In June, D, myself and a group of friends went to Ireland for a short break after our end of year assessments. For 5 days we drank ourselves silly and experienced everything from singing The Rattlin’ Bog in a Galway pub to nearly dying while cycling around the Aran Islands after we misread a map and ended up on a road definitely not meant for cycling. We also, obviously, drank a lot of Guinness. If you haven’t tried Guinness before, you really should. It’s wonderfully smooth and rich, with hints of chocolate and coffee all wrapped around a mellow bitterness that lingers pleasantly in your mouth. This makes Guinness not just great to drink, but also great to use in cooking, especially with beef.
My Guinness beef stew is a really simple way to cook with beer. The Guinness is used instead of stock and as it cooks, its flavour mellows and its bitterness becomes so light and almost savoury that it works perfectly with meat. The key here is to have patience. Once all the ingredients are in your pot, let the stew bubble away for at least an hour and a half. I promise that you’ll be rewarded with a deliciously thick sauce and beef so tender, it breaks apart with just a fork. Give this a go!
Ingredients (serves 4)
1kg stewing beef – brisket or chuck work well; I used topside, which is leaner and generally for roasting, but that was all the butcher had!
4 medium brown onions, sliced
3 large carrots, cut into pieces
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed whole
3 or 4 sprigs of rosemary
2 heaped tbs of flour
1 big tsp of English mustard
about 1 pint of Guinness
a knob of butter
1. Cut your meat into pieces. I personally like large pieces, like mini-steaks. Whatever you do, don’t cut them too small, as the meat will get smaller with cooking and you don’t want tiny pieces of stewed meat!
2. Season the beef generously with salt. In a large stewing pot, add olive oil and set your stove on medium to high heat. Add the meat and brown it on all sides. You might need to do this in batches. Take your time here: browning and sealing the meat helps to give the stew a wonderful beefy flavour. Remove and set the beef aside.
3. Reduce your stove to medium heat. In the same pot, drizzle more olive oil if needed and add the sliced onions. You want to sweat these onions down, so be sure to control the heat and ensure the onions don’t burn. They should soften and become translucent. After about 8 minutes, add the crushed whole garlic cloves and rosemary. These ingredients will give off a wonderful smell as they cook. Continue to sweat the onions for a few more minutes.
4. Add a knob of butter and allow it to melt in the pot with the ingredients. Then, add the flour and using a wooden spoon, incorporate the flour with the onions, garlic and rosemary. The flour will help thicken the stew later.
5. Add the browned beef back into the pot, along with its resting juices. Generously season the mixture with pepper and a big dollop of English mustard.
6. Pour in the Guinness. You’ll need enough to cover the meat. About a pint will do. Give everything a good stir. Once the stew is bubbling away, reduce your stove to a low heat and pop a lid on the pot. Drink any remaining Guinness you have and wait. The stew needs at least an hour to an hour and a half of low, slow cooking.
7. After at least an hour, check the stew. The sauce should be thick and glossy and the onions will have broken down. The meat should be tender. From this point on, the longer you continue to cook, the more tender the beef will be. In the final 20-30 minutes of cooking, add the carrots. The carrots give a wonderful sweetness that compliments the savoury bitterness from the Guinness.
8. To serve, simply spoon the stew into a bowl. It goes well with simple mashed potatoes.
Mushrooms, potatoes and peas can all be added around the same time as the carrots. A handful of chopped parsley mixed through just before serving livens up the stew.
This recipe is dedicated to S – our favourite Irishman, presently completing a Fellowship at Yale. And to C – our favourite Irish-Moldovan.