Sunday, 22 November 2009

A rainy sunday

I woke up this morning full of energy and drive to get things done.

I threw a load of laundry into the washer then went outside with the aim of doing a good 8 km run up to Hampstead Heath - one of my favourite spots in London. For those readers, it's a bit like High Park - you have hilly roads with expensive Victorian-style homes leading the way up to a rambling forest of paths and open green spaces, not to mention great views, ponds AND a petting zoo.

Coming back I stopped by the grocery store to get some provisions for the week. As I was paying, I looked outside and BAM just like that the skies had opened up and flooded. It was piss-pouring rain out and I had no umbrella and three bags of groceries to carry back to my flat (about a 10 minute walk away).

No matter, I threw on my headphones, put on a good song and ran like hell through the rain, bright orange Sainsbury bags bouncing off my legs as I splashed through puddles and slid on wet leaves, finally making my way home, soaked to the bone, exhausted and so happy to be back.

After showering and putting on some dry clothes, I set about making my typical Sunday meal. Because I often work quite late during the week, I like to make massive meals on the weekend that I can freeze and defrost during the week. I've done soups, casseroles and hearty meaty chili, but in light of the upcoming week of dreary cold rainy weather, I currently have a rich beef stew simmering on the stove.

My favourite source for recipes is Michael Smith. Yes, he might have this ingratiating, slightly patronizing way of speaking to the camera, but I absolutely adore his method of cooking and his recipes. I'm not a fancy cook, I like comfort food and Chef Michael encourages you you experiment with what you have in your kitchen, trusting your instincts and own ideas of what flavours go well together.

The recipe is perfect for a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon.

Michael Smith's Classic Beef Stew (adapted by yours truly...)

* Pack of stewing beef
* A bunch of root veggies (carrots, onion, celery, parsnips, etc)
* Handful of small potatoes
* garlic
* one OXO beef bouillon cube
* some red wine
* olive oil
* some flour
* salt / pepper and whatever spices in your pantry you think work... I'm currently adding to my collection as spices are surprisingly expensive)

1. Roughly chop your veggies and set aside
2. Dust the beef in flour and toss with salt and pepper
3. Heat large pot with olive oil...if you live in a flat like mine with a scary gas stove, try not to singe the ends of your hair when lighting the stove
4. VERY IMPORTANT - brown the meat, that means laying each piece down and leaving it to brown before turning each piece over to brown the other sides... warning, you will probably get a little burnt with the splashes of hot olive oil, or you can be a wimp and wear a dish washing glove
5. Remove browned meat and set aside, then add the veggies (except for the potatoes) and some smashed cloves of garlic into the pot... let them brown up and soften (takes about 5-7 minutes)
6. Add a splash of red wine and stir that around, dislodging the brown bits at the bottom (that gives your stew flavour)
7. Add the beef and potatoes and top up the pot with boiled water so that it covers everything, throw in that bouillon cube too and swish that around
8. Put the lid on and let that simmer... go write a blog post about your cooking adventures, check facebook, curl up in bed with a good book and occasionally go and check on the stew to make sure the kitchen hasn't burnt down

Oh and a good tip from Chef Michael is to leave some chopped veggies to throw into the pot near the end of the cook time so that you have a nice mix of textures (soft and still crunchy) in the stew... I happened to forget this time around

Once it's done, enjoy some with a slice of crusty bread and let the rest cool down before bringing out the tupperware (some for the fridge, some for the freezer)

I also like to dole out smaller portions for the freezer, that way I can de-frost individual portions more easily, it just means that my freezer gets a little full of tupperware containers, but I'm sure my flatmates don't mind so much

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