Guinness Lamb Stew with Wild Rice

Guinness Lamb Stew 26

I know you all think I’m weird because I don’t like soup.  But spooning hot liquid into my mouth (and spilling it down my face, because that’s how I roll) is not my idea of a good time.  I do, however, have a fondness for stew.  Especially stew with beer in it, because beer is a great tenderizer of things.  And because I like beer.

Guinness Lamb Stew 7

I’ve had this stewing lamb in my freezer for a while and I decided it was probably time I do something about it.

Guinness Lamb Stew 1

So I took it out, put it on a plate, and patted it dry with a paper towel.

Guinness Lamb Stew 2

Then, in a bowl, I took a small scoop of flour, added salt and pepper, and gave it a stir.

Guinness Lamb Stew 4

Into that I hucked the lamb cubes, and gave them a stir as well.

Guinness Lamb Stew 6

I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons olive oil inside.  Then, shaking the excess flour off the lamb, I plopped it in the skillet to brown.

Guinness Lamb Stew 8

While that was going on I cut up some vegetables: carrots, an onion, and a package of mushrooms.

Guinness Lamb Stew 3

I didn’t have any potatoes, that classic stew thickener, so I decided to use rice.  This wild rice blend from Trader Joe’s is excellent.

Guinness Lamb Stew 10

Guinness Lamb Stew 11

I took the browned lamb cubes out and put them on a plate to rest a few minutes.

Guinness Lamb Stew 13

Then I added a bit more oil to the pan and chucked in the vegetables, giving the onions a wee bit of a head start in the cooking.

Guinness Lamb Stew 14

Once they’ve softened you can add the rest.

Guinness Lamb Stew 15

Now you can chuck the meat back in.  Then I plopped in some parsley, Newfoundland savoury, rosemary, and thyme.  If I’d had sage I would have used that, just to make up the lyrics to that “Scarborough Fair” song.

Guinness Lamb Stew 16

I also added a few more tablespoons flour.

Guinness Lamb Stew 18

At this point I ran out of space in my pan so I transferred the contents of the skillet to a larger saucepan.  I used a bit of beef broth to deglaze the pan a bit and poured that into the pot, along with the rest of the beef broth (about 3 cups).

Guinness Lamb Stew 19

Guinness Lamb Stew 20

Then came two cans of Guinness stout (minus a sip or two, for quality control of course).

Guinness Lamb Stew 12

Guinness Lamb Stew 21

Then the rice.

Guinness Lamb Stew 22

Then I brought it to a simmer, lowered the heat, and let that gently bubble away, stirring every so often, for about an hour.

Guinness Lamb Stew 23

Excellent. Even more so the next day.

Guinness Lamb Stew 25

Guinness Beef Stew

Guinness Beef Stew 6

Oh yeah.  The fact that my fingers are going numb with cold right now tells me it’s comfort food season.  And what’s more comforting than a nice beef stew?

Guinness Beef Stew 6

The other day at Costco I went a bit nuts and purchased one of their large packages of excellent stewing beef.  “I’ll make boeuf Bourgignon,” I said, forgetting two important things: 1) I am horribly allergic to red wine; and 2) I do not own a Dutch oven.

So scratch that.  Let’s cook with beer instead.  I took a bit of inspiration from the Guinness Storehouse website, and a little from Jamie Oliver, but other than that I just kind of winged it.

Guinness Beef Stew 1

First I started off by roasting some of my vegetables.  That’s 1 head garlic, with the top chopped off, 1 package white mushrooms chopped in half, and 1 package pearl onions, peeled.

Guinness Beef Stew 2

Drizzle those with olive oil and roast at 400°F for about half an hour, and give the onions and mushrooms a good stir about halfway through.

Guinness Beef Stew 5

Then I peeled and roughly chopped 3 parsnips and 4 carrots, and a small bunch of celery.  And some potatoes, which aren’t in this shot.  How many potatoes?  I don’t remember. I didn’t take a picture of them.

Guinness Beef Stew 4

That all goes straight into the pot.

Guinness Beef Stew 7

You can tip in the roasted onions and mushrooms, too.

Guinness Beef Stew 9

Save the garlic on a plate for a little bit.

Guinness Beef Stew 8

Now you can work on your meat, and this is going to take a while.  This is whatever size the package of stewing beef is that comes from Costco, which is extremely large, but the beef is truly excellent and I highly recommend it.  I cut my chunks in half just to make them more manageable with a spoon.  Then  you pat them dry with a paper towel and put them on a plate.  You could use a clean tea towel to dry your meat if you were feeling environmentally conscious, but let’s face it: ew.

Guinness Beef Stew 10

In a bowl, mix together some flour (I used buckwheat just in case a gluten-free person came over for dinner sometime in the future – but then the Pie pointed out that Guinness has gluten in it so I’m an idiot), salt, pepper, and cayenne seasoning.

Guinness Beef Stew 12

Spill some of that onto a plate and spread it out.  Roll your meat chunks in the flour.

Guinness Beef Stew 13

Brown the meat, working in small batches, in that skillet you already used on medium heat.  Add some more olive oil if it starts to dry out and smoke.  Chuck the browned beef into the pot with the vegetables.  This is probably the most tedious step, and takes a while.

Guinness Beef Stew 14

Once you have browned all the meat, pour about 3 1/2 cups beef broth into the vegetable/meat pot.  I found this concentrated stuff at the grocery store. All you have to do is add boiling water. Sure takes up less space in my cupboard!

Guinness Beef Stew 3

Tie a bundle of thyme and rosemary together and chuck that in as well.  I find if you tie the bundle string to the handle of the pot it makes getting it out later a lot easier.  Bring the contents to a simmer.

Guinness Beef Stew 23

In the skillet that you have been using, plop a little butter and more olive oil and let that melt.

Guinness Beef Stew 18

Add in the garlic you roasted earlier and mash it with a wooden spoon.

Guinness Beef Stew 19

Then pour in 2 cans Guinness stout beer and bring that to a simmer.

Guinness Beef Stew 21

Scrape the bottom lots with your wooden spoon.

Guinness Beef Stew 22

Pour that whole lot into your bubbling stew and let that simmer with the lid off, stirring occasionally, to reduce for a while (at least an hour).  You may find you have to add in a bit of corn starch after a while for thickening if you used a gluten-free flour.

Guinness Beef Stew 24

We served ours with some beer bread made out of Mill Street’s Oktoberfest.

Guinness Beef Stew 5

You can simplify all this by doing it all in a slow cooker, but I find I prefer the sharper flavours of the roasted vegetables and the constant stirring — you’d still have to brown the meat before slow-cooking it anyway.  But boy it is time-consuming.

Guinness Beef Stew 4

Worth it, though.

Guinness Beef Stew 1

Tofu Feature Month: Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu

I FINALLY found silken tofu in St. John’s.  I’ve been looking for it for what feels like forever.  In celebration of my recent discovery, and the Pie’s insistence that he needs to slim down in time for Kristopf’s wedding next July, I have decided to honour the long-standing request of my friend Danger K and start finding new ways to cook with tofu.  You might know Danger K: she recently got married (on our wedding anniversary, no less), and she and her husband planned a big fancy wedding by begging, bartering, and borrowing everything they could.  Their expenses out of pocket?  About two hundred bucks.  You can read about the process on their blog, Project Priceless.  So they’re a little bit famous back in Ottawa.  And I can say that I knew her when.  We went to high school together.  In fact, she had a huge crush on one of my brothers (DON’T DENY IT DANGER K I HAVE PROOF).  Not that I’m going to hold that against her or anything.

Mapo Tofu

So.  Cooking with tofu.

My previous experiences cooking with tofu (not in eating it, just cooking it) focused mainly on tossing cubes of it into Broccofu, Peanut Butter Spaghetti, or the occasional stir-fry.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but’s not using tofu in all its myriad manifestations.  This fall, the Pie and I aim to change our ways, and this recipe is the beginning.  September will be a sort of Tofu Feature Month.

Mapo doufu (mapo tofu) is a traditional spicy dish from the Sichuan province of China and involves sautéing tofu pieces in a suspension of a paste made of beans and chilis.  What I found particularly interesting about this dish is that I normally think of tofu as a protein-replacement for meat, but this recipe calls for a combination of tofu AND beef or pork.  Very unique (for me, at least).

Mapo Tofu

A note on substitutions:  this recipe calls for chili bean paste, a spicy gooey mixture of fermented soy beans and chilis (I’m thinking like a super-hot miso).  I didn’t have such a thing, so I used black bean paste instead with the chilis, which is why my sauce isn’t that signature reddish colour.  The recipe also requires the use of rice wine, which, not being a wine-drinker, I also don’t have, so we used rice wine vinegar instead.  Finally, the recipe I used made little sense and required some serious moderation, so I haven’t linked you to it.   I wasn’t a huge fan.

Start by making up enough rice for two people.

Mapo Tofu

Drain and pat dry one block soft tofu (I used extra-firm silken tofu because I wanted to see what it was like).  Cut it into 1″ cubes.

Mapo Tofu

Slice up 4-5 green onions and save about 1/4 of the green tips (sliced) for garnish.

Mapo Tofu

In a skillet or wok over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and sauté 4oz ground beef or pork until cooked.  Drain and set aside.

In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  Add 1 teaspoon minced ginger, the green onion that isn’t what you saved for garnish, 2 whole dried chilis, and 1 teaspoon ground peppercorns (Sichuan if you’ve got ’em).  Cook that for about a minute.

Mapo Tofu

Add the ground meat back in, as well as 3 tablespoons chili bean paste, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice wine, and 2 teaspoons brown sugar.  Cook that for another minute or so, just so everything can get acquainted.

Mapo Tofu

Add in the cubed tofu as well as 1/4 cup vegetable stock (or beef, or pork) and let that simmer for 15 minutes.   Stir occasionally, but don’t let the tofu fall apart.

Mapo Tofu

When it’s nearing done, dissolve 1 tablespoon corn starch in a little bit of water and pour that in as well.  Stir gently until it thickens.

Mapo Tofu

Serve over rice and garnish with the remaining green onions.  SPICY!

Mapo Tofu

Savoury Beef with Shiraz Gravy

This recipe is an improvisation from start to finish, and if I hadn’t taken photos of it on the slight off-chance that it was going to work then I would never be able to tell you what I did.

Fortunately for you it got the Pie’s Official Seal of Approval (in that he nodded with his mouth full and muttered, “this is really good”), and I have the photographic evidence to jog my memory.

Beef I get on sale is never the best that red meat has to offer.  More often than not it contains a lot of gristle and tends to fry up awfully tough.  However, I am willing to put up with a lot for three dollars.  These three steaks cost me $3.47 in total, which wasn’t bad at all.

Rather than simply fry them up, as per Pie’s plan, and then drown them in barbecue sauce (also as per Pie’s plan), I decided to cube them up instead and make something a little … saucy.

The original plan was to create some panang-like concoction with red curry and coconut milk.  Upon closer scrutiny it came out that I had no coconut milk so had to go with a more European approach.  I picked four herbs to accompany me on this journey: ground corriander, dried parsley, Hungarian paprika (which, after tasting the completed recipe, I would have left out, as it was overpowered by everything else), and pure Newfoundland savoury, grown at Mt. Scio Savoury Farm, not ten minutes from where we live.

In a small bowl, mix together about 3 tablespoons flour with your paprika, coriander, parsley, and savoury.  Use whatever amount you feel is appropriate.  I probably added 2 teaspoons or so of each.

Before you cook your meat, make sure to pat it dry with a paper towel.  I learned that from Julia Child, and it’s totally true.  If your meat is damp it won’t brown properly.  And yes, that is totally a Spiderman Band-Aid.  I had a run-in with my bread knife and now it has a taste for blood.

In a cast-iron skillet sear the beef at high heat until the cubes are browned on all sides.  A non-stick pan won’t give you half the brownness you’re looking for on this, and if you have the skillet super hot, with just a drop of butter sizzling in there, you don’t have to worry about the meat sticking at all.

Reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle the browned meat with the flour mixture and stir until the cubes are evenly coated with the flour.  You will notice that it sticks to the bottom of the pan at this point, but that’s a good thing.  The reason you add the flour mixture at this point is so it forms a paste with the meat juices, and when you add more liquid to it, it doesn’t get all clumpy and gross.

Pour in about a cup of beef broth.  For this I dissolved a bouillon cube in a cup of boiling water.  Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon and make sure to scrape up all the pasty stuff from the bottom of the pan.

Let that simmer for a bit until it starts to thicken. That’s the flour working away.  Aren’t you glad you mixed it in early so you have no lumps?

Add about a cup of Shiraz or any other red wine (sorry enthusiasts/aficionados/snobs, but I can’t tell the difference with reds – they all taste like cat pee to me) and let it simmer until the sauce is a thick, dark brown and is reduced by about half.

This should take about twenty minutes from start to finish and serves three or four, depending on how hungry you are.

The Pie has suggested also substituting for the red wine with a nice porter or stout beer.  Could work.  Maybe we’ll try that next time.

Serve over rice (we used our favourite Brown Rice Medley my parents smuggle us across the border from Trader Joe’s) and accompany with your favourite vegetables (in this case, imported broccoli and local rainbow carrots).