There’s a lot you can do with cubes of stewing steak – goulash soup, beef & Guinness pie, brown Windsor soup, curries, meat pasties, chilli con carne… you name it! I like to buy a kilo at a time and do two or three different dishes with it – that way we get some ready meals for the freezer as well as the night’s dinner.
BUT be warned – if you don’t prepare your meat properly it’s very easy to end up with tough, leathery, stringy, tasteless grey lumps.
First, you should seal the meat by frying it in very hot oil. This process browns the meat – giving it great flavour as well as colour! – and it starts to make its own tasty gravy too. After you’ve sealed it, you can proceed to make your stew or pie filling. If you chuck it all in, meat and liquid together at once, it’ll boil and you’ll get those grey, tasteless, and stringy lumps of meat I was talking about. And it’s not even as if the flavour goes into the liquid instead – that’ll just taste watery, like an over-diluted beef stock cube.
Anyway, once the steak cubes have been browned off (just like the ones in this picture on the left) you can add the liquid and other ingredients and then slow-cook the whole thing. Either you can simmer it for a couple of hours on a low heat, or if you’re in a rush you can stick it in a pressure cooker. The quality of the beef round where we live isn’t so great, so I’d generally pressure-cook a kilo for about 40 minutes.
That’s just the basic technique. Some recipes call for the meat to be browned together with other flavourings. So for instance Jamie Oliver calls for Marmite and Worcestershire sauce to be added while the meat’s browning when making his brown Windsor soup recipe. Or if you were making a curry you’d probably want to cook off the spices in the pot first, then add the meat to brown in the spices – yum!
Cooking is an art not a science so, as long as you follow some basic techniques correctly to avoid spoiling the food, you can have fun experimenting with your own ideas according to your own taste.