Beef Casserole

Time saver: rich and hearty, this casserole is perfect for winter.

Casseroles are great, you do all the work up front, then leave them to do their thing and come back to reap the benefits. This recipe can be embellished as much as you like (obvious changes are including button mushrooms, swapping beef for chicken, adding bacon…) but provides a good flavourful meal as is.

I served it with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans. A kumara mash would also be great, and most vegetables will go with it.

Beef casserole – serves 4

  • 600g rump steak (or blade/chuck steak but you’ll need to cook it for longer)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock (I use Campbell’s liquid stocks)
  • 1 cup red wine (I prefer strongly-flavoured ones, e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little cold water
  1. Heat oven to 200°C.
  2. Trim fat from meat, then cut the steak into smaller pieces (whatever size you like really).
  3. Dice the onion, cut the celery into crescents, peel/wash the carrots and cut into rounds.
  4. Add oil to a large saucepan, then heat on a hot element. Brown the steak in batches, and set aside.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the onion and celery to the same saucepan and cook till softened (3-5 mins).
  6. Put the steak back in the saucepan, and then add the tomatoes, wine, beef stock, herbs, sugar, salt, and black pepper to taste. Stir well, and bring to a simmer.
  7. Once the oven is hot, transfer the contents of the saucepan to a lidded casserole dish (I use a ceramic-coated, cast-iron “Dutch oven”) and place in the middle of the oven. Cook for 1 hour (or more, if using chuck/blade steak consider cooking for up to 2 hours).
  8. Prepare whatever else you’re going to serve it with. I would normally serve it with mashed potatoes (or a kumara and potato mash) and some sort of lightly-boiled/steamed green vegetable, e.g. green beans, brocolli etc.
  9. Just before it’s time to serve, remove the casserole from the oven. Dissolve 2 tsps cornflour in a little cold water and mix well, then add it to the casserole and stir it quickly through to thicken it. Replace the lid and leave it to sit for a couple of minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Time saver: Phil gets cold, busts out the soup.

Two bowls of spicy pumpkin soupIt’s been a few days between posts, but never fear – I haven’t stopped cooking. In fact I have a bit of a back log of recipes to write up, so hopefully my ambition is matched by motivation.

We’ve had some pretty bad weather over the last few days, and winter seems to have really set in. When it gets cold there’s nothing quite like a bowl of hot soup, so bust out the stock pot and let’s get cracking.

Just a quick note about the pumpkin. I’m really sorry, but I’ve never weighed it. If you think a large pumpkin is one that wins prizes at country fairs then you’ll probably want to go with half a small pumpkin. Also, if you’ve got the time and the inclination, you’ll get a richer flavoured soup if you roast the pumpkin first. If you’re short on time or just can’t be bothered, then don’t worry about it. Note that if you do roast it, the actual time to prepare the soup will be less. So you could roast the pumpkin the night before, and then make a fresh hot soup pretty quickly the next day. If that’s your thing.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup – serves 4-6

If roasting the pumpkin, heat oven to about 220°C-230°C. Put pumpkin chunks in a roasting dish, pour in a couple of Tbsp of oil (I used peanut oil for a bit of flavour, but olive oil or whatever you have handy is fine) and mix the pumpkin around to get it evenly coated. You can season it if you like, but you’ll need to adjust the soup seasoning accordingly. Roast for 15 minutes, then give the pumpkin a bit of a stir around, reduce heat to 200°C and roast for another 15 minutes.

  • ½ medium-large pumpkin, peeled and chopped into smallish chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced into crescents (if you don’t have celery handy, just use another onion)
  • 1 tsp or 2 cloves crushed/finely chopped garlic
  • 1 litre liquid chicken or vegetable stock (if you don’t have it you can use powdered stock, 1 tsp per 250 ml) + additional stock/water if required
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 Tbsp oil/butter
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • sour cream/unsweetened plain yoghurt/greek yoghurt
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Heat oil/butter in large stockpot over a medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, celery and garlic to pot and cook till clear (around 3-5 minutes).
  3. Add pumpkin, stock, cumin and spice and stir thoroughly.
  4. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the pumpkin is soft and cooked through. (If using roasted pumpkin, simmer for 5-10 minutes, if using raw pumpkin this takes around 30-60 minutes.)
  5. Blend soup till smooth, either by blending it in batches or (carefully) with a stick mix/hand held blender. If the soup is very thick you can add more stock or just add water.
  6. Season with ground black pepper and salt, to taste.
  7. Serve with toasted/warm bread. Add a generous dollop of sour cream/plain yoghurt to each bowl, and garnish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley.

Bowl of spicy pumpkin soup