Favourite Beef Stew

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Favourite Beef Stew

Every now and then I get a craving for a good solidly satisfying beef stew. I have warm memories of Mom standing over a kettle of simmering beef or meatball stew, stirring and lifting it to her nose to check the aroma. And it made the best school lunch ever! A thermos full of that steaming aromatic goodness was sure to get you the win in the noontime hockey game. Oh, man. Those were the days of simple pleasures.

But of course, moms didn’t use recipes for simple things like beef stew back then. Ages ago, I got a set of five cooking magazines somewhere. I don’t remember where or how they materialized in my house, but they’ve been a fixture here for most of my married years. One of the series was titled International Menus. It was my most-used book in the set. In the French section I discovered a recipe for Beef Stew Francoise that I have made many times since then. The page the recipe is on has those funny ripples and creases with the odd dried-on splash that are the earmarks of a trusty recipe. It uses fancy phrases like bouquet garni and ragoût de boeuf.

I have discovered the key to a great stew is to sear the meat on high until it is nicely browned, then cook it long and slow until it is mouth-wateringly tender. With this process you don’t need to add things like beef bouillon because all that browning makes a real tasty broth on its own. I have used my personal garden favourites, however you can add whatever vegetables you like. While it’s simmering, you can settle in and read a book or play a game of Dominoes like we did. Perfection.

So, without further ado, let’s get to the recipe!

Favourite Beef Stew

Favourite Beef Stew


3 – 4 lbs. stewing beef

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning, if desired

3 tablespoons oil

5 cups water

2 short celery stalks with leaves

4 sprigs parsley

1 dried bay leaf

1 large onion, cut in 1″ chunks

4 – 6 whole cloves (These can be omitted, if desired. We like them.)

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh

8 small whole potatoes or 4 medium, quartered

3 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 2″ pieces

3 medium parsnips, cut diagonally into 2″ pieces

4 celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2″ pieces

1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, quartered, if desired

1 10 oz. package frozen peas or French beans

1 teaspoon salt

*flour for thickening (use a gluten-free flour to make this G-Free)


Heat oil in a heavy Dutch oven or large kettle. Add beef cubes, first amount of salt and pepper. Cook uncovered on high heat until the meat starts to get a nice brown sear on all sides. Stir frequently. At this point, you can transfer everything over to a large slow cooker if you wish and continue the next steps. Add the water, cover, and turn heat down to medium-low. Simmer for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare all your vegetables. For the bouquet garni, tie the celery with leaves, all the herbs, and the cloves into a bundle or a cheesecloth package. After meat is staring to tenderize, add the vegetables (except peas or beans), second amount of salt, and herbs to the pot. Cover again and cook slowly for another hour or two, until everything is tender. Half an hour before serving, add the peas or beans, then mix 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup water for thickening. Stir it into the simmering stew until it reaches your desired thickness. Serve with crusty fresh bread or biscuits.

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