Sunday, December 1, 2013

Red Wine and Chocolate Beef Stew

I decided to try something different with my stew and so I added chocolate!  Chocolate in savoury dishes seems to be the 'in' thing to do with cooking.  At first I thought that this was all a chefy gimmick and struggled to connect how this delicious sweet can enhance a savoury dish.  But at the same time this combination fascinated me.  I began to think more about this combination and remembered the Mexican mole sauce which too contains chocolate but somehow (when executed correctly) is the perfectly balanced savoury sauce.  

The key when using chocolate in savoury seems to be how it is balanced within the rest of the dish.  The chef of London's Bocca di Lupo and Gelupo, Jacob Kenedy, explains it perfectly "together with acid flavours, such as vinegar or tomato, or hot or aromatic spices, (chocolate) can be revelatory.  Too many sweet notes and it is as if someone has melted a Mars bar over your main course".  So with that, I present you with the recipe from my first attempt at using chocolate in a savoury dish.

So dear readers, what strange and wonderful sweet ingredients do you enjoy in your savoury meals? And have you ever tried using chocolate in a savoury dish?

Red Wine and Chocolate Beef Stew
- 1.5kg beef, in large chunks (I used oyster blade, but any secondary cut will work fine)
- 2 brown onions, sliced
- 2-3 sticks of celery, sliced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 10 shallots, peeled
- 250ml red wine
- 60ml red wine vinegar
- 1L good quality beef stock
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 generous handfuls of sultanas
- salt
- pepper
- 50g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 85% cocoa dark chocolate)
- 1-2 tbsp brown sugar
- parsley to serve

1.  Heat a large frying pan with a small amount of olive oil on high heat.  Add a small batches of the beef and brown.  Remove the beef and add to a large saucepan.   Continue until all the beef is browned.
2.  Reduce the heat to medium-high heat and brown the sliced onions.  Add the celery, carrot and garlic.  Fry for 5 minutes and add to the saucepan with the meat.
3.  Fry the shallots (whole) till golden brown, add to the beef saucepan.
4.  On high heat, add red wine and the vinegar and bring to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes (this step gets rid of the alcohol content in the wine which makes the sauce less piquant later on).  Add this to the beef saucepan
5.  Add to the saucepan the stock, cinnamon quill, nutmeg, thyme, bay leaves, sultanas, salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and reduce to a very low heat simmer with the lid on.  Simmer for 2.5-3 hours.
6.  Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave or over a double boiler.  Add a tablespoon of the cooking liquid and mix well.  Add another few more tablespoons of liquid and then add the chocolate to the stew.  Boil for another 30 minutes.
7.  Remove the thyme sprigs, bay leaves and cinnamon quill and discard.  Remove the beef and shallots and cover and put aside.  Use a Bamix to whiz up the sauce.  Add the brown sugar.  Boil the sauce on a high rolling boil to reduce it to approximately half.  Taste and adjust seasoning if required (it also may need a bit more vinegar or sugar depending on the stock that was used).
8.  Return the meat and shallots and cook for another 30 minutes (optional - this makes the sauce richer but if you are short for time, this step can be skipped).

9.  Serve on celeriac puree with parsley for garnish.  Enjoy :)