I think recipes such as this oven-baked beef stew or whole roast chicken make a noob cook look very clever, as they are easier to pull off than they looked. Stews are also perfect for entertaining and gatherings – you’ll impress your folks while feeding a lot at the same time. Beef stew is usually enjoyed by those staying in colder regions, but in tropical Singapore, I’m determined not to be deprived of this delicious dish.
Perhaps December is the best month to enjoy this stew with our wetter days and slightly cooler nights. Special thanks to my friend Joyce, who taught me this recipe (I adapted her recipe but it is still largely built around her original) and don’t mind that I share the recipe on my blog.
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A tip about the beef to use from my friend Joyce. You could buy ready-cut stew beef cubes, but you can save money if you buy a whole chunk of meat and cut it yourself. She recommended me to get the “chuck tender” cut found at the chiller section of Giant hypermart in Singapore and yes, it is economical and good.
If slicing your own meat, rinse and pat dry the meat with kitchen towel, then cut them to large cube chunks.
Season beef cubes with salt and pepper. Heat Dutch oven with olive oil, then add beef cubes one at a time (you will hear a gentle sizzle and see slight smoking) to form one layer on the pan. Do not overcrowd the meat. Let the cubes brown on one side, then flip over with kitchen tongs and brown on the other side. Take out browned meat and set aside. Add more oil to the casserole if needed and repeat until all the beef cubes are browned.
My browned beef cubes. For the lot of beef cubes I had, I browned them in 3 batches.Do not discard the brown bits or juices collected in the casserole. I learnt from watching cooking shows that browning meats is an important step when making stews and doing so add a lot of flavour to the stew.
Add a bit more olive oil to the casserole. Then add celery and onions and ‘sweat’ them on medium low heat (about 3 -5 minutes). You will see them turning brown from soaking the juices left in the casserole.
Pour a glass of red wine in and saute the celery and onions and wait a few seconds for the alcohol to evaporate (you smell the nice aroma of the wine).
Stir in 1 tbsp plain flour and cook for one minute more to thicken the mixture.
Add beef stock and when it comes to a simmer, add carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme, garlic, mushrooms and Worcester sauce. Bring the stew to a simmer.
While waiting for the stew to simmer, peel potatoes and quarter them.
By the time you are done with the potatoes, the pot will likely be bubbling away and the mushrooms would have shrunken somewhat, making space for more ingredients in the casserole.
Add potatoes and the previously browned beef cubes to the casserole.
When the stew is bubbling, turn off the stove. Cover the casserole with lid and transfer to an oven. Bake the casserole at 180°C (356°F) for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Take the casserole out and check the consistency of the stew. I find mine a little too watery so I add 1 more tbsp plain flour to thicken the stew. Stir through to dissolve the flour. Adjust to your liking. If it’s too dry, you can add more beef broth or hot water.
Add thawed frozen vegetables and mix into the stew.
Cover with lid and bake for another 15 minutes, or until the beef is tender. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper, if needed.