Fragrant Beef Stew

With buttery fried potatoes

This is a variation of one of my recent posts, Cabbage wrapped minced beef. As it turned out so well, and as I used mince (ground beef) as my wisdom tooth was cutting through, I really wanted to upgrade this to a beef stew instead. So glad I did! What with marinating the stewing beef in lemon juice, slices of garlic and bay leaves for 48 hours the meat was melt-in-the-mouth delicious. OK, very dark when cooked. With a stew I really couldn’t care less how it looks on the plate. It’s the flavour I’m after. And this was a treat. Shame about the photo at left above (natural light was wretched that day). Anyway, I’d planned on serving long grain rice with this until I had my ever so slightly buttery potatoes over the weekend – the idea of the rice quite simply left the apartment. As for the shallots used instead of onions – those were pan-fried in bacon fat leftover from my previous shoot. Almost sinful! They were that good.

For anyone dealing with Hurricane Sandy – stay safe!

Fragrant Beef Stew, with buttery pan-fried potatoes


For the marinade:

  • 200g (7.05 oz) x stewing beef, cut into chunks and rinsed (after marinading the fat congeals which is incredibly easy to remove. Because of that I didn’t need to buy extra lean). Shake the container after 24 hours (or less) or tip it upside down to try and get the lemon to react evenly with the beef (I only did this once)
  • 1 x lemon, rolled under the weight of your palms before extracting juice, juiced through a sieve to collect any seeds and pith
  • 2 – 3 x garlic cloves, shelled, trimmed and sliced lengthways
  • 2 x dried bay leaves

For the stew:

  • olive oil
  • 1 x medium aubergine/eggplant, about 250g (8.81 oz), washed, trimmed, cut in half, then in thirds, then each segment sliced crossways into chunks. Soak in salted water, with a weight on top, for an hour. Rinse thoroughly and excess water removed by squeezing them of excess liquid
  • 1 x dried bay leaf, ripped
  • 1 x celery stalk, washed, trimmed and cut into small dice
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x small round shallots, trimmed, peeled and kept whole
  • 2 x salad tomatoes, washed, cut in half and pan-fried separately
  • 2 x garlic cloves, peeled, trimmed and minced/crushed
  • 1 x heaped dst tomato purée
  • ¼ – ¹/3 x tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¹/3 – ½ x tsp paprika
  • 500ml (1.05 US pt lqd) x water
  • 1 x beef or 1½ x vegetable very low salt stock cube (a combination of both is fine) – less if using regular
  • 200g (7.05 oz) x carrots, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 2 x celery stalks, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • up to 4 x sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 x pinch freshly grated nutmeg (about the same if using ground), more to personal taste
  • ¼ x scant tsp ground cinnamon, less to personal taste

If the stew needs to be thickened:

  • 1 x heaped dst plain flour
  • about 2 level dst x olive oil

Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.


For the marinade:

  • Place all ingredients into a suitable airtight container and marinade for 48 hours, shaking the contents at least once during that time. Afterwards, simply pick off and discard garlic and bay leaves. There’s really no need to rinse the beef, simply shake off any excess lemon juice and get the chunks of beef into the pan.

For the stew:

  • After draining and rinsing the aubergine/eggplant chunks squeeze out as much excess water as possible. I did this with my hands rather than using a very clean t-towel. Using a large heavy-based saucepan or pan/skillet put on electric heat No 3 (out of 6). When pan is hot pour in a little oil and add the aubergine. Shake the pan initially, if necessary, to prevent sticking. Continue to cook for 15 minutes stirring through often. Reduce heat to No 1 and stir through every 10 or so minutes. Add a capful more oil halfway through this part of the cooking time, add a splash of water if there are any signs of the aubergine drying out
  • Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6). When onions are ready and the pan is hot pour in enough oil to cover its base. Add the bay leaf and allow to infuse for 30 seconds. Add the diced celery. When turning golden reduce heat to No 1. Push the celery to the sides, pour in a glug more oil, if necessary, and add the garlic. Allow a couple of minutes for the garlic to cook. Take off heat and set aside.
  • Add the tomatoes to a separate pan with a little oil and a lid. Put on heat No 2 for most of their cooking time. Remove the lid after about 15 minutes and continue to pan-fry until nicely caramelised. When ready to add them to the mince/aubergine mixture pour them into a fine wire metal sieve and using a stainless steel soup ladle rub them through, collecting all of the purée from underneath with a wooden spoon. Discard the remaining pulp.
  • Put a large heavy-based saucepan on heat No 3. When hot enough pour in a little oil. Add the marinated stewing beef and allow to settle. I’m finding that with any form of mince/meat here that I have to wait for the meat to ooze out a lot of gunk. That I remove by carefully tilting the pan and mop out with kitchen paper. Then, I have to add a little more oil before the meat will brown. Get the meat as evenly brown/golden as possible. And don’t worry if the meat catches a little, or scorches slightly as it’s all flavour that the stock will grab. Reduce heat to No 1, push meat to the sides, add a glug more oil if necessary and add the tomato purée. Allow at least 5 minutes for its rawness to cook out. Add the lesser amounts of both cayenne and paprika and allow only seconds for those to infuse before pouring in the water and stock cube(s). Add the aubergine and celery mixture. Add the carrots, celery pieces and thyme. This is when the fresh, caramelised tomatoes should be rubbed through a fine wire metal sieve. Add the lesser amounts of freshly ground or grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon. Up the heat to No 4, cover with lid and bring to near boiling point. Reduce heat to No 1 or 2 and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring through occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, put a heavy-based pan/skillet on heat No 2 with a little oil (even better with bacon fat) and add the shallots. Plonk on a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Take off lid and continue to pan-fry until nicely caramelised. If not using bacon fat do grab all of the sticky sediment from base of pan with a little of the stock from the stew.
  • Remove the carrots, celery pieces and thyme.
  • Taste at this point for extra spices, adding more to personal taste. Do so by allowing pinches of the spices to infuse by stirring them through before tasting for any needed extra spice.
  • If gravy is to be thickened: put a small saucepan on heat No 1. Add the flour and olive oil and stir through. Allow at least 5 minutes for the flour to cook out. When any bubbling occurs take off heat to prevent the flour from turning brown (if that happens start again). When cooked out add a soup ladleful of the stock from the stew and stir continuously to achieve an emulsion. Pour some of this slowly into the stew and continue to stir through to avoid any lumps occurring. Add more of the emulsion if necessary.

For the potatoes:

  • about 200g (7.05 oz) x new potatoes per person (I’m using Maris Peer), scrubbed and par-boiled
  • olive oil, for the potatoes
  • butter, for the potatoes
  • Keep them in their skins and place in a saucepan with enough lightly salted cold water to cover and place on a lid. Put on electric heat No 4 (out of 6) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for 4 – 6 minutes, depending on their size (cook for longer if using larger potatoes). They should just about pierce if a fork is lightly pushed into them. Drain, allow steam to evaporate and when cool enough to handle peel off any knobbly bits. Cut into slices or discs, put a heavy-based pan on heat No 3. When pan is hot add a little olive oil, place in the potatoes and up the heat to No 4 for a couple of minutes. Reduce heat again to No 3. Grab them underneath with a fish slice to prevent them from sticking. Turn them over when nicely golden. Reduce heat to No 2 and add a small knob of butter. Continue to cook whilst preparing the stew. If they’re ready before the stew take off heat and cover with a lid.

All photographs within Feed the Piglet:
All rights reserved – Copyright © Johnny H Hepburn


  1. What a handsome stew! Makes me want to curl up on the couch with it. 🙂 Gorgeous photo, of course. You always make your posts spectacular!


  2. Anne’s right – it does look good! Have a beef stew planned for this Thursday (a holiday over here), when I will have guests for a “British Dinner”. Hope it’ll turn out as good(looking) as yours…


    • Thanks. Have taken more shots today as the light was so much brighter. Could hardly see to focus yesterday.
      Do hope your ‘British dinner’ is a hoot! And I’m sure your stew will look better presented than mine. Curious as to what nick-nacks you might use to dress your table…


  3. I love the photo, I love the stew, I go crazy for the buttery potatoes. I hope you used some (plenty of) bread with that! How is the wisdom tooth treating you?


    • Tooth is back to normal. For now. Only one side is up. Could take months before it’ll erupt again.
      Stew was so good. Natural light yesterday was a shocker, though. Have taken a couple more today.
      Your ‘battery potatoes’ threw me! Took several seconds to realise. Kind of slow today. Made me laugh. I’ve edited it, btw.


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