Winter is most certainly upon us, with frosty mornings and log fires. It is just the time of year when I begin to crave comfort food. This rich beef stew flavoured with cinnamon and chocolate was inspired by a classic Catalan dish Estofado de Ternera a la Catalana. A little dark chocolate is added to the stew towards the end of cooking giving it a unique flavour. It is likely that the dish originated in Mexico, where chocolate is added to counteract the fiery heat of the chillies in the classic Mexican stew, Mole poblano.
It can be served with rice, but I love it spooned over potatoes, mashed with olive oil.
Beef stew with chocolate and cinnamon
1.5 kg beef chuck steak, cubed
200 g panchetta, diced
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
75 ml red wine vinegar
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, crumbled
4 large sprigs fresh thyme
3 strips orange peel
300 ml red wine
750 ml beef stock
4 tbs tomato puree
2 tbs dark 75% or higher chocolate, finely chopped
salt and pepper
flat leaf parsley, to garnish
olive oil mash, to serve
Preheat the oven to 160c. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan and dry fry the panchetta for 2-3 minutes until golden. Transfer to a flame-proof casserole. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the frying pan and fry the beef in batches for 5 minutes until evenly browned, adding more oil if necessary. Transfer to the casserole.
Pour the wine vinegar into the frying pan and stir over a medium heat to deglaze the pan and reduce slightly. Add to the meat.
Add the remaining oil to the casserole and fry the onions, garlic, carrot and some salt and pepper for 10 minutes. Add to the meat with the cinnamon sticks, thyme and orange peel and then stir in the wine, stock and tomato puree. Place some foil over the pan and then seal with the lid. Bring to the boil, transfer to the oven and cook for 11/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
Place the chocolate in a small bowl and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the meat juices until smooth. Then stir this back into the stew and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve with olive oil mash.
Tip: Olive oil mash compliments the stew perfectly. Make mash potato in the usual way but substitute a fruity extra virgin olive oil for butter along with a splash of milk for the perfect consistency.
© text and recipe Louise Pickford/© photo Ian Wallace
First published in Grazia UK.