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Recipe: Beef, Tomato & Pepper Casserole with Black Olives
Okay, so it has suddenly just got bloody freezing. I headed out on Tuesday evening to see The Crimes of Grindelwald and realised that yes, I now needed to switch to my wool coat and be sure to leave the house at least with a scarf, but also perhaps gloves and a hat! So, when I arrived in Kent the next day where if anything it is even colder (I was jealous when I saw my Mum’s fur lined boots and thick jumper when I met my parents off the train for lunch at Wild Goose) I figured I’d get out one of our trusty old casserole dishes and make something really rich and comforting, but full of sunnier flavours as my last non-festive recipe of 2018.
This recipe usually lives on a photocopied sheet of paper in our French kitchen. We’ve adapted it quite heavy from Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook, and it is supposed to be made with veal. We buy and cook with loads of veal in France where it is reliably cheap and abundant in the supermarkets (barbecued or grilled veal chops served with a creamy mustard mushroom sauce and Wiener schnitzel are French kitchen family favourites) and a version of this is usually what we make when there is lots of stewing veal steak available. However, the last time I made this with a couple of tiny packs of veal I’d been collecting from the reduced to clear section in Waitrose (still very expensive!) I realised that unless you’re going to splash out on veal at a good butcher, here in the UK you’re much better off making this delicious casserole with stewing steak. So while I encourage you to hunt down some tender, delicate veal, the beef version is still very, very tasty.
I’ll eat almost everything, and choose to police my own diet according do ethics I believe are right for the food supply chain, and for the farmers who work so hard to bring us out dinners, as far as I can afford. However, one thing I am happy to preach is that we should all be eating more veal. If those of us who can afford to do so ate more of it, demand would rise and it would become more affordable. I know in the past veal was produced using some practices that would have animal rights activists up in arms, but today I challenge you to find veal sold in the UK that is not ‘rose’ veal, produced to higher animal welfare standards than the average supermarket chicken. If we ate more veal we would also help cut down on one of the biggest waste products from the dairy industry. Think about it: what happens to male calves born of a dairy cow who will never produce any milk? Dairy farmers can’t afford to keep them, and because demand for veal is so low in this country, they can’t sell on their meat.
Regardless if you make this casserole with beef or veal, it is so easy to make on a chilly weekend and re-heats quite well for a quick and easy weeknight supper if you’ve made a big batch mid-week. I serve it with just simple plain brown rice to soak up all the delicious juices, but would be equally delicious with mashed potatoes, couscous with a squeeze of fresh lemon, or slightly sloppy polenta.
Small Handful Flat Leaf Parsley, roughly chopped (optional, to garnish)
Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees (320 fahrenheit). On a large plate or in a plastic bag toss together the flour, beef and a good amount of seasoning so the meat is well coated.
Over a medium high heat, heat a generous glug of light oil in a large, heavy bottomed, lidded casserole dish or saucepan. In batches so you don’t crowd the pan, brown the meat and remove it to a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up any excess fat.
Once you’ve browned all the beef, add the peppers and the garlic to the pan and cook until just soft. Remove to another plate.
Add most of the wine to deglaze the pan (this is the term for scraping all the brown bits up off the bottom with a wooden spoon or spatula, this is where some of the best flavours for your casserole are found) then add the tomato puree, tinned tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Use the rest of the wine to rinse any tomatoey goodness from the tomato tin and add that to the pan too.
Return the meat to the pan and turn the heat up to high, bringing it to the boil. Put on the lid and transfer the casserole to the oven for an hour.
Stir the garlicky peppers into the casserole and return to the oven for another half an hour.
Stir in the olives and cook for another 10 minutes before serving, remembering to fish out what is left of the rosemary sprig!
I'm a food writer living in London and the English Countryside. Welcome to my online diary where I share easy, weeknight recipes, foodie travel diaries and some of the best places I've eaten out recently.
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