Cats are singular creatures indeed. It’s all about them. I know some people like that – it’s not pretty. But for some reason I not only tolerate this quality in cats, I find it rather endearing.
I understand that when my four-legged child stops being snooty and starts snuggling up to me in the wee hours, it’s only because it’s starting to get nippy and I’m a convenient heater. But I don’t mind. I’m grateful for the attention. Cats do that to you.
So there I lie, grateful… and incredibly uncomfortable. Because heaven forbid I should move and inconvenience moggy. Cats do that to you too. And then I think of food. Food like this warming French-inspired beef stew with loads of herbs, garlic, red wine and haricot beans. I serve it with a baguette and French flair in my finest porcelain, and I thank my cat.
All you need is…
1kg stewing beef (try to get some that contains pieces of short rib too)
2 tbs plain flour, seasoned lightly with salt and black pepper
olive oil, for frying
1 tbs lard (it’s optional, but it lends a lovely deep richness)
1 large white or brown onion, finely chopped
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs tomato puree
1 cup dry red wine
1 beef or lamb stock cube
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1½ cups ripe fresh tomato, diced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig oreganum
1 sprig flatleaf parsley
2 extra large carrots, peeled, cut in half and then sliced in quarters
½ cup water
1 tin white beans (haricot or cannellini beans), rinsed and drained
extra parsley, for serving
Dust the beef in the seasoned flour. Fry over high heat in olive oil until caramelised and brown. (You will need to fry this in two or three batches or your pan will be too full and your meat will not brown.) Remove the meat and set aside. Add the lard to the pan along with the onion. Fry over medium-low heat until golden. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Add the tomato paste and fry for a further minute. Then add the meat back to the pan along with any resting juices. Add the red wine and cook for a minute or two with the lid off.
Then add the tomatoes, pepper, salt, herbs, stock cube, carrots and water. Put the lid on, place on the lowest possible heat and gently simmer for 2 hours. (If your heat is low enough, you should not need more liquid. But check it from time to time, and add just a drop if need be.) Just before you serve, add the beans and cook for a minute or two to warm through. Scatter over loads of chopped flatleaf parsley and dish it up with a starch of your choice and a good red in the crystal glasses you got from gran.