Beef casserole with savoury scones

It’s another recipe post. I love a casserole. It’s something that has a bit of a bad reputation to shake off, as it’s a dish that is often associated with cheaper cuts of meat. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If they are treated properly, they are often the tastiest. Look at the rise of pulled pork, and to a lesser extent, beef brisket. The shoulder of pork and the breast of beef are cheaper cuts, but when subjected to long and slow cooking, they turn into some of the nicest. If you rush them, they can be tough as old boots.

There are loads of recipes for beef casserole out there so do we really need another one? Well, why not? This is my version. What you serve it with can vary a lot too. We like  savoury scones, so they are included here too. Casserole first. This should serve 4 people, I usually make 6 or more portions and freeze them. It heats up in minutes to give a quick and easy meal at a later date. You can substitute your favourite veg in here, squashes, swedes, or whatever else.

500g beef – stewing beef, casserole beef, brisket, shin, featherblade, whatever your choice of cheaper cut
4 carrots, chopped into thumb sized chunks
4 parsnips, chopped into thumb sized chunks
Small (around 200g) jar of cocktail onions, drained and rinsed under cold water
1 tablespoon of olive oil (or any cooking oil)
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
2 tablespoons of plain flour
500ml of liquid – water, beer, wine, or any combination of these
Your choice of seasoning

Method

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the beef over a high heat until it starts to brown. If you add all of the beef to the pan, then it will probably release a bit of water. If you don’t like this then you can fry it in batches, but I just don’t have time for that. Once the beef is brown enough for your liking, add the carrots and parsnips and fry them until they have taken on a little colour. Something like:-

Now add the onions and cook for a minute or two. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes until it has coated everything. Now add your liquid. A quick note on this.

I recall a Delia recipe from the 1980s called “beef in designer beer”. It was a take on boeuf en flammande, the classic Belgian beef stew. Her advice in the recipe was:-

"Not sure which one to use? Do what I do and go for the prettiest label!"

Don’t do that. You need to choose something that’s going to work with the beef. A really hoppy IPA, pale ale or a light lager are just not going to do the job. You need a darker ale, a malty bitter or stout or porter. If the end result tastes too “beery” you won’t win any friends. If you’re worried about the beer flavour being too strong, just add a little bit and make up the difference with water. Water on its own is just fine too, a lot of flavour comes from the beef as it slowly cooks.

Now your liquid is in, stir everything around and then add the tomato puree, stir a bit more, stick a lid on it and put it on the hob on a low heat or in the oven at around 160 degrees C for at least 2 hours, preferably 3.

Now let’s get on to the savoury scones. This should make around 6 scones.

230g self-raising flour
60g butter, cut into cubes
half a teaspoon of salt
150ml milk, and a little extra to brush over the tops
1 teaspoon of grain mustard
1 teaspoon of your choice of dried herbs

Method

Put the flour, butter and salt into a food processor, and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then slowly add the milk and continue to pulse until combined. Now add the mustard and herbs and give it a final pulse to mix in.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, to around 3cm thick. Cut into rounds using a pastry cutter (6-8cm in diameter). Place on a lightly oiled baking tray, brush the tops with the remaining milk and then bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees C.

When you’ve finished, the casserole should look a little something like this:-

You’ll spot some peas there, I tend to cook these separately and then add them in at the last minute. If you mix them into the casserole they tend to go grey and don’t look very appetising on reheating.

If you prefer something a little spicier, stirring a spoonful of chilli jam into your bowl brings a gentle warmth to proceedings.

The scones will look a little something like this:-

A tasty casserole dish, easy to make and very rewarding for little effort.

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