Right off the top I have to say that my mother makes the best stew EVER! This likely doesn’t come as a surprise though, that’s typical of mothers. They make the best version of all your favourite meals and you can never quite get your recipe exactly the same…even when you use the exact same ingredients!
You stir it differently. Add ingredients in a different order or at a different time. Own non-stick fry pans that are *nothing* like your mother’s cast iron pans.
And regardless of all this…there’s a dash of affection and a pinch of motherly love that you just can’t recreate…unless you love yourself like a mother does her child which just sounds odd.
So we request such meals, like stew, when we go for a visit. Even if said visit is in the middle of summer and it’s 30 degrees (86 F), bring on the boiling hot stew!
This doesn’t mean we don’t try to make our mother’s recipes…we do. But in the end, we come up with our creations…a new take on an old favourite. And thus, we come to this post…one of my many attempts to recreate my mother’s delicious cooking!
Not to mention, this post involves a cleaver!! (Admit it, that’s why you’re reading this post, isn’t it?)
It changed me for all time…that lovely, shiny, sharp cleaver…but I’ll get to that part of the story later….
Okay, OKAY…how about a picture for now?
I can’t just jump ahead to the cleaver part because it’s halfway through the recipe!!! But I suppose I can share a picture….
There! Happy? More to come further in the post…but for now…
I shall start with a shot of my wee little kitchen prepping for some BIG flavours!
Ready to begin!
I bought two packs of stewing beef which you can see on the left…approx 2 lbs worth. In the black bowl is a couple tablespoons of flour.
Before dealing with any vegetables, I prepped my beef. It came already cut into chunks but I wanted to make them smaller…more bite-sized. Sadly, underneath what appears to be some lovely red beef, I found whole pieces of gristly tendon that I didn’t think I could use. (Or perhaps I could?? There wasn’t enough to make a broth, but there was enough to piss me off when I looked at the size of the mound of unused bits…What do YOU do with big white chunks of gristle?)
Hmmm…I thought I was buying stewing beef…NOT stewing tendon.
Disappointing lack of beef!
In a way, the disappointing state of the meat was my own fault. The meat counter in my neighbourhood is closed on Mondays and I ALWAYS seem to get my cooking inspiration on a Monday. So, I walked down the street to the grocery store which is generally quite cheap and crowded. The meat was on sale, who knows where it came from…..
I got what I paid for.
Once I got over my tendon disappointment, I got on with my stew prep. I removed the annoying bits, cut the beef into smaller pieces and coated it lightly with flour.
Then I browned them in a fry pan with a bit of oil, salt, pepper and a dash of soy sauce.
While the beef browned, I prepped my slow cooker with a mix of water and…ahem…a packet of stew spice mix.
Yeah yeah, I know! After all that talk about trying to recreate my mother’s stew…what do I do? Take a shortcut…a spicy shortcut!
What can I say? I’m a rebel!
Slow cooker prepped with a mix of water and stew spices
Added the browned beef and then left it in the slow cooker on high for an hour.
While the beef stewed in my crock pot for an hour…I started to chop up my vegetables.
This is where the cleaver comes in…for those of you who have been patiently waiting 😉
CLEAVER MEET RUTABAGA
Have you ever tried to cut up a rutabaga? (If you have no idea what a rutabaga is…think turnip-from-hell).
I would say it’s one of the most difficult vegetables to deal with…all covered in wax…rock hard at times…using a regular knife on a rutabaga is like trying to do hand sewing with a bone sliver. It works but it’s difficult, annoying, can take forever…and why would you when you have more fun and efficient options? 😉
I wasn’t looking forward to chopping this sucker up until I remembered that B had a cleaver in our kitchen drawer. Had he been around, I would probably have asked him to hack it up for me but instead I got to experience the pleasure that comes from swinging a cleaver at a defenceless, well almost defenceless (stupid rock hard rutabaga), vegetable.
The cleaver was much sharper than I expected and the first swing cracked the rutabaga in half.
It took a few more whacks but in mere minutes, I decimated that rock-hard vegetable into manageable chunks!
Also in mere minutes, I found myself utterly transformed…
from a dorky, rutabaga-fearing, newbie cook into a MAD, CLEAVER-WIELDING KITCHEN QUEEN BEFORE WHOM ALL VEGETABLES TREMBLE!!!!!
“So shiny!” says the newly initiated cleaver fan, standing over her most recent victim. Muahahahahaha!
The other vegetables…carrots, celery and potatoes…didn’t require cleaver-oomph…but I really wanted to!
Chopped celery and some rutabaga remains!
I washed the carrots but didn’t bother peeling them. Chopped all the veg into fairly large pieces.
Roughly chopped up an onion and used tiny new potatoes that I simply cut in half.
Once I’d added all the vegetables to the pot, I decided to add 1/3 a can of dark ale. No real reason except “why not?” 😉
At this point, settle into a good movie or two as your stew is going to need a few hours to cook. One initial hour to start the beef, then after adding the vegetables, I let it cook for another couple of hours. It was getting late at that point so I turned off the slow cooker, let the dish cool a bit and then put it in the fridge overnight. The next day, when I arrived home after work around 4pm, I put it back on high and left it for about four hours, as I was out for the evening.
The broth was still a little bland for me so, before heading out, I added the following: some garlic powder, a few bay leaves, as well as a splash of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Not to mention, salt and pepper, which I added a few times…all to taste.
Upon my return home, the apartment smelled amazing!!! This is what greeted me in the slow cooker!
The vegetables were soft and tender, the meat fell apart in my mouth and the shortcut-broth was amazing! It wasn’t my mother’s stew, that’s for sure, but it had a goodness all its own 🙂
Mom, be warned, I’ll still be asking for stew next time I visit!
I’ll also be making this recipe again too. It’s a wonderful meal for those cold winter nights.
And if you forgo the rutabaga, it’s an incredibly easy and straightforward recipe. If you keep the rutabaga, for god’s sake use a cleaver!
And keep in mind, if you’re working with a slow cooker as I did, make it early and give it 6+ hrs to cook
Homemade Beef Stew
- 2 lb stewing beef
- 2 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 cups water
- 10 cups chopped, cubed vegetables (carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, celery, onion)
- Garlic powder
- Soy sauce
- Bay leaves
- Pepper and salt
- Dark ale
- Stew spice mix
- Lightly coat your beef bits in flour.
- Brown the beef in a fry pan with a bit of vegetable oil, a dash of soy sauce, salt and pepper.
- In your slow cooker, mix your spices (I cheated and used a Stew Spice Mix) with the water. Add the browned beef and leave on high for an hour.
- Chop up all your vegetables…I used celery, onion, potato, carrot, and rutabaga (Pull out your cleaver for the rutabaga!!) Add all the vegetables to the slow cooker.
- Add 1/3 to 1/2 a can of dark ale, as well as bay leaves, garlic powder, soy and Worcestershire sauces. Salt and pepper to taste. Leave on high for 4-5 hrs or until the vegetables are tender.