There are so many great things about stew. You can use the very cheapest cuts of meat and a stew will thank you for it. If you unexpectedly have a few extra guests at your door, you can chuck some spuds in the pot, knock up a batch of dumplings for its top, you can stick a tin of beans in (kidney, cannellini, flageolet, whatever's in the cupboard or to hand), or you can even cover it with a pastry lid and suddenly it has been transformed into pie. With very little effort, your stew can start to resemble the magic porridge pot. Quantities aren't really important, cooking times can almost be as long as you like (just watch it doesn't boil dry) as stews only seem to become more delicious the longer they sit bubbling away. And, perhaps, most importantly of all, this most ancient of all dishes is comforting, enveloping your senses as you enter the kitchen, giving you a long, warm and welcoming hug. Mmmmm stew.
Mutton, mace, marrowfat pea and Maplemoon ale stew
I made far too much stew for mini portions for 8. This amount would easily feed 6 as a hearty main and will probably leave you with enough for seconds.
1 kg mutton, cubed and tossed in seasoned flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1/4 tsp ground mace
1 - 2 tins of marrowfat peas, drained
1 pint of lamb stock
2 bottles of Maplemoon ale
2 bay leaves
A bouquet garni
Salt and pepper
Simply fry the vegetables in oil in a large pot until soft, chuck in the mutton and brown it and top up with the stock and one bottle of ale. Add the bouquet garni and bay leaves, pop the lid on and leave to simmer for a couple of hours, stirring every now and then. Tip the remaining bottle of ale in the stew, season generously and leave to simmer for another hour. Add the marrowfat peas and mace and leave to thicken for another hour. The meat should be meltingly tender by this point. Check for seasoning, remove the bouquet garni and bay leaves and serve.