There is nothing I love more than a hearty, winter casserole once the weather turns cold.
Actually, truth be known, I don’t mind it in the heat of summer either! As a busy mum who’s a stickler for eating on time, my preference is to have dinner cooked before I pick the kids up from school. That way I can focus on them when they get home and still have dinner on the table at 6pm. My prized slow cooker therefore, gets a regular beating.
We’re big red meat eaters in this family, but we tend to keep steak for the weekends when Dad can chuck ’em on the barbie. Casserole is perfect mid-week. By 10am dinner is on, the kitchen is clean and there’s nothing left for me to do other than remember NOT TO turn off the powerpoint [which I did the other day, on the way of the house].
Because the meat is going to cook for approximately 8 hours, you want a cut that is quite marbled. That is, you should see a lot of fat in the meat. I usually like gravy, chuck or oyster blade which I ask my butcher to roughly dice into quite large pieces. The good news about this is those cuts of meat are less expensive than the cuts that require quicker cooking. Good for the tummy and the budget! My butcher tells me that it’s not necessary to brown the meat before popping it in the slowcooker but I find that browning the meat first gives a deeper and richer flavour. Plus, it helps make the gravy.
You will need:
- 1 x large brown onion, chopped
- 2-3 x large garlic cloves – chopped
- 1.2kg chuck, gravy or oyster blade beef
- 1 x cup red wine
- 1 x can tomatoes
- 4 x medium carrots – diagonally sliced
- 10 x mushrooms – sliced
- plain flour
- beef stock cube
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a fry pan over medium heat and fry onion until soft. Add garlic and cook until aromatic. Remove mixture from the pan and place in slowcooker on low heat setting. Add tomatoes and stock cube.
Add fresh oil to the pan and on medium-high heat, cook the beef in batches to avoid crowding the pan. [if your pan is crowded, the meat won’t brown]. As you complete each batch, put aside while cooking the next one. Once all the meat is browned return it all the pan and sprinkle with enough plain flour to cover. Stir the flour through the meat over the heat until it creates a coating of morsels all the over the beef. Make sure there isn’t any white flour left in the pan. Remove meat from the pan and add to the mixture in the slowcooker.
You should now have a thick coating stuck to the bottom and sides of your fry pan. This is GOOD. Over medium heat, add the wine to the pan and bring to the boil. Cook for about a minute, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any residue. This is called ‘deglazing’ and it’s my favourite part of cooking! Deglazing a pan unlocks all the flavours left behind from cooking and the smell is divine. TIP: I always use good wine when I cook. We enjoy a drink with our meals, so I choose something I’d like to drink that night… a little in the pot, the rest in my glass! Once the pan is ‘clean’ and the wine has a reduced a little, pour it into the slow cooker.
Add the mushrooms, carrots, salt and pepper to taste. Stir the whole lot through and pop the lid on.
Serve 8 hours later with steamed greens, rice or mashed potato and a glass of that open bottle of red!
Recipe Tip: This recipe can be adapted for cooking in the oven if you don’t have a slow cooker. Simply pre-heat the oven to about 160C and complete all the steps in the same order in a heavy-based, oven and flame proof casserole dish [I have previously used a Le Creuset cast iron pot] and return all ingredients to this one dish. Cook for about 3-4 hours depending on your oven. You will need to check every hour and give it a stir to see when it’s ready.