Beef and Chestnut Casserole

When I was growing up in England in the 60s my mother regularly made a beef and chestnut casserole in winter, which we all loved.

She found the recipe on the back of an Oxo beef stock cube packet. Apart from beef, chestnuts and Oxo cubes I remember she added sherry or red wine, but I didn’t have the recipe. A couple of years ago I contacted the makers or Oxo cubes to see if they could help, but they couldn’t.

I decided to have a go at recreating this dish and here is the result. Simple but delicious. Served with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable it’s perfect for a winter gathering.

1.2kg lean beef (chuck steak, gravy beef) cut into 2cm cubes
2 Tbs plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs olive oil
2 large brown onions, chopped
2 beef Oxo cubes, crumbled (or use another brand)
1 cup dry sherry or red wine
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried
2-3 carrots, sliced (optional)
2-3 cups water
400g peeled chestnuts (see note below)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Mix beef with seasoned flour to coat thoroughly. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large non-stick frying pan and brown the meat on both sides. Remove to a large casserole dish with a lid. Repeat with remaining beef and another Tbs of oil. Add to the casserole. Add the last Tbs oil to the frying pan and cook the onions, stirring often, until softened but not browned. Add to the casserole with the sherry or red wine, thyme, and carrots If using.

If you use fresh uncooked chestnuts you have peeled yourself add them now. If using cooked ones add them later.

Preheat oven to 150°C. Mix  2 cups of water into the casserole and bake for 2-3 hours or until meat is tender. Check and stir every hour or so and add more water if necessary. You want the casserole to be nice and thick. If using cooked chestnuts add them about half an hour before the casserole is ready.

If preferred, cook the casserole in a slow cooker for about 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low. If using this method you will definitely need less water than when using an oven.

I like to make casseroles the day before serving as it improves the flavour. Reheat on the day with the addition of a little more water, if required.

Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with mashed potatoes (with lots of butter added) and a green vegetable.

Serve 6-8

Note: fresh chestnuts are fiddly to peel so I bought two 200g packets of peeled, cooked whole chestnuts made by a company called Cheznuts. At $12 a packet they’re not cheap but they were certainly convenient.

 

Maltagliata of Beef with Balsamic Dressing

My friend Bettina recommended this delicious and quick recipe for beef from Melbourne-based chef Karen Martini.

I’ve tweaked it a little and reduced the ingredients to serve two people rather than four. It’s easy enough to double or triple to make more servings. Use any tender cut of beef.  I used one large T-bone steak which weighed just over 400g after I had removed the bone and excess fat. Any salad mixture will do, although I think the slightly bitter radicchio leaves make a difference.

It’s a fairly simple recipe which allows good quality beef, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to shine.

About 6 big handfuls of mixed salad greens (rocket, baby spinach, lettuce, radicchio)
A handful of parsley leaves and a handful of basil leaves
About 400g steak cut into stir-fry slices (fillet, rump or sirloin)
2-3 Tbs plain flour
1 Tbs olive oil to fry the meat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
½ a small red onion, thinly sliced
125g fresh ricotta cheese
2 Tbs pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan
1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, extra
Salad Dressing:
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
7 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix steak with the flour, shaking off and discarding any excess. Prepare salad ingredients, cutting or breaking any large leaves to bite-size. Place salad dressing ingredients in a jar and shake.

Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan and add steak over medium heat. Separate the pieces and allow them to cook on one side, without moving, for 2 minutes. Turn the meat over and season. Add the onion and balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, swirling the pan, for another minute or so, until the onions have softened a bit.

Place salad ingredients and herbs in a bowl and add enough salad dressing to coat. You won’t need it all. Arrange salad on one large or two individual serving plates. Use tongs to arrange steak over the top, dot with blobs of ricotta and scatter over the pine nuts. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over and around the salad.

Serves 2

 

Beef Stroganoff L’Or du Rhone

Everyone has a favourite recipe for beef stroganoff, but if yours doesn’t use brandy to flambé the meat, give this recipe a try. It makes all the difference.

It comes from a restaurant just outside Geneva which we frequented in the 1970s. I had a look on Google but it’s no longer there. Beef Stroganoff was one of the dishes you could order and watch them make on a trolley they brought to the table. Another one was Crêpes Suzette. As I watched the performance I wrote down the recipe, to which I have added the mushrooms. I’ve also halved the amount of cream they used.

1 kg fillet of beef, cut into strips
Or 750g beef and 250g button mushrooms
Dry English mustard and oregano
Salt and Pepper
60g butter
250g chopped shallots or spring onions
1/3 cup brandy
Few drops Tabasco sauce
4 tsp paprika
1 cup sour cream
4 Tbs chopped parsley

Prepare meat then season with some dry mustard powder, oregano, salt and pepper and put aside. Quantities to suit your taste. Leave mushrooms whole if small, or cut into halves or quarters, according to their size.

In a large frying pan heat half the butter and fry onions gently until soft. Add mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Remove from the pan. Turn up the heat and add remaining butter, then the meat, stirring and cooking for 2-3 minutes or until browned all over. Return the onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring for another couple of minutes. Add brandy and set alight, stirring until flames subside. Turn off extractor fan while you do this. Add Tabasco, paprika and sour cream and cook, stirring, for a minute or two until thickened.

Garnish with parsley and serve with pasta or rice and a green vegetable.

Serves 4

Substitutions: use fresh cream instead of sour cream.

 

Nigella’s Meatloaf

This meatloaf recipe, which she calls Ed’s Mother’s Meatloaf, comes from Nigella Lawson. Eldest son James sent me the link which caught his eye because the onions are cooked in duck fat and the meatloaf is covered in bacon. What’s not to like about that?

When he and his family came for dinner to celebrate a family birthday, for the first time since coronavirus lockdown, I happened to have some duck fat in the fridge. Nigella’s Meatloaf seemed a good choice as the main course, accompanied by potatoes roasted in duck fat and salad.

I made two changes to Nigella’s recipe which resulted in a bigger loaf measuring about 12″ x 5″ (30cm x 15cm):

  • used 5 hard boiled eggs instead of 3
  • cooked 250g chopped mushrooms in a little butter and used them as a layer around the eggs. So it was mince, mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, mushrooms, mince.

The bacon slices weren’t long enough to go over the top and tuck under on both sides, so I used two slices for each row and had them overlapping in the middle. A few small metal skewers kept them in place during cooking.

For the method go to Nigella’s link above. Easy to  make ahead and have ready in the fridge just to pop in the oven. I served it with a sauce made with sour cream and finely chopped gherkins, spring onions and parsley.

Ready to go into the oven. Skewers to help keep the bacon in place.

Chili con Carne

Chili con Carne (pronounced Carnay) means Chili with Meat and was invented by working class Mexicans living in southern Texas. Often referred to simply as Chili this dish has lots of variations, a bit like Spag Bol which we’re all familiar with.

In this version, the sun-dried tomatoes give extra tomato flavour to the sauce. If preferred use tomato paste instead, or some of each. This recipe is enough to serve a big family, or a smaller family with some leftovers, which go down well for lunch on toast or in a wrap.

500g minced beef
2 medium onions
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp chilli powder or flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
100g sun-dried tomatoes, drained (or 4 Tbs tomato paste)
1 fresh red chilli, seeded & finely chopped (more if you like it hot!)
2 400g tins tomatoes
2 cups water and more as required
2 400g tins red kidney beans, drained (or white beans or a mix)
Stick cinnamon or 1 tsp of powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 beef stock cube
3 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve:
Sour cream (or thick Greek yoghurt)
2 finely sliced spring onions or 1 small red onion, chopped
Grated cheese
Corn chips or corn tortillas
Shredded iceberg lettuce
1 ripe avocado, roughly mashed and seasoned (optional)

Chop onions and garlic and fry in olive oil in a large deep frying pan until softened. Add the chilli powder and cumin with the meat and cook, stirring, until browned. Place the sun dried tomatoes, one cup of water and the chilli in a food processor and blend to form a paste. Add to the beef with the tomatoes, cinnamon, sugar, stock cubes and another cup of water.

Bring to the boil, cover then turn the heat down to simmer and cook for 1½ hours. Stir often and add more water as necessary. Add the red kidney beans 30 minutes before the end of cooking time. Check for seasoning. This meat sauce will keep for several days in the fridge and can be frozen. When reheating add a little water.

Serve with corn chips or tortillas, shredded lettuce, grated cheese and sour cream mixed with spring onions. Put all the elements in individual bowls and let everyone help themselves.

Serves 8

Low Carb Variation: use whole iceberg lettuce leaves to wrap instead of corn Tortillas.

Spicy Korean Beef with Rice

 

This is a good way to use up leftover cooked rice and leftover roast beef. If you don’t have either, cook some rice and slice about 300 grams of raw beef steak into thin strips. Stir fry the beef in the oil for a couple of minutes, then remove from pan, add the vegetables to the pan and proceed according to the recipe.

2 eggs
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot (coarsely grated)
1 red capsicum (pepper) cut into thin strips
2 cups leftover roast beef, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Korean chilli paste (or substitute Harissa or Sambal Oelek)
3-4 cups cooked long grain rice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
To garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp black sesame seed

Beat eggs withIn water and seasoning then make a thin omelette in a small omelette pan, using half the oil. Remove from pan onto a plate and cool, then cut into thin strips.

In a wok or large frying pan heat remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, carrot and capsicum, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the beef, chilli paste, rice, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper or a bit more soy sauce. If it’s not spicy enough, add a little more chilli paste.

Serve in bowls, topped with the omelette, the coriander and the black sesame seeds.

Serves 3-4

Asian Steak with Zucchini

With zucchini growing in the garden at the moment I am on the lookout for new ways to use them.

This recipe appeared in a recent Weekend Australian magazine as a salad. I have adapted it by adding the rice and heating the marinade (rather than discarding it) and pouring it over the finished dish. This recipe is quick but delicious.

1 medium zucchini (courgette)
250g steak (two small steaks or one large one)
Marinade:
1-2 Tbs white or brown sugar or honey, to taste
4 Tbs water
4 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Juice 1 lime or ½ a lemon
Pinch chilli flakes, or fresh diced chilli, to taste
2 tsp sesame oil
To serve:
Steamed rice
3 Tbs roughly chopped coriander
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 Tbs dried shallots (available in the Asian section of most supermarkets)

Place sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve. Add soy sauce, ginger, lime juice, chilli and sesame oil. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini  into long, thin ribbons. Cut steak into thin slices downwards, across the grain. Marinate the zucchini in half the dressing and the meat in the other half for about 5 minutes.

Drain meat (keep marinade) and stir fry in a large non-stick frying pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Drain the zucchini and keep the marinade. Place some steamed rice in two serving bowls. Top with the meat, then the zucchini ribbons. Place both lots of reserved marinade in the frying pan, bring to the boil, then pour over the top.

Garnish with coriander, sesame seeds and dried shallots.

Serves 2

 

 

Steak Diane

Steak Diane is one of my favourite steak recipes. One of those oldies but goodies I’ve been making for decades.

I’m trying to cut down on carbs at the moment and Steak Diane is perfect for a low carbohydrate, also known as a ketogenic, diet.  It’s quick and easy and uses ingredients I always have on hand. Served with a green salad or some steamed green beans, snow peas or broccoli it makes a satisfying meal.

Family members who aren’t avoiding carbs will appreciate a few chips (French fries) on the side. I usually have a packet of bought ones in the freezer and find they crisp up in a very hot oven in the time it takes to cook the steak and veggies. If you want to cut down a bit on the calories use half the amount of butter.

2 Scotch fillet steaks
Freshly ground black pepper
30g butter
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
¼ cup cream
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Pound steaks to 1cm thick with a meat hammer and season on both sides with pepper. Heat butter on high in a non-stick frying pan and when sizzling add steaks and cook for one minute. While steaks cook on one side rub the crushed garlic into the other side. Turn steaks over, add Worcestershire sauce and swirl steaks around in the sauce. When done to liking – for me pretty much immediately – add cream and parsley, cook for a minute or so to thicken the sauce. Turn steaks over and back again, to coat them with the sauce.

Serves 2

Korean Beef

I haven’t posted any mouth-watering desserts of late. I’m trying to avoid them at the moment in an attempt to make some headway in the battle of the bulge. I always seem to be on the losing side in this battle, which I guess is par for the course when you love cooking and eating as I do. Anyway I like to think that this blog provides inspiration for subscribers wondering what to make for dinner tonight. Quick and easy, everyday dishes are the mainstay of Café Cat.

Fans of sweet sticky Asian meat dishes will like this one. Adjust the amount of brown sugar to suit your taste. The recipe doesn’t contain any chilli (though you could always add some) so it’s a good way to introduce young kids to Asian food. If you (or the kids) don’t like mushrooms leave them out and increase the meat.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
250g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
450g lean beef (fillet or Scotch fillet) or leftover rare roast beef, in thin strips
¼ to ½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbs sesame oil
To serve:
Steamed rice
Chives or spring onions, sliced
Toasted sesame seeds

Heat oil in a large frying pan or wok and cook the onion until soft, then add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms are starting to brown. Remove from pan.

Add a tiny bit more oil to the pan with the beef strips and stir fry until browned. If you are using leftover roast beef this won’t take long. Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic and sesame oil and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, or until sauce is thickening and glazed.

Return mushrooms and onions to the pan. As soy sauce is salty you probably won’t need to add salt to this dish. If the mixture is a bit dry, add 2-3 Tbs water and stir to combine. Serve beef with steamed rice, garnished with sliced spring onions or chives and a few sesame seeds.

Serves 4

Julia’s Burgers with Beetroot Relish

I recently caught up with my friend Julia over a delicious lunch at The Palette Café. Inevitably the conversation got onto food and how we both love beetroot. I said we had grown some last year with mixed success. “Ah” said Julia “I have the solution”.

The trick is to soak the seeds overnight in tepid water and then plant the drained seeds in potting mix in cardboard toilet roll holders. Once they are up plant the seedlings, toilet roll holder and all, into the soil. Julia grows zucchini and pumpkin the same way.

Word went out that Matthew needed empty toilet roll holders and before you could say Jack Robinson friends and family all over town were coming to the rescue. It’s interesting to see how many some families go through in a week and how abstemious others are by comparison. On this subject Matthew quotes a statistic from his time in the Australian Army. Requirements were calculated on the basis of seven and a half squares per man per day. With a lot more women in the military these days they’ve no doubt had to throw those figures out the window.

While on the subject of beetroot Julia promised to send me her recipe for Veal Burgers with Beetroot Relish which she cut out of the local newspaper some time ago. If you don’t have veal use beef, pork or chicken mince. If you are unable to buy Tzatziki either make your own – there are plenty of recipes online – or just leave it out. The burgers are almost as good served with just the Beetroot Relish.

I used English mustard instead of Dijon in the relish and doubled the amount from half to one teaspoonful. The coarse (0.5cm) grating disc attachment on my Magimix made short work of grating the apples and beetroot.

The recipe says to leave the relish for 3 weeks to mature before using. I think we gave ours about 30 minutes! It was still scrumptious and there’s plenty left over for the next batch of burgers!

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Burgers
400g veal mince (or beef, pork, chicken)
2 Tbs semi-dried or dried tomatoes, finely chopped
2 Tbs pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
To serve
2-3 zucchini cut into ribbons with vegetable peeler
1 Tbs olive oil
4 bread buns, split and toasted, or 4 pieces toasted baguette
Handful of baby spinach leaves
Few cherry tomatoes
1 small tub Tzatziki (bought)
1 Tbs chopped mint
Beetroot Relish (see recipe below)

Mix all ingredients for burgers and form into four patties. Cut zucchini into long ribbons and mix with the oil. Heat a barbecue, griddle pan or non-stick frying pan and cook the burgers for about 5 minutes each side or until done to your liking. Cook the zucchini strips on both sides on the same barbecue or in a second frying pan, until golden, then drain on paper towels.

Arrange a few spinach leaves on one half of the toasted buns or baguette, then the burgers. Garnish with tomatoes, zucchini ribbons and some Beetroot Relish. Mix the mint into the Tzatziki and serve separately.

Serves 4

Beetroot Relish
400g beetroots
200g green apples
1 Tbs oil
1 brown onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup white wine or cider vinegar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp English mustard (or Dijon)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 whole cloves
5cm piece of orange rind, removed with a potato peeler

Place beetroots in a saucepan, cover with water, then cook for about 40 mins or until tender. Cool, peel, then grate coarsely. Peel and coarsely grate the apples.

Heat oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Add the apple and remaining ingredients, except the grated beetroot and cook for 10 minutes or so, until cooked down. Then add the beetroot and continue to cook for about 30 minutes until thickened like a relish. You’re supposed to remove and discard the piece of orange rind, but I finely chopped it and mixed it back in.

Pour into clean sterilised jars and seal while hot. If possible, leave for 3 weeks to mature before using. To sterilise jars place them in the microwave on High for 2 minutes without the lids.