Beautiful beef stew with a herby lemon flavourbomb

Beef stew is one of the best things about the tail end of winter, and the perfect excuse for me to to dig out Mum’s 1970’s battered Le Creuset. This indestructable, bright orange mini-casserole has been around for most of my life, and it’s still my all time favourite for cooking one-pot suppers.

This year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to give my comfort food a healthy twist. The tricky thing is to do it without removing all the joy, which is where my sneaky little flavour bomb comes in. It goes like this. Make the stew with less oil than you normally would and increase the proportion of winter veggies to meat. Finally, drop in a lemon and herb flavourbomb and stir through just before serving. The zesty, herby, miracle worker will quickly pep up your stew and bring it beautifuly back to life after its long, lazy bake in the oven.  

This serves 4 just perfectly, and I recommend salty, oven-baked potatoes if you want to keep it light, or creamy mash if you need the extra comfort (and calories).

½ tbsp olive oil

One medium red onion, sliced

2 large cloves garlic crushed

2 tbsp flour

salt and pepper

2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme

400g diced braising steak, trimmed and cut into 3cm cubes

2 bay leaves

2 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

200g peeled butternut, chopped into 2cm dice

250ml beef or vegetable stock

150ml red wine

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 lemon

Preheat oven to 180/160 fan

 Mix the flour and half of the fresh thyme with plenty of salt and pepper. Toss the beef in the flour mixture until well coated and set aside.

Heat the oil in a small oven proof casserole and add the onions and half of the crushed garlic. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat, stirring without browning.  Add the floured meat and stir into the onions.

Add the bay leaves, vegetables, stock, wine and tomato puree, stir well and bring to to the boil.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the hot oven. Bake for  90 minutes then remove and check to see if the meat is tender.  If it needs more time, return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Just before serving very finely grate the peel of a lemon, and mix it with the remaining garlic and fresh thyme. Stir through the stew and serve.