Thursday, January 15, 2009

Beef and parsnip casserole

Last year I subscribed to an organic veg box scheme and really enjoyed the weekly seasonal produce delivered to my door by the friendly Abel and Cole driver. I enjoyed the challenge of creating new dishes each week to make use of the lovely produce. I loved the fact that I could tell them that I didn't like fennel and to be sure to leave it out of my box always. I liked the fact that if I had lots of leftover oranges, I could say 'don't bring me any oranges this week'. I liked the fact that I could top my box up with 'favourite' items and more unusual vegetables.

Towards the end of the year I stopped my weekly deliveries. It was a sad day but there were good reasons for it. I live on my own and my movements are unpredictable. One week I'll be here all week, the next I'll be travelling for work and the next I'll think that I'm going to be in but then I'll end up meeting friends for dinner/going out/having people round. The problem was that I simply couldn't get through all the fruit and veg, especially when I was away. Even with the smallest box, there was too much waste and I didn't always have the time to do something productive with the waste. So, reluctantly, I gave up on the box scheme.

Imagine my delight when I was contacted to ask if I'd like to receive a fruit and veg box from Abel and Cole. I scheduled it for a week when I knew I'd be in most nights and was excited when I opened it last Friday to see what was within. I got a good mix of great looking produce: white onions, carrots, parsnips, white cabbage, apples, oranges, bananas, potatoes, cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. A good and useful haul of staples.

I've used most of the contents in general cooking over the week but on Monday, I realised that the parsnips needed using up. Usually, I roast parsnips and serve them alongside a Sunday roast but on this occasion I decided to incorporate them into a casserole to take to work for lunches this week. It is so good to have hot food for lunch at work at this time of year and we all know that casserole improves with time. The parsnips added much to this very simple casserole - the flavour seeped agreeably through the stew and was deeply comforting. It really was very delicious and used three of my veg box ingredients: onions, carrots and parsnips!

It was also a great excuse to use the gorgeous heart-shaped Le Creuset baking dish that I received for Christmas from my work colleagues. Thank you!!

I've been quite vague about quantities - I didn't weigh the veg and just used what I had to hand. I've said the recipe serves four - it could probably go a little further if you had lots of sides. I was having it for lunch at work on its own so probably ate more than I would with potatoes and veg alongside.

Coming next: banana flapjacks!

Beef and parsnip casserole
Serves four


700g cubed beef steak, suitable for stewing
3 tbsp plain flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tablespoon soft dark sugar
3 large parsnips (or 5 small ones!)
3 carrots
4 shallots or 2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
1 large glass good red wine (not week-old dregs)
300ml beef stock
a few glugs of dark soy sauce
bay leaf
bouquet garni

1. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Sprinkle the flour, sugar and ginger over the meat and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat in batches in a olive oil. After each batch, remove with slotted spoon and set to one side.

2. Peel carrots and parsnips and chop into rough chunks. Chop shallots or onions into rough chunks too. Heat a little more olive oil in the casserole and add the onions - soften for 3-4 minutes and then add garlic, carrots and parsnips. Continue to sauté until the parsnips and carrots have started to colour.

3. Return meat to the casserole. Turn up heat and pour in the wine - sizzle and bubble for a couple of minutes, then add soy sauce, bay leaf and herbs. Pour stock over the top until meat is just covered (you may not need it all or you may need a touch more). Pop in the oven for around two hours - check every now and again and give a little stir. Add more stock if it is drying out.

4. Serve with jacket potatoes or mash and a green vegetable. Alternatively, pack into plastic containers and take to work for lunch with a crusty roll.


Loving Annie said...

The baking dish is beautiful, and you made good use of the veggie box you received, Antonia !

I will be in London in 80 days... Perhaps would you like to join me for afternoon tea one day in Mayfair ?

My e-mail address is :

And oh, I'd love some banana flapjacks ! Looking forward to that post :)

Anonymous said...

What a lovely gift from your colleagues!

When I've used parsnips in casseroles before I've always found it too sweet, I see you use ginger and soy sauce in this dish though which I think would probably balance the sweetness wouldn't it? I hadn't thought of that.

Sylvie said...

What a great veg box and such a lovely christmass gift from your colleagues. Lucky you!

Katiecakes said...

I'm super jealous of your casserole dish, it's beautiful!

Bravo on an inventive use of parsnips. I can't abide them so usually push them to the side of the plate, but I'd actually be up for trying them in your dish :)

Katie xo

Antonia said...

Ginger - I know. I was VERY spoiled. It definitely did have sweetness from the parsnips which I quite liked but you might well find a bit much. I added the soy to counteract and balance, as you mention and for me the flavour was just right.

Sylvie - I was very lucky indeed!

Katie - I used to hate parsnips (and all veg that was 'sweet') but really came round a few years ago. Now I love them!

Jules said...

I love the dish. The casserole also looks delicious.

Peter M said...

Antonia, I like parsnips...under-rated really. I'm really liking your heart-shaped casserole though.

Nothing says Happy Valentine's like a pot of stew!

Scott at Real Epicurean said...

I love casseroles this time of year. Looks delicious.

Maria said...

What a gorgeous gift!

Antonia, is this Beef and Parsnip casserole from Jo Pratt? I have made this casserole and it was simply gorgeous.


Antonia said...

Jules - thank you. I was really tasty - I've not added parsnips to a beef casserole before but was pleased with the result.

Peter - I love them too. Expecially roasted alongside a good joint of beef. Or as a soup.

Scott - Me too - they are just what I crave.

Maria - no it isn't from Jo Pratt actually. I don't have her book but hear it is very good - have you cooked much from it? I should look out for it. I just made this up as I went along!