1/4 c. guinness stout beer
  • 2 c. carrots, cut into chunks
  • sprig of thyme

1. trim the beef of any fat or gristle, cut into cubes of 2 inches and toss them in a bowl with 1 Tbsp. oil. season the flour with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne. toss the meat in the mixture.

2. heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat (i did the whole recipe in one large dutch oven to minimize dirty dishes). brown the meat on all sides. add the onions, crushed garlic, and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3. transfer the contents of the pan to a dutch oven or heavy pot, and pour some of the guinness into the frying pan. bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan.

4. pour onto the meat with the remaining guinness; add the carrots and the thyme. stir, taste, and add a little more salt if necessary.

5. cover with the lid of the casserole and simmer very gently until the meat is tender — 2 to 3 hours. taste and correct the seasoning.

vegetarian guinness stew

(from the kitchn)

serves 6

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 (small) onions, one finely chopped, one chopped into large pieces
  • 1 lb. button mushrooms, cleaned, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 lb. russett potatoes, peeled, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 large carrots, peeled, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 11.2-ounce bottle of guinness
  • 1 tsp. mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. “better than bouillon” vegetable beef base
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 4 c. water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt

1. finely chop celery, 1 onion and 4 mushrooms. heat olive oil in a large soup pot and add chopped vegetables. cook until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.

2. meanwhile, chop the remaining onion, potatoes and carrots into large chunks. set aside.

3. add flour to the softened mixture and stir to coat. cook for 2 minutes. pour in guinness and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all vegetables are fork-tender, about 45 minutes.

[i hope to revisit this post at a later date, when i can take some pictures and do the recipe justice. until then, text must suffice.]

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