Beef Stew is a thick, heart and filling preparation made with beef as the main ingredient. Chunks of beef and chunks of preferred vegetables are cooked in a thick gravy made with broth, water and/or wine or beer. The stew is cooked to a consistency that is thicker than most soups. The simple, but filling, dish has been a favorite of people from almost all over the world since the ancient times. References to beef stews and various recipes to make the dish have been found in cookery books and texts from the Middle Ages and even before. Like most stews, beef stews are essentially a winter preparation. These are prepared in homes and are also a regular feature on menus of most cafes, eateries and restaurants across the world.
Overview of the Beef Stew Recipe
Ingredients: Ingredients typically used in the preparation Beef Stew include beef (preferably fresh and cut into chunks), potatoes (fresh and cut into chunks), onions (fresh and thinly sliced), broth (vegetable, chicken, beef, etc., preferably homemade), oil, butter and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Vegetables and meats that complement beef are often added to the stew to make it more filling and flavorful. While beans, carrots, cabbage, peas, leeks, celery, mushrooms and corn are some of the popular vegetables added to the stew, seafood, chicken, pork, etc. These are added in combination with the beef. Herbs and spices like paprika, white pepper, parsley, cumin, coriander, rock salt, etc. add taste and aroma to the stew. There is a wide variety of ingredients used in the preparation of beef stews and these generally depend on personal preferences and the recipe being followed.
One of the biggest advantages of beef stews is that these can be made using leftovers. The meat cuts do not have to be expensive and specific.
Preparation Overview: Beef Stew is a moderately-easy dish to prepare and it takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours to make about 2 to 3 servings. The stew is slow cooked in a large Dutch Oven or slow cooker for maximum flavor and to ensure that the meat is tender enough. Before it is cooked, the beef is marinated for some time. The marinated meat (and other meats and/or vegetables), onions and potatoes are sautéed for a few minutes in oil and then transferred to the Dutch Oven or slow-cooker. All the remaining ingredients are added and the stew is cooked till the gravy is thick and the meats and vegetables are tender and done.
Beef Stew Recipe Variations
Popular regional variations of the Beef Stew include:
- Kho - The Vietnamese version of the traditional stew is made with braised beef that is simmered in a gravy spiced with regional spices and herbs. The result is a thick, slightly sweet stew that is reddish-brown in color and has caramelized sugar. Fish sauce is an important ingredients and the dish is cooked in a traditional Vietnamese clay pot called nồi đất.
- Beef Bourguignon - The French variation of the Beef Stew is made with braised beef that is cooked in red wine and beef broth. The stew is flavored with garlic and a bouquet garni made with preferred spices and herbs. Pearl onions and mushrooms are popular additions.
- Mechado - Mechado is a popular dish from the Philippines. It is made with lean beef, often mixed with pork fat-back, that is cooked in a thick gravy made with local ingredients. Adding calamansi juice and soy sauce gives the preparation a distinct Filipino taste and character.
- Carbonade Flamande - A traditional Belgian dish, Carbonade Flamande is essentially beef cooked in a sweet-and-sour gravy made with beer and seasoned with thyme and bay leaf. Mushrooms, spiced bread and onions are important additions.
- Haleem - The traditional Pakistani beef stew is generally sold as a snack. Beef, cashews, onions, green chilies, ginger and garlic are important Haleem ingredients. The stew is also consumed as a main dish.
- Nihari - A popular Indian dish, the stew is cooked with beef as the main ingredient. The preparation is generally stewed overnight and this results in very tender meat morsels. Nihari is mostly served as a breakfast dish. Fried onions, green chilies, ginger, coriander leaves, white radishes and garlic are important ingredients. Since India is a place where beef consumption is forbidden in most regions due to religious constraints, the Beef Stew is restricted to areas where there is an abundance of Muslim population.
A Beef Stew is generally served piping hot, as a main course dish. It can also be served as an appetizer (in smaller quantities) or even a snack. To make the stew a complete meal, it is often served with chunks of bred and a small, green salad with or without meat. A very popular way to enjoy the stew, especially when ordered in a restaurant, is to eat it out of a bread bowl. A bread bowl is essentially a large rounded bread loaf with a thick crust. The top of the loaf is sliced open and a section of the interior is removed to make the bread a bowl.
Beef Stews Trivia
Due to religious beliefs, some regions of the world forbid beef consumption. In these regions, the stew is made by replacing beef with other preferred meats, or imitation beef.