Though stews are really for winter, St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and it started snowing a bit in Copenhagen today. So I used this as an excuse to cook up a pimped, no-potato Irish Stew, with a tangy quince twist. It takes hours to cook, so you can leave it on low heat while you are enjoying the St. Paddy day parade or the pub with friends, and it will be ready when you come home.
The working title for this recipe was actually ‘The Great Potato Famine Stew’… I know. But I wanted to work with the idea of not using potatoes, as I admittedly can find it a bit dull. To add to the challenge, my stews normally involve tomato’s, herbs and red wine, so it was a test to create an appropriate flavour balance in a heavy, savoury stew like this one. Let’s talk about flavour balance! Every time you cook anything or put something together on a plate, you should remember to represent all 5 flavours: sweet, sour, salt, bitter and umami. If you can manage this, you will almost always end up with something pleasing on your plate. When making a stew, this can be hard, as everything is mixed together and often very heavy. The porter represents the bitter. The slow cooked beef, the mustard and the Worcester sauce beef brings the umami, sweetness comes from the root vegetables…but, from where do we get the sour?
That’s where the quince come in. Though traditionally Mediterranean, this beautiful fruit works great as a tangy surprise in any stew and freshens up what can otherwise be a somewhat dense dining experience. If you can’t get a hold of quince, you can easily replace it with apples. Like so many of the dishes I cook, this dish is all about adaptability. Use the root vegetables you can easily find or maybe already have. If you have lamb or another red meat in the freezer, use that instead of beef. If you have beef stock ready, use that rather than chicken. If you have Guinness ready for St. Paddy’s day, by all means chuck in a can of that, rather than the porter. In my opinion, recipes are often way too strict and do not inspire economic and individual cooking. So use your senses and use what is readily available for you – if you do replace something, let me know in the comments how it goes.
As with my recipe for Oven Pulled Pork, this recipe is designed for you to start in the morning, go about your daily (St. Patrick’s) plans and return to a scrumptious dinner. I cooked mine for about 5 hours, and many of the root vegetables admittedly boiled into the stock. I think this is one of many things that makes stew so satisfying. All you need is a bowl and a spoon, and the various vegetables mixed together create a sensational taste experience. However, if you want the vegetables to keep their shape, add half of them in after an hour of the rest cooking. Combined with the firm and tangy quince and the soft, melt-in-your-mouth beef, this stew has the potential to become a family favourite.
1 kg of stewing beef
1 kg of mixed root vegetables (I used turnips, parsnips, carrots and celeriac)
10 Borettane onions
1 pint of Porter (or other dark beer)
1 liter of chicken stock
10 twigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of Worcester sauce
1 handfull of flour
Flat-leaf parsley to serve
1. Peel and dice all the root-vegetables into 2×2 centimater chunks.
2. Cut the stewing beef into similar sized cubes (don’t buy pre-diced. It’s often in too small pieces, you have no idea where on the animal it comes from, and it’s way overpriced).
3. Peel the onions, but keep them whole.
4. Fry the onions in a bit of flavourless oil in a large cast-iron pot until caramelised. Remove from the pan and put aside.
5. Dust the beef chunks with a handful of normal flour and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Fry in batches in the same pot as the onions, until all pieces are well browned. Add more oil if necessary.
6. Add the onions back into the pot, and pour in the entire pint of beer. Leave to boil on high heat until reduced to 2/3. Don’t worry, all the alcohol evaporates, so this recipe is completely child safe.
7. Add mustard, Worcester sauce, thyme, the chopped vegetables and chicken stock until everything is covered. Might take a bit more or a bit less than a liter.
8. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and leave to cook with the lid on for approximately 3 1/2 hours.
9. Take of the lid and cook uncovered at medium heat for another hour or until the meat pulls apart easily.
10. Core and cut the quinces into boats and add to the pot. Cook for another 30 minutes.
11. Serve boiling hot, topped with fresh parsley and a cold beer on the side.