Last Sunday our Eddie went through a ceremony of baptism. It was a moving ceremony, and after it has finished we invited our guests to our house for lunch. Just a few days before the event I was worried about what I was going to serve for lunch, and was seriously considering a cold buffet, with platters of cold cuts and cheese. Then, as I was browsing the latest issue of Sainsbury's magazine (November 2015), I've spotted a recipe for Italian beef, porcini and red wine stew, and thought that it could be cooked the night before. After all, we could have a hot meal without a big hassle on the day.
I have adapted the recipe, and also cooked it on the stove rather than in the oven, as I don't have a casserole dish big enough. I served it with roast potatoes.
Italian beef stew with porcini, chestnuts and red wine
about 30g of porcini mushrooms
2tbsp olive oil
1 pack of cubed pancetta (206g)
1 red onion, finely sliced
1tsp brown demerara sugar (optional)
1tsp dry sherry (optional)
2 cloves of garlic
2tbsp olive oil + more for frying beef
1tsp dried thyme
2kg sliced braising steak
1 tub of beef stock (500g)
200ml red wine
1tsp dried basil
2 bay leaves
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
200g cooked peeled chestnuts
Pour a mug of freshly boiled water over the porcini mushrooms in a deep bowl and let them soak for at least half an hour. Pick up the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and chop finely. Strain the mushroom liquid, as there might be gritty pieces left.
In a deep frying pan heat 2tbsp of olive oil and brown the pancetta, keep stirring so that the cubes are well browned on all sides. Remove the pancetta with a spoon, leaving the fat in the pan.
Finely slice the onion and cook in the frying pan until translucent, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and demerara sugar as well as a bit of dry sherry. Once cooked put the fried onion with the pancetta in a big pan or pot where you're going to cook your stew.
Fry the sliced porcini mushrooms for about 5 minutes, sprinkle some dried thyme. Add to the pot with pancetta and onion.
Add more olive oil to the frying pan, and cook the beef in batches (about 3, I would say). Season with salt, but not too much, as the stock has added salt. Add a little bit of butter to each batch. Brown all the steak pieces well. Put all the ingredients in the pot.
Pour the beef stock. I used Waitrose Cooks' Ingredients beef stock.
Pour 200ml of red wine. I used a Chianti in this recipe, but any robust red wine will do. Add the dried basil, bay leaves and balsamic vinegar. Add the strained mushroom liquid too.
Bring to boil, then lower the heat and cook on low for 2+ hours, stirring occasionally. You might need to get a bit more water if the stew becomes too thick.
Add the chestnuts and cook for another 30 minutes. Check if it needs more salt.
The original recipe also has plain flour added to the stew, but one of our guests is on gluten free diet, so I skipped it altogether. The stew was rich and thick as it was, without flour.
We all enjoyed this rich stew. The flavours were fantastic - porcini mushrooms, red wine, chestnuts. It was quite festive, with an addition of chestnuts.
I served the stew with Bourgogne Clos Bardot Pinot Noir (2010), and lovely it was too.