I was cautious, but we were welcomed with expansive motions, and invited to share the Gypsies’ dinner. It smelt delicious – some sort of stew – and I eagerly accepted the invitation, ignoring Murtagh’s dour speculations as to the basic nature of the beast that had provided the stewmeat.
They spoke little English, and less Gaelic; we conversed largely in gestures, and a sort of bastard tongue that owed its parentage largely to French. It was warm and companionable in the caravan where we ate; men and women and children all ate casually from bowls, sitting wherever they could find space, dipping the succulent stew up with chunks of bread. It was the best food I had had in weeks, and I ate until my sides creaked. I could barely muster breath to sing, but did my best, humming along in the difficult spots, and leaving Murtagh to carry the tunes.
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander (Chapter 34 – Dougal’s Story)
Did I make it in time? I’m squeezing this stew in at the last minute — the day before summer solstice isn’t necessarily when you’d expect to see stew on the menu of a food blog — but I’m hoping you’ll work with me.
For one thing, it’s the perfect recipe to make from last week’s Vegetable Stock. For another, while it is succulent, rich and delicious, it’s not overly heavy. Eighteenth century Gypsies in Scotland wouldn’t have had potatoes, so instead, I filled this stew with leeks, root vegetables, kale and a bottle of stout.
Lastly, if the weather is hot, the last place you want to be is in the kitchen with the oven on. This stove-top dinner almost cooks itself and keeps you, and the house, cool as a cucumber.
The lack of potatoes means that this stew needs some help in the thickening department. Flouring the beef at the beginning does half the job, and finishing it with a beurre manié (French for “kneaded butter”) gives it a shiny gloss and enough body to coat the sides of the bowl while you grab one more roll to soak up all that gravy.
A beurre manié, while similar to a roux, is not the same. A roux is an equal amount of butter and flour cooked together on the stovetop. A beurre manié is an equal amount of butter and flour mixed together and left uncooked.
Whichever you’re using, always remember this simple rule to ensure lump-free thickening: Add a hot roux/beurre manière to cold liquid, or a cold roux/beurre manié to hot liquid.
Did you get that? Works every time.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
Beef stew made with stout and a fine collection of traditional Scottish vegetables.
Yield: serves 6-8, with leftovers
- Stew Beef, cubed – 2 pounds
- All-Purpose Flour – ¼ Cup
- Salt – 1½ tsp
- Pepper – ½ tsp
- Cayenne – ¼ tsp
- Vegetable Oil – 3 Tble
- Leeks, white & light green only, rinsed & chopped – 3 medium
- Garlic, minced – 4 large cloves
- Stout or other dark beer – 12 oz bottle
- Carrots, peeled & chopped – 3 medium
- Kale, stems removed & chopped – 1 bunch
- Turnip, peeled and chopped – 1 small
- Rutabaga (yellow turnip), peeled and chopped – ½ small
- Thyme – 2 sprigs
- Rosemary – 2 sprigs
- Bay Leaf – 2
- Stock or water – 4 to 6 Cups (Chicken stock recipe, Vegetable stock recipe)
- Butter – 2 Tble
- Flour – 2 Tble
Pat the beef dry with paper towelling. Mix the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne together on a large plate. Toss the beef lightly in the flour so that it is lightly dusted on all sides.
Heat the oil in a stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the beef cubes in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan and the beef gets a good crust on all sides.
When the last batch of beef has been browned and removed from the pot, add the leeks, garlic and stout. Scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon, and boil for 5 minutes.
Add the vegetables, herbs and stock/water to cover to the pot, stir, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 2½ to 3 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
Just before serving, mix together the butter and flour for the beurre manière and whisk into the hot stew. Cook for another 5 minutes, until slightly thickened and glossy.
To Serve: Season with salt & pepper and serve with warm bread or buns.
To Store: Keep leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Freeze up to 1 month.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- Stews (and most savoury dishes) are always better the next day. Make this a day before serving, and thicken with the beurre manière just before serving.
- The most famous example of a stout is Guinness. I used a local stout with an alcohol content of about 7%. If you don’t cook with alcohol, replace the stout with stock (preferably beef or chicken).
- This stew has a lot more meat in it than it’s 18th C counterpart — stretch it further by increasing the amount of vegetables, or by adding some barley to the pot. You will need more stock/water as well.
- I didn’t add potatoes to this stew, as the Gypsies wouldn’t have had them…but this is your stew, so add them if you wish. Wild or button mushrooms would be a delicious addition too.
- I use the term Gypsy here to stay true to the Outlander story. I understand that there are more contemporary names for the Romani people, depending upon their geographic location.