eschalots

Nostalgia and casserole

Whenever I make beef casserole, the smell of it transports me into the past. I am once again eight or nine, sitting in my grandparents’ living room. My brother and I are playing Psyche-Paths in front of the woodstove while my grandmother cooks dinner and my grandfather watches whatever sporting match is on the television.

My grandfather is no longer with us and my grandmother no longer lives in that house, but I can still make a delicious beef casserole to warm me up on a cold day. (Seriously, Sydney, I thought this was meant to be spring…)

Beef Casserole with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

Casserole

250g gravy or chuck beef, trimmed of excess fat and cut into bite-sized pieces
Olive oil
2 large eschalots/shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot
½ head of cauliflower
2 bay leaves
2 t herbes de Provence and 1 t peppercorns, in a bouquet garni*
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef stock
optional - 1 t cornflour/cornstarch and 2T cold water

* to make bouquet garni, securely wrap herbs and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth or coffee filter. You can use a ball-type tea strainer too, but it’s a bit trickier - on most casserole pots, you don’t have anything to attach it to!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

2-3 potatoes of a good mashing variety (ask your greengrocer - I used Desiree potatoes)
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 T butter
¼ cup milk

1. Add a bit of olive oil to your pan and brown the beef on all sides, then remove to a plate.

2. Sautee the vegetables, starting with the eschalots and garlic, then adding the rest in.

3. Place the beef back into the pot and add the wine, stock, bay leaves and bouquet garni.

4. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. (If you have my stupid stove where one burner has a low setting of Freaking Hot and another has a high setting of Meh Kinda Warm, I recommend switching from the hot burner to the cool one.) Simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

5. Remove the cover and raise the heat so it continues to simmer.

6. Put the potatoes and garlic in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-20 minutes, or until the potato flesh can be easily pierced with a fork or the tip of a knife.

7. When the potatoes are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot (not over heat). Mash with butter and milk.

8. If the casserole is not thick enough, put the cornstarch in a small bowl. Slowly mix in water until smooth, then slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the casserole pot, stirring constantly until thickened.

9. Serve casserole over mashed potatoes.

Variations:

- Traditionally, a casserole like this would be made with celery, but the celery at the shop looked really sad and the cauliflower looked quite good! It fell apart a bit over the long cooking time, but I think it added a nice texture to the casserole. You could add it later if you want whole cauliflower bits in there.
- You could also add or substitute for other vegetables, such as mushrooms or tomatoes (canned or blanched and peeled). You can also use an onion in place of the eschalots.
- You can make the mashed potatoes dairy-free by using a vegetable spread or olive oil in place of the butter and a milk substitute or stock in place of the milk.
- You can use a different starch in place of the mashed potatoes, such as rice or quinoa.

Big salad for dinner tonight! Baby spinach, carrot, eschalots, cabbage, cucumber, alfalfa, pea sprouts, red kidney beans, chickpeas and a brown rice and quinoa mix topped with hummus!
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