Thursday, 26 January 2017
Beef biltong stew for Mr Matekoni (Precious and Grace by A.McCall Smith)
Precious and Grace is the seventeenth novel from the much loved series No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I have read all the books in the series, and always look forward to a new book.
There is not much of a mystery involved in this installment, but there is a usual dose of kindness and philosophical thoughts on life, humanity and forgiveness.
Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi help a Canadian woman find her past. She spent her childhood in Botswana 30 years earlier, and wants to re-discover her past.
The case, though simple enough, is threatening to shake Precious and Grace's friendship. Will they fall out over the case?
Then there is a pyramid scheme, in which Mr Polopetsi is involved, a lost dog who wants to be loved, Mma Potokwani with her delightful fruit cake and much more.
There is a certain idealism in all the No 1 Agency novels. In Precious we see a symbol of Mother Africa, traditionally built, kind, wise and patient. She always finds good in people.
Reading Precious and Grace, I came across a detailed description of one of the meals Mma Ramotswe cooks lovingly for her husband. I was intrigued, and tried to google it.
I couldn't find any exact recipe. There is plenty of recipes for beef biltong stew, but none of beef AND biltong stew, so I had to "invent" it. This recipe is based on the authentic biltong stew recipes, but cooked with beef too, so it's a mix of several different variations of the stew. I hope Mma Ramotswe would approve.
"Mr J.L.B.Matekoni sniffed at the air. There was no doubt about it - Mma Ramtoswe was making his favourite stew. The aroma, detected even as he set foot on the stoep, was unmistakable...
Onions were the key to that: the recipe, developed specially for him by Mma Ramotswe, advised by Mma Potokwani, involved onions chosen for their smallness and sweetness - "not these football-sized onions they try to sell us", warned Mma Potokwani. These were gently softened in sunflower oil flavoured with a pinch of chilli flakes, and then the beef, fine Botswana grass-fed beef... was added in small pieces. this was then sealed before the addition of stock and a small quantity of chopped ostrich biltong, the dried and salted meat that people considered such a delicacy."
Beef biltong stew
3tbsp mild olive oil
1tbsp chilli olive oil (optional)
5 shallots, finely chopped (about 150g)
450g beef, cubed
1tsp plain flour
1tsp ginger, grated
2tbsp tomato puree
2tbsp peanut butter
a mug of beef stock
1 tin of plum tomatoes (Cirio)
35g biltong (a pack of King's biltong)
In a deep frying pan heat 2tbsp of olive oil.
Finely slice the shallots and cook in the frying pan until translucent, stirring regularly. Once cooked put the fried onion in a big pan or pot where you're going to cook your stew.
Add more olive oil to the frying pan, and brown the beef cubes (dust them with flour before cooking). Season with salt, but not too much, as the stock has added salt. Put all the ingredients in the pot - chilli oil, grated ginger, tomato puree, beef stock and tinned tomatoes.
I used Waitrose Cooks' Ingredients beef stock. Place the pot in the oven preheated to 200C. Cook for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 180C, and cook for an hour+, occasionally stirring.
You might need to get a bit more water if the stew becomes too thick. Add the biltong in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Biltong adds an interesting strong flavour to the stew, and more chewy texture. Mma Ramotswe used ostrich biltong. I couldn't source it locally, but even if it were available, I don't think I am very keen to try ostrich.
In this recipe I used two products from Cirio - tomato puree and plum tomatoes - which work perfectly in this rich flavoured stew.
I used chilli flavoured olive oil, but if you don't have it, a teaspoon of chilli paste or flakes would be a good substitute.