OK, so I hear you wonder. Vegetarian Beef Stew? Yep. Sometimes Thomo is vegetarian and his favourite vegetarian dishes are based around beef. Now, before anyone takes me to task over this, I have to ask you, “What do cows eat”? Grass! Exactly! And grass is? Exactly! Beef is vegetarian!
It is winter. It is cold. What we want is a nice hot stew for dinner. As always, Thomo keeps the preparation and cooking time down (in this case, about 40 to 50 minutes – a little longer than he normally takes but hey, we are still only using a single pot to cook with, albeit a big one).
For this you will need:
- 500-750 grams of topside steak (actually, I used 860 grams the first time but I do like my beef :-)). For those of you non-metricated types, learn metric or buy about a pound and a half of steak. You can also use other cuts of steak (cheaper or more expensive depending on taste and budget) but I like topside for this.
- 1 can of chopped tomato – I purchased one that was pre-spiced and flavoured with basil, oregano and garlic but plain is good too. None of the flavours we are working with here is going to dominate so other flavoured cans of chopped tomato can just as easily be used too.
- 2 onions (used brown ones this time) – choppedGarlic – as much as you can take (I used four cloves crushed).
- 1 leek – this was thinly sliced to add a slightly different texture to the meal – the leek flavour is normally overpowered by the onion.
- 1 cup of Red Lentils (yep, still had some left over from the last time so we used them up too – this time they were prepared simply by washing).
- 3 tablespoons of Hot Bean Sauce – mine was made by Yeo’s but if you are looking through an Oriental Supermarket, you could use the Korean DengJung Sauce or something similar – the sauce is a mix of Soy Bean paste, chilli and a few other things.
- 1 litre of Beef Stock.
- 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil (one degree of virginity or other – doesn’t really matter for this dish – I use a bit more than normal as there is a lot of onion, leek and garlic going into the pan before the meat will start to release juices).
- 1 can of corn kernels – drained.
- 1 can of peas – similarly drained.
- 2-3 potatos (may increase to 4 or 5 if not using penne with this) – skinned and diced.
- 3-5 carrots – skinned and chopped.
- 2 cups or so of leftover Penne (optional – cut back the potatoes if you have some left over pasta to toss in. If you do not have leftover, you can cook some fresh stuff up – cook it and drain it and then hold it until the end of the stew cooking process).
- Crusty Bread or Bread Rolls.
- Fresh or dried oregano.
So, on to the preparation and the cooking. Peel the potatoes and dice them. Peel the carrots and chop them. Peel the onions and chop them. Clean the leek and chop it (finely – I usually just slice it down into very thin rings). Chop the steak into small bite-sized bits. Wash the lentils and get the can opener out of the draw ready for the cans.
OK, we are about set to go.
Put a big pot on the stove and spark up a flame underneath it. Add the olive oil to the pot and crush the garlic cloves into the pot. Listen to the sizzle and breathe deep of the aroma whilst stirring the garlic around. Now add the onion and keep stirring. Add the leek and stir some more. Let all this cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring every so often.
Now, add the meat and stir that into the onion/leek/garlic well. Keep cooking the meat until it browns on all sides, stirring to stop the meat and onions burning on the bottom of the pot. When the meat has browned, there should be more liquid in the bottom of the pot. This is good as this is a mix of the flavours and juices from the meat as well as some water.
Add the Hot Bean Sauce and stir. Add the diced potato and the carrots and stir some more. Whip out the can opener and do a number on the three cans. Now add the chopped tomato and stir. Tip in the corn and the peas and stir so more. Let the stew heat up again and then add the lentils and the stock. Add the stock at the rate of about a cup a time, letting each cup of stock heat up in the pot before adding the next. when all the stock is in, we should have nothing left on the bench except the bread. If there is still something there, then toss it in now (unless it is the cat, of course) – in fact, this should be the oregano as I know I have forgotten to mention it up to now.
Let the stew come to the boil. Taste the stew. Season it with some pepper – it probably will not require any salt because of the Hot Bean Sauce and the canned vegetables. Turn it down to a simmer and stick a top on the pot. Now grab a beer or a glass of wine, slip into the lounge room and sit down and watch the news on TV for about 10 minutes or so. Get back up, slip into the kitchen, stir the stew once more, then sit back down and enjoy the rest of the beer/wine.
Let simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes in total. Taste from time to time until you know that the lentils are soft. The potato and carrot will also be soft by about then. The lentils should ensure that the stew is thick – if not, either add some cornflour to thicken it … or call it a chunky soup.
If you are using the Penne, stir it into the stew now, or just give the stew a final stir. Serve the stew into plates and serve with the crusty fresh bread. This would be a good meal to eat with a Dry Red wine or a dark beer or ale. It ain’t half bad with Coca Cola either.