Slow cooked beef with carrots and borlotti beans

I received my blue Chasseur cast iron pot as a wedding gift from my mother and father. It is such a bright blue, almost like the sky on a spring day – a timeless, heavy and beautiful object that I will still be using in 20 years. I use it a lot – to make veal ragu and other slow cooked meats on the stove top and to make no-knead bread in the oven. Lately I have also started using it to make slow-cooked meats in the oven.

This recipe was a bit of an experiment, based on a dish I had eaten at the Agrarian Kitchen in Tasmania a few weeks back. The pot had just sat in the warm oven for hours whilst we were participating in a class. No one seemed to have to do anything to it once it was in the oven. It seemed so simple and obvious, allowing the meat to stew slowly with vegetables as a lovely rich sauce develops. In this dish I add borlotti beans and baby carrots to the beef, as well as red wine and tomatoes. After around thirty minutes of preparation it goes into the oven for around three hours (depending on your cut of beef). I made it with beef shoulder and turned it off after three hours and let it sit in the oven, even overnight as it continues to cook as the oven cools down. The beef becomes tender and almost melts in your mouth. I have served the dish with polenta, or mashed potatoes or hand cut pasta as you will see from the photos. You can choose whichever you like. I have yet to try it but I am sure it would be fantastic with potato gnocchi. It is a lovely warming meal for autumn, winter or spring. I like to serve it with a glass of Pizzini Sangiovese.

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Slow cooked beef with baby carrots and borlotti beans

750g beef shoulder or chuck steak, diced
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine
1 bunch baby carrots
1 and 1/2 cups freshly podded borlotti beans (or 1 cup dried soaked in water overnight)
1 tin peeled tomatoes
1 or 2 tablespoons good quality tomato paste
1 long red chilli
1 bay leaf
10 black pepper corns
salt to taste
fresh parsley, leaves picked

You will need a heavy cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid for this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Toss the diced beef in the flour. Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large frypan at high heat and cook the beef (in batches if need) for 4- 5 minutes, until browned on all sides. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the frypan with the red wine and set aside.

Place your heavy pot on the stove. Add the rest of the oil and cook the onion on low heat for about 10 minutes – don’t allow it to brown. Then add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the borlotti beans (drained if dried one were used) and the topped and tailed carrots. After a few minutes, when these are warmed through, add the beef, red wine, tinned tomatoes (breaking them up if whole with a wooden spoon), tomato paste to taste, chilli, bay leaf, peppercorns and one teaspoon of salt. If you used dried borlotti beans, they may absorb some of the liquid in your dish so add 1/2 – 1 cup of boiling water to the pot. Bring to a simmer then fit the lid and place in the oven.

Cook at 160C (320F) for one hour, then carefully remove the pot from the oven, give the contents a good stir and add more boiling water if it is looking a bit dry. Reduce the heat to 140C (285F), replace the lid and put the pot back in the oven for another hour. At this point remove the pot from the oven, give the contents a good stir and taste the beef. Depending on how tender it is, cook for another 30 minutes to one hour at 120C (250F). Remove from the oven and again taste it, adjusting for the salt. If the meat is done to your liking, keep it out of the oven, covered until ready to serve. If it is not done to your liking, cook a bit longer or put it back in the oven, covered and turn the oven off. Discard the bay leaf and whole chilli before serving and scatter on chopped fresh parsley leaves. Serve with creamy polenta, mash potatoes, potato gnocchi, pasta or crusty bread.

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