I first visited the Cotswolds 5 years ago whilst on a music tour to London and all over Germany. We stayed with our good friend, Victor (Vic), who is everything you could ever hope for in a faux country England grandfather. The town we stayed in, Fordwells was quintessential. Low stone walls lined paddocks with pheasants and lambs. A mile down the road was the village of Swinbrook, where the river met one of the local pubs and the cricket oval, where Vic umpired. On our second night, Vic presented this stew, but with Venison which was freshly hunted by Tim, in the stone terrace cottage two doors down. Tim, a cheeky old bloke was often in trouble for letting the blood drip down the stone drains that connected each of the three cottages along the front, whilst hanging fresh offerings from his ute. (Sorry Vegans!) Needless to say, the stew was delicious. This version uses gravy beef, although I remember Vic's original email recipe suggesting something more Oz, like kangaroo.. I make this stew often in winter. Like many similar dishes, it's BETTER then next day. Sometimes I make a pie with the leftovers, if there are any. It's properly popular.
I told you it's popular..
1-2 Kgs of gravy beef/chuck steak roughly chopped. (Use more if you want more.)
A few heaped tablespoons of flour for coating.
8-10 shallots, peeled.
1 brown onion, finely diced.
1/2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
A good splash of passata.
1 bottle of red wine, or leftover pantry wine that makes up 750ml.
600ml beef stock.
A few anchovies, roughly chopped.
A handful of fresh/dried thyme.
A few bayleaves.
Salt and pepper for seasoning.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and heat a casserole pot on the stove with a glug of oil on medium heat. In a plastic bag, toss the beef and flour with some salt and pepper to season and flash fry in the pot until brown then set aside. (Do this in batches if required as to not bring down the heat of the pan.) Deglaze with a splash of red wine, then add the onion and garlic to saute for a few minutes until translucent. Add the passata and cook for a couple of minutes. Return the beef to the pot, with the shallots, thyme, bay and red wine. Bring the heat up and stir through for 3-4 minutes. Add the beef stock until it's covering the beef. If you don't use all of the stock, that's fine. Add the anchovies on top, pop the lid on and place into the oven for 2-2.5 hours. If you want to add more root vegetables, you should do so with an hour to go. (I tend to serve some steamed greens on the side, to keep the simplicity of the dish.)
Check for beef tenderness after 2.5 hours and ramp up the temperature to 180 degrees for another half hour whilst you prepare some creamy mash and take the top off a Shiraz with some age on it. Think Rolf Binder Heysen, Tonic Fountain of Youth or even an Irvine Estate. A bit of green earth and pepper spice, but with rich deep fruit will make a great pairing. Then again, drink whatever you like with it..
SECRET TIP.. Grate some dark chocolate over the top for extra elegance. Molten bitter characters ensue. Thank me later.
Sam, via Victor Last, of the Cotswolds, England.