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Fidel Castro - Beef Stew - Serves 4

This one can serve as an emergency smoke machine at parties.

Not an unusual recipe but it was highly regarded by young Dominic the other day and he pressed me to publish.

Ingredients are not really critical apart from the burnt steak and the burnt carrots.

Serve with roast potatoes and broccoli.

You will need (serves 4)

  • 2 lb of stewing or braising steak
  • 1 lb kidney, chopped with the white bits removed.
    I'm told that Ox kidneys are best but I used lamb last time and they were OK.
  • 1 large onion, chopped in fine slices
  • 4 carrots cut in roundels or lengthways
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 4 big garlic cloves
  • Pearl barley (optional)
  • some button mushrooms (8 oz?)
  • Olive oil
  • Some flavourings eg all of the following (or a selection chosen from) -
    • small dash of soy sauce
    • small dash Lea & Perrins sauce
    • dessert spoon of tomato puree
    • stock (if you have some)
    • crumbled birds eye chillies (about 4)

Chop the onion and garlic finely and start to soften it in a pressure cooker with a generous glug of olive oil. Or you could use a flame-proof casserole.

Crucial Part:

Take a frying pan with a very thick base (cast iron is good) add some olive oil and get it stinking hot. Then throw in some of the steak and cook it until it's very dark brown - almost black - stir it around a bit so it browns all over. Then put the steak with the onions and burn some more steak.

The burning is what gives the nice flavour. Don't put too much meat in all at once or it will not brown as well. This process also gives the smoke-machine effect and is likely to cause rows with your significant other
(Q. "Do you really need to make so much smoke?" A. "Yes")

In the same frying pan, fry the carrots until they have a good deal of black burnt bits on them. This too is crucial for the flavour. Put them with the onions.

Other Part:

Into the pressure cooker, throw in

  • 2 chopped celery sticks
  • handful of pearl barley (optional)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of salt
  • loadsa black pepper
  • selection of flavourings from above (or all of them)
  • kidneys
  • button mushrooms (whole)

    Stir it all round for a short while to mix and then add about 1/2 pint of water or stock.

Bring the pressure cooker up to steam then reduce the heat so the pressure cooker makes a small whisper of hiss. Not full blown hissing or the stew will burn on the bottom of the pan.

Half an hour in the pressure cooker should do it, more than an hour and the meat will fall apart.

Or 3 hours in a casserole in a low oven (say gas Mark 3). If you use an oven, it's a good idea to increase the heat to Gas Mark 6 for the last 20 mins to get a nice baked surface to the stew.

Adjust the seasoning. You can add a dessert spoon or two of flour to thicken if it is very runny (mix the flour well in a cup with a little water before adding it).

Anecdote for Americans

I'm told that Americans are generally not too keen on eating offal (eg kidneys). It is said that there was an English restaurant in New York which could not get people to try their "Steak & Kidney Pie". So they minced the kidneys into the gravy and called it "London Pie". Everyone admired the taste and wanted to know what was the secret ingredient.

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