This is our family’s version of an old school beef stew, which has evolved over many years of trial and error, tasting, refinement, and experimentation.
First thing to note – we don’t brown the meat. As far as I’m aware, the whole notion of “to seal in the juices” was debunked many moons ago. As I understand it, the only benefit from browning the meat comes from the flavours introduced into the stew from the caramelisation of the meat.
These flavours are characteristically “umami” in nature. In this recipe I give the stew a shot of umami-ness by using fish sauce as well as Tianjin preserved vegetable, a form of Chinese pickled cabbage that comes into its own giving braised type dishes a certain extra something.
Secondly, I blanch the meat before adding it to the stew. Why?
Try it yourself, and see the gooey scum that comes off the meat! Want that in your food? I thought not.
I also don’t use stock. Commercially available stocks are almost always uniformly nasty in nature, and our philosophy is this – water, good meat, good vegetables, and some nice herbs and spices will make its own stock as it cooks.
You could always go the whole hog, and make it the day before you intend to eat it, safe in the knowledge that it will taste far better the day after, as stews so often do.
We’re just not strong willed enough for that in this family, sadly. When Mrs. Paleovirtus and Paleovirtus Jr. came home yesterday evening, and smelled this baby bubbling away on our stove top, any call to save it for another day would have been fatal.
At least I managed to save a half portion for my lunch today….
- 1.5kg braising / stewing steak, cut into 2.5 / 3 cm cubes
- 3 onions, thinly sliced
- 2 sticks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium swede / rutebaga, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp Herbes de Provence
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 2 tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetable – see Notes
- 4 tbsp fish sauce – see Notes
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- olive oil
- Place the meat in a large saucepan, with cold water to cover. Bring up to a boil, and then drop down to a good simmer. You’re going to have to watch this for a while, constantly skimming off the scum that forms. Simmer the meat for 5 minutes. Drain the meat in a colander, and then rinse off with hot water. Set aside to drain thoroughly.
- In another large pan, heat 4 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and stir fry for 5 minutes or so, or until the onion is beginning to soften.
- Add the garlic and paprika, and stir fry for a further 3 minutes. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Add the bay leaves and the Herbes de Provence. Mix well. Add the carrots, parsnip, Tianjin preserved vegetable, fish sauce, and swede / rutebaga. Stir well.
- Add the meat to the pan, and stir well. Add enough cold water to the pan to adequately cover the meat and vegetables. You don’t want to drown them, but you want enough liquid for them to cook in, allowing for the fact that even when covered the stew will reduce down quite a bit.
- Bring the pan up to a brief boil, and then drop down to a medium low simmer. Cover the pan with its lid.
- Cook the stew until the meat is melt in your mouth tender. This will of course vary with your cut of meat, the size of the cubes, the exact temperature of your cooking liquid, etc. The important thing here is not to boil your meat to death. Remember, you’re looking for a low simmer. Stir the stew at regular intervals, making sure that the liquid level is not too low, and that it’s still at a low simmer, adjusting things accordingly if neccesary. In any case, keep a close eye on things after the 1½ hour mark. This particular batch of stew came out at the 2½ hour mark.
- When the stew is cooked to your preference, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving.
- To make the dish truly Paleo, get hold of fish sauce that contains fish, water, and salt. You’re probably best looking in an Asian store for genuine Thai fish sauce. I currently use Thanh Ha Phu Quoc.
- If you can’t get hold of Tianjin preserved vegetable, then use sauerkraut, which is of course another type of fermented cabbage. If you do go down the sauerkraut route, I’d up the amount to something like 1 dl.