Long, slow cooking gives this traditional casserole its inimitable flavour. The cooking liquid is reduced simply by removing the casserole lid, resulting in a wonderfully aromatic sauce that glazes the meat and vegetables.
500 g lean stewing beef, such as topside, chuck or skirt
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 large onion, sliced
250 g baby carrots
250 g baby parsnips
250 g button mushrooms
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 bottle full-bodied red wine
grated rind and juice of 1 orange
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
pepper to taste
200 g shelled fresh broad beans or frozen broad beans, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons brandy
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Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Cut the beef into 1 cm dice.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large flameproof casserole dish. Add the sliced onion and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown.
Add the stewing beef to the casserole dish and fry for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pieces of beef are browned on all sides. Stir in the baby carrots and parsnips, the button mushrooms and the garlic.
Pour in the red wine, then stir in the orange rind and juice, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and season with pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil, then cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven. Cook the casserole for 1 1/4 hours.
Remove the lid of the pan and cook the casserole for a further 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Stir in the broad beans and cook, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, again stirring once or twice.
Taste and add pepper if necessary, and stir in the chopped parsley. Warm the brandy in a small saucepan and pour it over the casserole. Immediately set the brandy alight and carry the casserole to the table still flaming.
*You can vary the vegetables in this recipe. Small broccoli florets or shelled fresh or frozen peas can be added instead of the broad beans. Also, large carrots and parsnips, cut into equal-sized chunks, are more economical for an everyday stew than baby vegetables. *Also, flaming the casserole with brandy is completely optional. *For an everyday version, you might prefer to use 3 cups reduced-salt beef stock or light ale instead of the wine.
*Robust broad beans go well with beef and they bring valuable dietary fibre to the dish. *Recent research shows that, in moderation, red wine consumption may help protect the body against certain cancers and heart disease, and can reduce bad cholesterol levels.