Updated: Apr 6, 2020
There's a silver lining to a chilly winter's day. It's the perfect weather for a slow cook meal.
A casserole is the ultimate comfort food. If it's a dreary day and you're indoors, why not make the most of it? In about fifteen minutes, you can have a hearty beef casserole in the oven. It will fill your house with the incredible aroma of meat slowly simmering in a rich broth and you'll soon have a delicious dish of tender meat to enjoy!
You can choose any of the less tender cuts of beef like gravy beef, blade or chuck that contain a high amount of connective tissue. The slow cook methods softens the strong muscle fibres and breaks down the connective tissue in the meat. This process imparts a rich, full bodied flavour and a delicious gelatinous texture. The trick is to take your time and cook the meat 'low and slow' – a low heat setting for a long period of time. In terms of skill, there's really nothing to it.
My favourite cut of beef to use in a slow cook is oyster blade. I've found that it isn't too tough but it's full of flavour. This means that if you're low on time, 2 hours in the oven is enough to tenderise the meat. But if you can, plan ahead and cook it for 3 or 4 hours - the meat literally falls apart.
In terms of tools, invest in a sturdy cast-iron pot with a heavy lid. This will be your best friend in winter. There are plenty of fancy French crock pot brands, but the cheap options will do the job just fine.
Hearty beef and vegetable casserole
A mouth-watering meal of tender meat and vegetables, ideal for a chilly winter's night
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 to 4 hours
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp butter
2 celery sticks and leaves, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 kg oyster blade, cut into chunks
3 bay leaves
4 sprigs rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 L beef or chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (base heat and no fan works best).
Cook the onion, garlic, celery and carrots first in the pot on the stove. Soften in butter for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Remove from the pot.
Briefly brown the meat in a small amount of butter to lock in the flavours of the beef.
Return the vegetables to the pot. Add the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme and stir in the tomato paste and stock.
Bring to a gentle simmer.
Cover and put in the oven for about 2 to 4 hours. The longer you cook it, the more tender the meat.
Keep an eye on it every hour to check that it’s not too dry, and add additional stock or water if required.
Serve with vegetables that will soak up the juices – my favourites are cauli rice, steamed broccoli or brussel sprouts.