First let me set the scene.
When: 1:23pm or 2:23pm or 5:23pm… any pick up really!
Where: Outside the school gates…..further away than you wanted to be as you got here late and missed the prime parking positions. Ok, ok so this means technically you are not outside the school gates but rather parked somewhere closer to Outer Mongolia. That’ll set you back a good 7-8 minutes and you know this is crucial as you have to be in Northern Siberia in 15 minutes….oh sorry did I say Northern Siberia? I meant gymnastics at the other side of town. Silly me.
Who: This is probably obvious. Me, you, any parent on a school run really.
What: A limp wrap. Probably tuna & sweetcorn or maybe you stuck with the old reliable ham, cheese & mayo today. Your only requirement was that it can be made in under 30 seconds, eaten on the run and won’t drip juice all over your car upholstery. (Like why you care about this anymore is beyond even you……you haven’t seen it’s real colour for about 5 years. Not since 2nd born puked on it and it went for a valet. You still think about that dress you could have bought with the money….yes the one that was definetely transform you into a higher echelon of your good self)
Why: Because you children need PA’s to organise them with a fleet of cars with drivers to ferry them to collect them from school and their extra curricular activities. But alas, this is a) all your own doing really & b) not something even the craziest of bank managers in the financial sector would bank roll so you find yourself sitting somewhere within 2 miles of the school inhaling a languishing tuna wrap between pick ups and drops offs for the foreseeable future.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
How: The dinner – that’s how. As you wipe your hands quickly on some wipes that you find stowed away in the buggy in the boot of the car (minor celebration on finding them) & rush to collect the precious passengers, you allow yourself to feel slightly smug. There is nothing quite as self-satisfying as knowing that you and your gang of rowdy young hooligans are going to arrive home to a warm healthy dinner. Literally waiting for you to dish it out!
Even more gratifying is knowing that it took you under 10 minutes to prep from start to finish. Hey, it’s ok on this occasion to show an excessive pride in oneself or one’s achievements. After all the slow cooker only finished it off for a few hours……your put in the hard slog…ahem!
Want to know how?
2 chopped Brown Onions
8 chopped Carrots – keep them chunky.
1kg Stewing Beef
4 tbsp plain flour
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp Tomato Puree
2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
700ml Beef Stock (I use a Knorr Rich Beef Stock pot and a regular Beef stock pot with 700ml water)
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Optional** Potatoes (waxy ones are best here so they don’t crumble in the slow cooker). I put 8 in (enough for one dinner for my family). I freeze the rest of the stew with no potato and serve with crusty bread or mash.
If you add these you may need to lift the lid on the cooker and make sure they are submerged after and hour or two.
Chop your onions and fry gently for 5-8 minute in olive oil on medium/low heat. Toss in your carrots for the last minute. Add to slow cooker.
Add your flour to you meat (I just put the flour, salt and pepper into the bag with the meat) and gently mix it around to coat all your meat in the flour. This is what wil thicken your sauce so it’s important.
Fry the meat in batches in your pan with olive oil. Remember you are not cooking it through – just browning the outside. This is for flavour. Add to slow cooker.
In a jug make up your stock and add your tomato puree, worcestershire sauce. You can add some of this to your pan after your remove the meat from it to grab all that flavour from the pan. This is called de-glazing.
Add all the liquid to your slow-cooker.
Add your herbs.
If using peel the potatoes and cut them in half. Add these to the slow-cooker too. Pop on your lid.
Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 hours.
*Remember juices will come from the meat also and will water down your stew. You need to factor this in when add liquid to slow cookers more so than when oven cooking a dish.
Do a little smug dance because you just know you want to. And because you know that you have enough for about 10 serving here…..depending on who’s eating it!
And with that you pick up the pace a little – after all Outer Mongolia to the school gates can be quite the walk!
Yours, feeling the love for all sorts of comfort food right now,
Photo’s by Brid O’Donovan.