Simple beef stew

by Jenny Chandler

A child-friendly recipe from chef and mum Jenny Chandler

This recipe is ideal for learning basic cooking skills—it’s all about simple vegetable preparation and then taking the time and care to brown off the meat properly to gain glorious flavour and colour. The rest of the cooking is just about throwing it all in the pot and then being patient while the gentle heat works its wonders.

When browning it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves as the pan can spit a little. The skill is learning to leave the meat alone for at least 1 min before testing to see if it is caramelised enough to turn over. Wooden tongs are ideal as they do not get too hot.

For more tips on teaching children to be safe and confident with heat, have a look at Jenny’s blog


800g stewing steak (such as chuck), cut into large chunks
2 tbsp rapeseed or other vegetable oil
25g butter
2 onions, diced
1 stick celery, diced
3-4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1-2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf, some thyme and rosemary or one of my favourite Catalan dried bundles of bay and herbs)
2 tbsp tomato purée
300ml red wine, dark beer or rich beef stock
200-300ml beef stock
1 x 400g tin of butter beans
Worcestershire sauce


Preheat the oven to 160C.

Season the meat with a good pinch of salt and pepper and heat up a wide based, heavy pan on the hob (ideally a cast iron casserole that can go in the oven too). Add 1 tbsp of the oil. Once it’s hot, it’s time to add a few pieces of meat. It should sizzle as it goes in. Make sure that there is plenty of room around the meat, otherwise it gets very steamy and doesn’t allow the meat to brown.

Keep the pan over a medium-high heat and count to 60 before you even try to turn the meat over using some long tongs. If the meat is sticking to the pan, it is telling you to wait for a little longer before it gets deliciously crusty and browned.

Turn the meat and brown on the other side. Once the meat is beautifully seared on all sides, set it aside in a bowl and begin with a new batch, using more oil if necessary. You will probably have to brown your meat in 3-4 batches with this quantity of meat.

Once you have finished with the meat and set it all aside, turn down the heat and add the butter to the pan along with the onions, celery, carrots and parsnip and cook gently for about 5 mins. Add the potato, garlic and herbs and stir to coat in the oil.

Now it’s time to add back the meat to the pan along with the tomato purée, wine or beer and enough stock just to cover the meat and veg. Bring the pan up to the boil, remove from the hob, cover with a well-fitting lid and place in the oven.

After 3 hours, you can add the butter beans (they only really need to heat through but will hold up to the gentle cooking in any case) and test if the meat is ready; you may need to cook the stew for another hour for the meat to be beautifully tender.

Check the seasoning now and add a splash of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper if it seems a little lacking in depth. If the stew is ready, you can hold it at 110C until you want to eat or allow it to cool and reheat later.

If you like the sauce a little thicker, you can mash up some of the potato and butterbeans with the back of a fork and add it back to the stew.

Serve with some greens and good bread for soaking up the juices.

Recipe: Jenny Chandler