In recent months CB and I have had to draw up a Freezer Charter. With busy schedules and late nights at work, sometimes throwing a frostbitten tupperware into the microwave is all we can muster. Unfortunately, we’ve realised that not all meals were created equally when it comes to the defrost function and now we try our best to avoid dire freezer meal options at 8pm on a Wednesday night (what was I thinking, freezing turkey and wild rice casserole?! No thanks). Consider this meaty dish a panacea to the modern malady of freezer fail, and the first meal to receive accreditation from the FCA (Freezer Charter Authority).
The secret to this dish is to marinate the beef overnight – it takes about 10 minutes to prepare the spice rub and makes all the difference. I don’t mean marinate it for half an hour while you run out to the shops for a bottle of wine, or for a couple of hours before cooking dinner. I mean marinate it overnight. If you don’t have time to do it, make another dish. I’m doing this for your own good, and for the good of your future freezer meals.
Marinate this on a Saturday night before you go out, cook it on Sunday afternoon while you recover with some olive and lemon couscous (of Spicy Beef Meatballs fame) and then enjoy it on a future weekday evening, straight from the freezer. Adapted from Jamie Oliver.
Serves 4, very generously, 5 with better restraint
1.5 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp ras el hanout (you should find this at your local large supermarket or try searching online for a simple DIY version – you’re likely to have the ingredients to hand)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika (don’t worry about whether you have smoked or not – we’ve tried it both ways and it’s delicious)
600g diced stewing beef
1 portion of spice mix (see above)
1 onion, finely diced
1 x bunch coriander, leaves and stalks separated
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
1 x 400g tin of basic chopped tomatoes
800ml of vegetable stock
500g of diced butternut squash (2 inch cubes)
100g roughly chopped, deseeded prunes*
2 tbsp ground almonds
Serve with a hearty serving of my favourite olive and lemon couscous
- Marinate the beef in the spice rub overnight. Mix all the spices together in a large bowl, add the beef and coat it in the spices. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge.
- Heat a good glug of olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid or casserole dish (or tagine if you have one). Brown the beef for five minutes then add the onion and chopped coriander stalks and fry for another 5 minutes.
- Stir in chickpeas, tomatoes and half of the stock. Cover and cook on a low heat for 1.5 hours.
- Stir in the squash, the prunes and the rest of the stock. Cover again and cook for a further 1.5 hours over a low heat. Check on it now and again just in case it’s getting dry. For the last 25 minutes or so cook with the lid off to thicken the stew.
- When the time is up, taste and adjust for seasoning. Garnish with the fresh herbs just before you serve.
*NB: Dried prunes are fine for this recipe, but tinned prunes will also work (tinned in apple juice rather than syrup though). If using tinned prunes then add these about 20 minutes before the end, and don’t be tempted to add additional juice because the dish will become overly sweet.
Happy Fiesta Friday!