Before she became a TV celebrity Mary Berry was known as an Aga cook who ran courses on how to get the most out of your Aga as well as for writing The Aga Book which I believe is still given to every new Aga owner when their new oven is installed. My mother-in-law, who has owned a few Agas in her time, learned how to make this stew on one of Mary Berry’s courses and wrote it out for me many years ago because she thought it was so simple yet so delicious. I never got round to making it then but when I found a jar of sun-dried tomatoes which needed using up in my fridge recently, the recipe sprang to mind and I dug it out.
You can make this the day before, refrigerate it overnight and reheat it gently in the simmering oven the next day. I have never worked out why but casseroles are often better when made a day ahead.
The quantities of wine and stock given here are approximate because, as we Aga cooks know, you tend to need less liquid in an Aga. I start with the wine and stop pouring when the meat is almost but not completely covered. You can always add stock later on if you think it needs it.
Beef and Sun-Dried Tomato Stew
(Serves 4 generously)
- 800g braising beef, cubed
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp flour
- Approx. 250ml red wine
- (Approx. 250ml beef stock: see above)
- 10-12 sun-dried tomatoes, halved
- 10g dried mushrooms (I used porcini)
- 1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp apricot jam
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- First you need to brown the meat. To avoid splashing oil everywhere you can do this in the roasting oven, as I did when I made boeuf bourgignon
- Spread the beef out on your large baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide if you like, drizzle it with olive oil and season
- Slide the tray onto the first runner and leave it there for 5 minutes before moving it to the floor of the oven for a further 5 minutes, by which time your beef should be browned
- (You can of course brown your meat in batches in olive oil in the casserole on the boiling plate or on the floor of the roasting oven)
- Meanwhile in a large casserole gently fry your onion and pepper slices in a tablespoon or two of olive oil (if your sun-dried tomatoes come from a jar you can use some of the oil from that), starting it off on the simmering plate before covering it and putting it in the simmering oven
- Pour 100ml of hot water onto the mushrooms and put them to one side for 15 minutes
- When the onions and peppers are soft place the casserole on the boiling plate, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes and then add the beef and stir the flour into it
- Add the red wine and, if required, the stock and bring to the boil
- Stir in the tomato purée, mushrooms with their soaking water and apricot jam
- Cover and place in the simmering oven for a minimum of three hours until the beef is tender. Add seasoning to taste
This is delicious with mashed potato but I think I prefer it with rice. Serve with a green vegetable too.
Pre-race chat at the boat tents
Can you tell I’m freezing cold?
Time to put the boat in the water
Time to head down to the start
Umpire’s boat: the great Sir Matthew Pinsent is there somewhere
Nearly at the finish
View from the stand
Husband holds my umbrella so I can take this photo
This blog has been much neglected in recent weeks. Sometimes life simply doesn’t offer up the moments of calm needed to sit down and concentrate on writing. For one thing, I’ve been totally absorbed in the political upheaval this country has been undergoing since the EU referendum result was announced on 24 June; and then we’ve also been busy (!) catching up with old friends at a couple of wonderful events. First was Henley Royal Regatta two weeks ago; we try to attend most years. My husband and I are both from that part of the world and I used to watch him row there when we first met. In recent years our son W has been a competitor and it’s been wonderful to go along and support his crew. We usually meet up with old friends and make a day of it and this year was no different. The weather was absolutely awful: windy, cool and pouring with rain much of the time. Only in Britain would you choose to put on a summer dress and spend the day in a field by the river in such atrocious conditions! Hope the photos above give you a flavour. There was respite to be found, of course, in the Pimms tent first and later in the lunch marquee. We sat in the grandstand after lunch to watch some of the races and then at last, at ten past seven in the evening, it was time to watch our son’s race. It had stopped raining by then and the sky had brightened slightly. I broadcast the latter part of the race on Periscope but, luckily for you, I haven’t yet set up my blog to play videos so you can’t watch it and hear me screaming as his crew overtook their opponents and won.
The weekend after that we met up with the same friends at mutual friends’ daughter’s 21st birthday party, which was amazing. We danced the night away, literally. When dawn broke at about 4.30am we decided it was time for bed but our hosts kept going until 7.30.
So, back to cooking. Unusually for me on a weekday, I cooked lunch on a Wednesday recently.
It was Jamie Oliver’s spaghetti with sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, balsamic and basil and brilliantly quick and easy to make. I needed to use up the tomatoes in a jar I’d opened a few weeks earlier. It says to consume them within 7 days of opening but I rarely achieve this and don’t think I’ve poisoned anyone yet.
Anyway, here is what you do:
Jamie Oliver’s Spaghetti with Red Onions, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Balsamic Vinegar and Basil
- 450g dried spaghetti
- 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped or sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 handfuls of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
- 3 tbsps balsamic vinegar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 handfuls of basil, torn
- Parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated, to serve
- Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water until al dente
- While doing this, slowly fry the onion in a couple of lugs (Jamie’s word) for a few minutes (in the simmering oven if you like) until soft and tender
- Stir in the tomatoes and balsamic and throw in your drained pasta
- Season and toss together with the basil
- Serve with the grated cheese
I adore fresh basil and at this time of year I keep a pot of it, bought from the supermarket, on my kitchen window sill and it does very well, as long as I keep it watered.