Beef & Guiness Casserole

The Irish casserole isn't like the American one. In the US, we think of casseroles essentially as an amalgamation of different ingredients baked in a dish. In Ireland, the casserole is a slow cooked stew-like concoction simmered in a large pot on the stovetop with the consistency somewhere between a stew and a saucy meat dish.

Fresh Irish beef and hearty Irish stout make a perfect pair, and in fact occur frequently in Irish cooking. If you're concerned about the alcohol in the Guiness, don't be. Alcohol evaporates during cooking and considering this casserole simmers for more than an hour, you're left with is the hearty full flavor of the Guiness without the alcohol. In fact, this richly flavoured popular dish is suitable for any occassion, including informal entertaining. Serve with creamy, well-buttered mashed potatoes.

Serves 4
2 lb stewing beef
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 c beef stock
2/3 c Guiness
1/4 c butter
3 oz streaky (fatty) bacon
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 oz shallots or small onions
1/4 c plain (all-purpose) flour
Salt and ground black pepper
Mashed potatoes, to serve

1. Cut the meat into thin slices. Heat the oil in the pan and brown the meat. Transfer to a casserole (large cook pot). Saute the vegetables for 5 minutes in the pan.

2. Add the vegetables to the meat in the casserole, then add the garlic. Pour in the stock and the Guiness. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

3. Cover the casserole and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, with the lid on, for about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Remove the meat from the casserole, strain the cooking liquid and reserve. Discard the vegetables (use these later pureed with a little water to make a delicious soup served with hearty bread and butter).

5. Trim and dice the bacon. Clean the casserole and saute the bacon, mushrooms and shallots or onions in the butter for 5-10 minutes (I didn't have shallots or small onions so I quartered 2 medium onions, which worked perfectly fine).

6. When the vegetables are tender, sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, over a low heat 2-3 minutes (this makes a nice thick light-colored roux), then slowly blend in the reserved cooking liquid.

7. Return the meat to the casserole and reheat. Serve with mashed potatoes.

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