Shall I state the obvious? I think I will. If you don’t like beef and/or anchovies just don’t bother. Mmm…don’t like the sound of that so let me rephrase. If you like beef but you or anyone you’re feeding is not so keen on anchovies, to put it mildly, try this recipe. Adding them does make a difference. You will not be able to taste them, but they give a depth of flavour that you won’t get with anything else.
Let me tell you a little secret. J isn’t a fan of anchovies, but I really really wanted to try this one and when I did I chose not to tell him. Now before you all tell me what a horrid person I am without sparing any details, I don’t do this…*cough*…often. This – as in not-telling-J-what-I-put-in-our-food. No. No…however this was the only way to test my theory: will he be able to identify what’s in this thing? Result: while J munched his way through his portion he seemed very happy, although he kept giving me this funny mystified look. I knew why of course, but said nothing. The looking continued until I couldn’t resist any longer and asked him if anything was the matter. He said this was one of the most tasty concoctions I made in quite a while (thank you very much!) and asked me why it was so good. Anchovies I blurted out. And he got it.
Now please don’t think this was my idea. I wish. I first read about it in Nigella’s How to Eat, and if you Google it that’s the first recipe you will get. I know many cooks who choose to use anchovy paste, but I always have some anchovy tins in my food cupboard. Always. You wouldn’t believe how versatile they are. My latest thing is to buy them in olive oil and garlic. That’s how strong I like them. The plainest stuff though does the trick beautifully. I dare you to try it, and if you already did, then bravo! I salute you.
- 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
- 750g beef, cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoons semolina and 1 tablespoon plain flour, for coating the beef
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely minced
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 6 anchovy fillets (half a tin), roughly chopped
- 2 shots or a good glug of red vermouth
- 1 litre beef stock
- 1 tablespoon tomato concentrate
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Place an ovenproof casserole pot on the stove on a medium-low heat and tip in 2 tablespoons of the oil into the pan. Using a medium mixing bowl, coat the beef into the semolina and flour mixture. How you do it is up to you; I prefer using clean hands. Brown the meat. Do this in batches – you want the beef to sear, not steam. When you are done searing the meat, remove it from the pan. Set aside on a warm plate, and do not throw away any of that flour mixture you used for the coating. You will need it later.
In the same casserole pot, add the the remaining tablespoon of oil, together with the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and anchovies.
When the mixture begins to soften return the browned beef chunks in the pan. Give everything a stir. Make a paste with the vermouth and the remaining flour used to coat the meat and pour it into the pot together with the beef stock, tomato concentrate, brown sugar and a pinch of pepper.
Transfer the pot from the stove to the oven and bake for around 2 hours. Remember the slower you cook it at the lowest temperature you can afford, the more tender the beef will be.
Serve with steamed or mashed potatoes. For 6 hungry people.
For me, this is true soul food.
(Recipe adapted from Nigella’s How To Eat, Chatto & Windus, 1998.)
*Tip: If you don’t have dried thyme use dried tarragon, and just for kicks you could also use a dried bay leaf.