This is a really rich and luxurious stew that is deceptively simple to make. As with any stew, this is even better the next day - I like to make it on Sunday ready for some much needed Monday comfort. It's beyond perfect with mash and a little crusty bread to mop up all the delicious juices.
olive oil, as required
1 tablespoon butter, for frying
200g bacon lardons, or diced bacon
8 cloves of garlic, peeled whole
2 large onions, sliced
2 sticks of celery, diced finely
2-3 medium carrots, sliced into thick rings
1kg beef shin, cut into large egg sized chunks
plain flour, for dredging
1/2 bottle Chianti or other Italian red wine
500ml beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato puree
splash balsamic vinegar
few sprigs rosemary
salt and pepper, to taste
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Heat olive oil and butter in a large frying pan. Add bacon lardons and fry for a few minutes. Set bacon aside once cooked, removing using a slatted spoon to keep as much fat as possible in the frying pan.
Crush garlic cloves under the flat of a large knife to release juices. Add these to frying pan, alongside onions, celery and carrots. Fry for approx 5 minutes until slightly softened. Add to slow cooker.
Dredge beef in flour and shake to remove excess. Brown in the frying pan, a few chunks at a time. Brown for a few minutes only, it doesn't matter if the meat is not 'sealed'. Add to the slow cooker.
Deglaze the frying pan with a little red wine to lift any meat or remaining ingredients. Add to slow cooker along with the remaining wine, stock, tomato purée, balsamic, bay leaf and rosemary. Ensure the beef is covered by the liquid then cover.
Cook on HIGH for 1 hour and then turn to LOW for 7-8 hours.
Add bacon lardons to slow cooker approx 2 hrs before the end.
Once cooked (the beef should fall apart with a gentle prod from a fork), drain the ingredients into a sieve over a large saucepan. Heat the liquid in the pan on high for approx 10 minutes to thicken. Taste and season as/if required. Optionally a flour or cornflour paste (1 tablespoon flour & 1 tablespoon water) can be used for a thicker gravy.
Remove bay leaf and rosemary from meat mixture then serve.
Beef shin is perfect if you can get it. It doesn't look great, but all of that unattractive sinew and connective tissue will melt away in the slow cooker. This does two things - it means that the beef literally falls apart once cooked, and it adds a gelatinous richness to your broth. After a couple of days in the fridge, the stew had formed into a jelly like substance! Again not attractive but the sign of a very rich stew. Stewing steak would be a fine alternative, but make sure you're using a really good quality beef stock to get that same rich, unctuous taste and texture.