Spicy Beef & Lentil Stew

Once again inspiration strikes while staring into the pantry.  I had defrosted some stewing beef and was wondering what to do with it.  I enjoy cooking with stewing beef because although it takes a long time to get tender, it gives me the opportunity to add so much flavour during those long cooking times.  It was a small package of beef, so to increase the protein (and add some fibre), I added some small brown lentils to the pot.  The flavours of this stew were bright, spicy and delicious (and the leftovers were great for lunch today!).  I served the stew over garlic crostini - instead of my usual rice or potatoes.  A delicious one pot dinner for these chilly nights we've been having here in Eastern Ontario.  As a bonus, while the stew is simmering, it gives me time to get my (dreaded) exercise time in for the day.
Note:  Changing the quantities of lentils and beef will not adversely affect the 'Palatability Quotient' - yes, I just made that up!

Serves 2 
8 oz cubed lean stewing beef (about 1-1/2" chunks- any excess moisture removed with a paper towel)
1 onion, chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 cup stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup small brown dried lentils, rinsed
1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 whole habanero pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

- In a medium pot, heat olive oil (or vegetable oil) over medium high heat
- Brown the stewing beef in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot (this leads to boiling, rather than browning)
- Once all the meat has been browned, return all of it to the pot, then add the onion, cubanelle and green pepper, garlic and ginger
- Saute for about 3 minutes, until fragrant
- Add stewed tomato, dried lentils, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, marjoram, thyme, allspice, salt, pepper and whole habanero pepper, stir to combine and bring to a boil
- Reduce heat enough to maintain a low simmer
- Cover partially and cook for 90 minutes
- Check for doneness - the beef should be very tender (if not, return to a simmer for a further 20 minutes)
- Remove from the heat, remove the habanero pepper carefully (if it breaks it's OK, but you're going to have a spicier stew) taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste
- Stir in the sherry vinegar

Tomato Topping
1/2 c grape tomatoes, quartered
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon tomato vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (for the flavour)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Combine all ingredients and allow to marinate for about 20 minutes

Pea tendrils for garnish (wanted some green and have some live ones at home)
Garlic crostini (sliced stale baguette, lightly brushed with oil, toasted then rubbed with garlic)

To serve:
- Place the garlic crostini at the bottom, top with stew, then tomato topping, then pea tendrils.

This stew can be enjoyed on its own or with any other starch.

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