November in the kitchen – slow simmered beef stew

November in the kitchen – slow simmered beef stew

Slow Simmered Beef Stew

This recipe could be the answer to “what’s for dinner” when you have a busy afternoon (holiday shopping?), but want something warming and filling. There will be wonderful smells when you walk into your kitchen at the end of the day. It cooks for 5 hours completely unattended. Try it; the results are delicious and good enough for company. The original idea came from a cookbook (mine now well-used, stained, and tattered) called Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase. She was one of the co-authors of the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. She lives in Nantucket and the recipe is perfect for stormy, cold evenings.

Quick and easy beef stew

Slow Simmered Beef Stew

Slow Simmered Beef Stew (6-8 servings)

You will need:

  • 2 ½ to 4 lbs. of lean beef stew meat, cut into 1 – 1 ½ inch cubes
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks the size as the meat
  • 6-8 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 2 ½ cups of spicy vegetable juice (use regular if you prefer it less spicy)
  • ½ cup of hearty red wine
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons of light brown sugar
  • 3 ½ tablespoons of tapioca, I used Minute Tapioca
Slow cooked beef stew

preparation for slow cooked beef stew


  1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the beef with all the vegetables. Season with the garlic and herbs. No, you don’t need to pre-brown the meat! I know, I didn’t believe it either but I’ve made this many times and it works.
  3. In a small bowl whisk together the vegetable juice, wine, mustard, brown sugar, and tapioca, making sure to dissolve the sugar and tapioca. Add this mixture to the meat and vegetables, stir to blend well.
  4. Transfer the stew to a large casserole or Dutch oven. Cover tightly and cook 5 hours without opening the lid or disturbing. You can serve this directly or refrigerate overnight and reheat the next day.

Use your imagination as far as vegetables. I used carrots and shallots this time. In the past, I’ve added turnips, potatoes, parsnips, boiling onions, kohlrabi, and elephant garlic. Use this recipe as your canvas for what you find at the market or in your garden.

I served this with a simple mash of parsnips and potatoes (about half potatoes and half parsnips), flavored with a bit of butter, a couple of tablespoons of cream, and some horseradish for a punch.

If you have some, serve the pickled mustard seeds on the side. I did and it was a good counterpoint to the richness of the meat.

Easy Beef Stew

Easy Beef Stew with Potato/Parsnip and Horseradish mash

Add a salad freshly gathered from the garden, you have an easy weeknight dinner which feels much fancier than it is.

Note: I would not transfer this recipe to a slow cooker, it will have far too much liquid. Slow cooker recipes need an entirely different formula for success. Also, please check your tapioca label if you need this recipe to be gluten free, not all of them are. Minute Tapioca is gluten free.

October in the kitchen – Pasta with Peas

October in the kitchen – Pasta with Peas

Ok, so I don’t have any fresh peas from my garden yet. I don’t expect to see any until next spring. There is, however, a trusty package of frozen baby peas in the freezer. And, I have also been pinching the very tops of the snap and snow peas to encourage bushiness (the flowering sweet peas get pinched as well but they are not edible). Those trimmings can be tossed in a salad or used as a garnish for the following pasta dish.

I’ve been using the young fava bean leaves in salads. I don’t grow favas for the beans but rather for their ability to fix nitrogen and improve the soil, they are called a cover crop. The leaves have the subtle flavor of favas and are a lot less trouble than the beans. Because I want their energy to go back into the soil and not into making beans, I cut dig them in when they start to flower. Meanwhile the young leaves are delicious.

Pasta with Peas (Serves 6-8)

Pasta with peas and pea shoots

Pasta with peas and pea shoots

The following recipe uses 4 of the ingredients from the basic 20:

  • Pasta – 1 lb. (regular or gluten free), your choice of shape
  • Olive oil or softened butter – 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup)
  • Parmesan – grated, about a cup plus more for serving
  • Salt
  • Pepper to taste


  • Frozen peas – ½ package defrosted
  • Fresh herbs from your garden – mint, parsley, thyme – a good handful, minced
  • Optional – Pea shoots from pinching your plants or the store (I’ve seen them at Trader Joe’s)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt (kosher) until it tastes like the sea. Toss in your pasta and cook according to the package directions, tasting to make sure it is done to your liking. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta. Do not rinse.

Add the olive oil or butter to the warm pot; add the peas and heat for about 30 seconds. Dump your pasta back in the hot pot, add the herbs and toss until well mixed, add a little of the hot cooking water if it looks dry, then the cheese and toss again. If the mixture still looks dry, add a bit more cooking water. The cooking water contains starch, which turns butter and cheese into a creamy sauce. Don’t add too much as you don’t want it to be watery. Taste to see if it needs more salt. Turn into a warm serving bowl or individual plates. Garnish with the pea shoots and grate some additional cheese on the top.