A lazy Sunday of cookbooks and beef stew

The clocks have gone back – great for an extra hour in bed unless your cat doesn’t want you to sleep and wants you to get up and play instead. Alfie’s whining nearly drove me mad – it certainly drove me to get up earlier than intended. Obviously once I was clearly up and about for the day, he disappeared out of the catflap only to return and try to sit on either a cookbook I was attempting to read, or onto my laptop keyboard. Thanks Alfie.

Anyway, breakfast was grilled crusty bread with plenty of butter and soft poached eggs. As far as I am concerned, any egg where the yolk goes hard is a disappointment and not worth eating. Andrew however prefers the eggs to be cooked until they are as hard as bullets, so timing is always a problem for weekend eggy breakfasts. Today’s eggs were perfect for us both, and were a great start to the day.

Unfortunately (for my waist size) I was in the mood where I I wanted to constantly pick at food. Having had a particularly hard session at the gym on Friday, I felt perfectly justified in eating some coconut macaroons which I found in Holland and Barrett when buying vitamins the other day (also bought spelt spaghetti which I will be having for dinner tomorrow, and need to go back for some black rice for a Nigellisima recipe) – verdict after inhaling 3 of them: nice and soft but too sweet. Oh but I didn’t stop there. I also ate a mini tub of original Pringles which I had ‘stolen’ from the free minibar during our recent holiday in Muscat, Oman (yes, I did bring back Pringles as well as Ferrero Rocher, white versions of FR with coconut and Oreo cookie mini packs, as well as slippers, flipflops, beach bags and all the usual toiletries – I literally cannot leave a hotel room without filling my case with goodies). Then with a cup of tea I finished up some hazelnut chocolate which Andrew had bought me from Germany. Hmmm, reading it back that is quite a lot of little treats – no wonder I don’t feel hungry now. Anyway, I tell myself it’s weigh in day and I lost pound and a quarter this week, and I’ll be back at the gym tomorrow, so it doesn’t matter. Of course it will matter if I regain that pound next week, but hey ho, it’s done now – and I certainly won’t let it stop me eating my beef stew which is bubbling away in the oven.

So onto the beef stew which yesterday was going to be pot au feu, but today has turned into stew because I have a feeling pot au feu is a thinner broth and anyway it sounds pretentious reading it back – so stew it is! I read through John Torode’s ‘Beef’ now I have easy access to my cookbooks from my new shelves (I will stop banging on about these eventually but they have novelty value at the moment), and the only recipe with brisket which did not involve turning into salt beef (nice idea, but sounds a bit too much like hard work to me) was a kind of beef daube. 

Even John didn’t really want to call it a daube, and as I had barely half the ingredients I just borrowed a few ideas and made things up – usually that ends up with something tasty (I have had a few disasters) although generally impossible to replicate as I freestyle my way through the ingredients list, so writing it down might make it something I can make again sometime … we shall see.

Okay, so I have waffled my way through to the point of this post which is beef stew a la Knattster: basically all of the following chucked into an oven-friendly saucepan with lid, and cooked for several hours on about 160 degrees. I don’t brown the meat or fry off the veg simply because I am quite lazy and also the years of following weightwatchers principles to some extent (religiously for a year when I lost the weight, and now vaguely with every meal to try and lose those holiday pounds) have indoctrinated me not to use fat if I don’t really need to. I don’t think I am missing out on any flavour sensations by avoiding this step.

So into the pot went 800g beef brisket which I chopped into large pieces, four chopped sorry looking carrots (the Sunday fridge clean up), four chopped leeks, chopped garlic and chilli (both of which are kept in oil in my fridge – the chilli is home made), a tin of tomatoes and the tin then sloshed out with water, two beef oxo, some tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, and then a splash of fish sauce and a star anise taken from John’s recipe. When I grabbed my star anise I also noticed some pink peppercorns on the shelf so I chucked a few of those in as well. I think the fish sauce adds saltiness as I didn’t have to add as much salt as I would normally – I would probably be a bit more heavy handed next time, but I must confess to being dubious about the addition … the star anise has given the stew a great flavour though and I will certainly use it with beef again (I have only used it with pork casseroles in the past).

I haven’t eaten the stew yet (the oven’s off but it’s sitting in there staying warm) – Andrew came home from work at about 4pm and was starving so I made him some crumpets with cheese and worcestershire sauce on top (crumpets toasted and buttered, then topped with cheese which is melted under the grill). We’ll probably have it at about 7pm with some bread which needs to be eaten, followed by the skimmed milk rice pudding which seems to have turned out fine, although could probably do with less sugar as there isn’t any cream to cut through the sweetness.

Cookbook wise, I have flicked through several to get some ideas for edible Christmas presents, and am now reading Richard Corrigan’s “The Clatter for Forks and Spoons”, which I bought at St Pancras station in September 2009 from the chef himself when he was there doing a food demonstration. I  never got around to reading it as we went for a Vietnamese meal afterwards at Viet Garden in Islington, and then went off on holiday to Vegas and San Francisco – I’ll have to do a post about that trip as some of the food experiences were fabulous during that break. Holidays and food – probably two of my favourite things!

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