Walking down Wardour Street towards Leicester Square, I glanced in dismay at lots of shouting teenagers bedecked in great big green hats, queueing to get into O'Neills and Waxy O'Connors. I thanked my lucky stars that I was going straight home and then wondered how I'd turned into a grumpy old lady at a mere 22.
Anyway, I'm waffling. In honour of Paddy's Day, I decided to make beef in Guinness stew for myself and 4 friends who were coming round. I wanted to be a bit more adventurous and make some soda bread, but that will have to wait until the weekend - there was wine to be consumed.
Guinness makes a great base for a stew, but do be careful not to use it as 100% of the stock flavouring, or it will be very bitter indeed. Beef shin is best, but stewing steak also works. The stew was rich, velvetty and unctuous with the root vegetables giving welcome sweetness. I served it with colcannon - potatoes mashed with LOTS of butter, milk, cabbage and a little spring onion. So one might say colcannon crossed with champ.
Beef in Guinness Stew
1kg stewing beef / beef shin
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped roughly
4 cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of the knife
500ml Guinness (I used bottled)
200ml beef stock
100 ml sweet sherry
2 bay leaves
A handful of black peppercorns
300gr carrots peeled and chopped roughly
3 sticks of celery, destringed and diced
Half a punnet of chestnut mushrooms, quartered
100gr baby parsnips, peeled and halved
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp plain flour
Cut the beef into chunks and toss in seasoned flour. Meanwhile, slowly fry the onions with the carrots, celery and garlic in a large pot. Add the bay leaves and the peppercorns.
Fry the beef in batches on a high heat in a non-stick pan until very browned. Add to the big pot. Deglaze the pan with the sherry, and add to the pot. Add the Guinness and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add the stock (I used a cube). Add the tomato puree and simmer lidless for 2 1/2 hours. Taste for seasoning - adjust if neccessary. If it's too bitter add some sugar, but I found it fine as the sherry balanced it out. Take off the heat, cool down, and refridgerate overnight. When it comes to eating, add the mushrooms and the parsnips. If it's jellified, don't worry - it'll go back to liquid when heated up. Simmer for 45 more minutes, then mix the butter with the flour in a bowl, and add to the pot and simmer for a further 15 minutes. This should thicken it up nicely.
So there you have it. It might sound labour intensive, but it really is just a lot of chopping and then chucking it in a pan. Any leftovers (there were none) would work well in a pie. All the eaters declared it delicious, so unless they're just really polite guests, I can say it was worth it. Comfort food at it's finest.