How to turn 500g of stewing beef into six portions? Add 100g of bacon bits, a stack of butter (lima) beans, and a load of veg, thus.
I used shallots in this – if you’re going to do this, they are much easier to peel if you soak them in boiling water for 10 minutes, and you get lovely shallotty water to add either to your casserole, or to your soup pot (the latter for me yesterday).
Cooked off the bacon bits, put them in the slow cooker. Browned the beef in batches, added them too. Fried off the whole shallots until they were caramelising a bit, the into the pan went four chopped carrots, half a courgette and some garlic. They were lobbed into the slow cooker, and then the pan was deglazed with …
Horror! No Stones Ginger Wine! And only 9 in the morning, so offy not open, and I bet the local mini Sainsburys wouldn’t have it, and besides – it was pouring with rain. I improvised.
Deglazed the pan with about 3/4 pint of fiery ginger beer. Added a slosh of brandy for good measure, and the zest and juice of an orange. Added a teaspoon of grain mustard and some season. Brought to the boil, bung in the slow cooker, switched it on. Went back and added the beans (which had been soaked and boiled the day before), and some herbs from the garden.* Waited for six hours while the smell drove us crazy.
We are having some for tonight’s supper, with dumplings, and the rest will go into the freezer.
* Somewhere – no idea where – I found some reuseable cloth bouquet garni bags, which are dead handy for such occasions, because you don’t have to bother stripping the leaves from woody herbs, or finding the bay leaves afterwards. But do remember to fish it out before someone accidentally tries to eat it.
I also made the Christmas cake yesterday – 1 kg of random assorted dried fruits and a load of Cointreau. I always base it on this Nigel Slater recipe. What with that, the stew, and the soda bread, the kitchen was an olfactory no-go area yesterday!