beef and butternut squash stew

not the most exciting of dinners but 'salright when you want a proper stew. i never think of buying braising steak - i guess i am not that excited by that kind of food, stuff you can eat with a spoon.

which is funny, because things you eat with a spoon have a long and noble history where i come from, and is in fact one reason (the other being the ubiquity of meat) that i think my husband would fit in well pretty much anywere from about dubrovnik to belgrade.

my mum was always worried about us - and everyone else - not eating enough stuff with a spoon. ii can hear her saying it now: 'you can't eat dry food every day!', when describing someone particularly inept at cooking, usually in the context of how badly they feed their children. 'dry food' was a loose term, encompassing foodstuffs like sandwiches, crisps, even shopbought 'pita' or filo pastry pie, or meat kebabs in soft naan-like bread, a bosnian speciality. (i'm not sure what was wrong with any of these - i can only guess that it's the lack of vegetables as adding veg does tend to give you a more sloppy or juicy end product.) as far as she was concerned, none of this was proper food and she attributed all manner of evils to it, chiefly and predominantly constipation.

even when she didn't make proper lunch, which wasn't very often, we'd rarely make do with sandwiches or bread. dad would make omelettes with feta cheese, or polenta with creme fraiche. or there'd be pita in the freezer, made with greens and cheese, but in that case it was obligatory to have soup before it (to up the wet quotient, presumably).

it's making me smile as i write this though obviously i now totally agree with my mum, and balk at people who don't do spoons. and, since we were kids, the category of 'dry food' has expanded, as has the number of people who eat it instead of a proper meal. which is ironic, considering that the horror of eating just bread and nothing else must have come from post-war poverty in yugoslavia.

anyway, the opposite of dry food wasn't necessarily a stew but anything that's cooked on the stove, often slowly, often involving a vegetable of some sort stuffed with minced veal or pork. but stews too - kapama or bosanski lonac both involve chucking loads of meat and veg into an eathenware pot and cooking it slowly.

which is kind of what this is, except for the browing of meat. i made loads of this - practically double the quantity below - thinking i could freeze half and we'd have enough for two dinners. fat chance, with two greedy buggers like us. there was just about enough of it left over for rich to have some on monday night when i was out with julie (having a massive steak).


600g beef braising steak, cut into big chunks, around 3cmx3cm

1 butternut squash, cut into chunks about the same size as beef

2 small red onions, cut in half

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3-4 thyme sprigs

2 tbs tomato pure

400 ml chicken stock

splash of worcestershire sauce

2 tbs chopped parsley

salt and pepper

olive oil

first, dry the meat with some kitchen towel and season with salt and pepper. heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid until smoking. brown the meat in batches - don't overcrowd the pan or the meat will boil. when done, remove and set aside.

next, brown the butternut squash in the same way and set aside.

add the onions, garlic and thyme to the pan and cook on gentle heat for about ten minutes. make sure the pan is not very hot from cooking the beef and the squash or you will burn the garlic and it will taste acrid and ruin your stew. i'm speaking from personal experience here. add the tomato pure and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

add the meat and the stock, cover and cook for a couple of hours on very low heat. after that, add the squash and continue to cook until the meat and the squash are tender. i probably cooked mine for another 2 hours - which seems excessive but it was only then the meat got tender.

before serving, add a splash of worcestershire sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley. check the seasoning too, always a good idea.


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