beef stew

Venison and pickled walnut stew

pickled walnuts
Pickled walnuts

I haven’t posted a picture of the stew here because the photo I took, in these darkening evenings, just did not do the stew any justice. When I made these pickled walnuts I imagined I would be enjoying them with cold cuts and cheese. I have now tried them with cheese and I can report they are OK. Actually, they are hard to describe. They don’t taste particularly walnuty. They taste like something that has been pickled. When I was eating them with cheese, a friend that was with us at the time suggested putting them in a beef stew.  That sounded like a fine idea. Now that I have tried the stew I can report that they do add a lovely sweet tang to the gravy. They are, however, still a bit weird to eat. The exterior of the walnut has a grainy texture and the interior is soft. It’s just a  bit odd. I do think though that I will be putting them in more stews if only so that they can infuse the gravy and I will be chopping them up a little smaller next time, quartering instead of halving.

It doesn’t need to be venison in this stew, you can use beef with equally good effect. I spotted the venison at the butchers and fancied a change.

This stew serves 3 adults generously.

450-500g venison or stewing/ braising beef, diced
1 large onion, chopped  small
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 celery sticks (if you have them), chopped finely
300 ml beef stock
200ml Guinness or stout
6-8 pickled walnuts, quartered
100g cooked chestnuts (I use vacuum packed for ease)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
pepper and salt


Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil ( or use beef dripping) into a large saucepan. Place over a medium-high heat and brown the meat in batches. You want the meat to get a good caramelisation so try not to move the meat around too much, just turn once. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the onion, carrots and the celery, if using, to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes until the onions have become translucent and taken on a little colour. Return the meat to the pan, along with any juices on the plate. Add the stock and the stout and stir well to lift any of the lovely caramel bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the walnuts, chestnuts, bay leaf, thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Place the saucepan into the simmering oven of the Aga or put the stew into a slow cooker and cook gently for a minimum of three hours.


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Beef stew

beef stew

It’s that time of year again, with the nights darker and the days shorter and colder, when we all need more comfort food.  There is little more comforting than a plate of stew that has been bubbling slowly away for a long time.  I am particularly proud of this one because I have in the past relied on the ubiquitous stock cube for gravies and stews and I am trying to wean myself away from them.  I have been making my own stocks when I have bones available from sunday roasts, but last night there was no beef stock left over in the freezer.  So instead I browned the meat until caramelized and cooked the onions for longer than I normally would so that they took on a good caramel colour.  This proved to provide enough colour and flavour to make a tasty stew using water instead of a stock cube – great progress for me. I was really pleased with the result and it has proved that I don’t need to use a stock cube when I am cooking a stew.  The flavour is further enhanced by the vegetables and adding some herbs into the mix.

Feeds two greedy people.

300g (10 oz) shin beef, cubed
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and cubed
55 ml (2 fl oz) madeira wine (or you could use any fortified wine)
10 g (½ oz) plain flour
1 tsp mustard  powder
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried oregano or marjoram
½ tsp dried thyme
425 ml (¾ pint) boiling water
salt & pepper to taste


Heat a smear of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add cubes of the beef (make sure you don’t crowd the pan or they will steam rather than brown).  Allow the cubes to brown for a good few minutes without stirring them, then turn them to brown the other side.  You really want gooey bits of beef sticking to the base of the pan and a good colour to develop on the beef. When all of the beef has been browned remove to a plate and add the onion to the pan.  Allow it to cook  for at least ten minutes until it develops a good caramel colour (it may take longer than this). Add the parsnip and carrot and cook again for another five minutes, add the meat back to the pan of vegetables.  Add the flour, mustard powder and herbs and cook for a good few minutes, stirring the pot so that the flour has a chance to cook. Add the madeira and stir well, cooking for a minute or so. Add the water and salt and pepper to taste and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.  Simmer for at least two hours before serving with lots of bread to mop up the gravy.  I enjoyed it with a bit of my quince jelly.

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