Monday, December 03, 2007


Growing up, and even into adulthood, I have been a picky eater. Just because I appreciate food doesn't mean I have always liked everything that was out there... I am still quite picky, but I have broadened what I eat, and what I enjoy cooking.

Beef stews fall into that category. Everything about them is comforting. Interestingly, most comforting things come from memory, but I don't really remember eating beef stew that much as a child. My mom makes stew quite often for our family dinners, and although it is lovely and extremely delicious, it never symbolized comfort for me, like her mamaliga and other nursery foods.

So, really, I'm buying into the whole comfort food thing. People say it is comforting. It looks comforting. Hence, it will be comforting, for me. It's a lot like Christmas actually. Lights are all a-glow, I find myself humming Christmas carols, seeing the Rockefeller tree gives my stomach flutters, and I can't wait to cook Christmas dinner. And the idea of having to go shopping to buy presents is just about the best feeling ever. I love buying gifts for others. So the marketing gods out there must be doing a great job because I've got that loving Christmassy feeling.

But back to beef stew. Nigella's new show has been on a holiday hiatus on the Food Network, and they actually showed a Nigella Feasts episode called 'Comfort Foods'. I love this episode! Nigella cooks up a warming beef and stout casserole. The recipe isn't actually in Feast, but there is a variation of it in How to Eat. I decided to make the casserole from the episode; it looked too good no to.

What I really love about this recipe is that you don't need expensive cuts or marbled pieces of beef. I fully understand the fat on a piece of meat makes it taste good, but being a picky eater, it's too much work for me to pick off the fat. This recipe, since it is cooked so long, can be made with extremely lean chuck steak. Works for me!

I couldn't find stout at the Russian supermarket, so I got some German black beer. Making the stew is just as comforting as eating it. Chopping vegetables roughly, letting them soften in the oil, and then browning the floured pieces of meat in batches... adding the stout and watching it pick up the juices from the meat. Perhaps what is comforting for me is that I know this type of recipe was probably made for years and years. History and tradition really mean a lot to me.

And the finished dish...

It was fabulous. The meat was so soft; you didn't even need a knife. Of course I paired it with mash, how could I not? It was perfect. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

1 comment:

Georgina Ingham | CulinaryTravels said...

I'm drooling Ilana, looks fabulous. And yes mash was the ultimate companion if comfort is what you're after.

George xoxo