It’s one of those magical, misty mornings here in the south of England. A light fog gently dips over the trees and you really can’t see the sky for clouds. There’s a damp chill in the air and I find myself craving multiple cups of steaming hot tea. I know that my family will be looking forward to comfort food for dinner. And when it comes to comfort food, Beef and Ale Stew is a family favourite.
Beef and Ale Stew is a traditional British dish the whole family will love. Here in the UK, it’s one of those dishes that nearly everyone has a recipe for – often one that has been handed down from generation to generation.
One of the reasons Beef and Ale Stew is so popular – aside from the fact it tastes so good – is that the recipe calls for cheaper cuts of beef – chuck, braising or stewing steak. They become mouth-wateringly tender with long, slow cooking. You just can’t beat that frugal and delicious combination!
What Kind of Beer Should I Use?
British ales are very different to the lager beers often enjoyed in North America. They are usually lower in alcohol but generally the flavour is stronger. Generally served cool, but not cold, ales are an acquired taste – but once you get used to them, they are absolutely lovely.
You can buy imported British ales in North America but there are also some absolutely delicious local artisanal ales made in many places in the world now. Of course, you need to bear in mind that the flavour of the stew varies depending on the ale you choose. You can also use Stout, another strong, dark type of beer for this recipe.
I refer to this dish as family friendly knowing it contains alcohol. While it is no longer believed that alcohol completely burns off during cooking, this dish is cooked for so long it is likely that most of it disappears. Beef and Ale Stew is widely served to children here in the UK – indeed my son ate puréed Beef and Ale Stew as a baby. I realise this may be controversial depending on where you live, so if the alcohol content of the dish concerns you, do keep it for adults only.
Beef and Ale Stew Is A Make Ahead Marvel
Long, slow cooking mellows ale’s deeper flavours and makes Beef and Ale Stew a recipe the whole family will enjoy. If you are worried that these deeper flavours might not be to your taste, try my Beef and Beer Stew first. It’s a lighter, but still authentic, version of this yummy recipe that uses lager beers like Coors Light, Budweiser or Labbatt’s Blue.
A great make ahead meal, Beef and Ale Stew tastes even better re-heated. Cool quickly, keep in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours and the flavours will develop beautifully. Reheat the stew slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add a little bit of hot water or beef stock to the stew to loosen the sauce a bit if necessary.
Having said that, my Beef and Ale Stew smells so good when it’s cooking, I rarely get away with being able to cook this dish without letting people actually eat it. In fact, I often make a double batch so we can have some the first night and more a day or two later.
Beef and Ale Stew – One of the Ultimate Comfort Foods
Beef and Ale Stew is great for casual weekend entertaining as you can make it Friday afternoon, cool, cover and store in the fridge. Then simply reheat it thoroughly to serve for Saturday supper or Sunday dinner.
Beef and Ale Stew definitely qualifies as bowl food – the kind you eat with a spoon, sitting on the sofa on a cold evening. For a heartier meal you can share at the table, serve it with crusty bread on the side or with couscous, rice or mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. However you serve it, I’m sure you will find this little taste of British tradition is a real treat!
Beef and Ale Stew – Printable Recipe
- 2 tablespoons mild olive oil or butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 pound of chuck, braising or stewing steak, cut in cubes approximately 1 inch square
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 large carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise and chopped in chunks about 1 inch thick
- 1 cup (8 ounces) of your favourite ale
- 1 cup beef stock
- salt and pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- dried parsley for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C or 150°C for fan ovens).
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil or butter over medium heat in a large lidded casserole that will go from the stove to the oven (or use a large frying pan for the stove top part and then transfer the mixture to a casserole before putting it in the oven).
- Gently fry the onion in the oil or melted butter, stirring often. Sprinkle with a bit of salt to prevent it browning to quickly. You just want the onion to soften.
- Add the remaining oil or butter to the pan and when it has melted in, add the cubed pieces of meat. Brown the meat gently, turning it so that the red colour disappears on all sides.
- Lower the heat and sprinkle the meat and onions with the flour.
- Stir in the flour and cook for a moment or two.
- Stir in the ale, followed by ¾ cup of the beef stock. Reserve the remaining ¼ cup of beef stock.
- Cook for a moment or two.
- If you are using a frying pan transfer the mixture very carefully to an oven safe casserole now. Be careful not to burn yourself.
- Stir in the carrots, along with a good grinding of pepper.
- Tuck the bay leaf in under the liquid, cover the casserole and put it in the oven. Set the timer for half an hour.
- When the timer goes off, carefully remove the casserole from the oven.
- Remove the lid and stir. There should be a good amount of liquid in the pan at this point. If not, add some of the remaining stock.
- Cover the casserole and return it to the oven for an hour.
- Remove the casserole from the oven once again.
- Remove the bay leaf, being careful not to burn yourself.
- Take a spoonful of the gravy and place it in a little bowl to cool.
- Meanwhile, check the thickness of the gravy. If it has not thickened up, mix a tablespoon of cornflour (corn starch) with 1 tablespoon of water and then stir it into the casserole. If it is too thick (this is unlikely but it does happen sometimes), add the remaining stock.
- Taste the spoonful of gravy you set aside earlier, being careful as it still may be hot. Add salt and pepper to the casserole to taste.
- Cover the casserole and return it to the oven for about fifteen minutes or up to half an hour.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and allow it to rest with the lid on for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve the Beef and Ale Stew garnished with the parley.