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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The pressure test: Beef and Guinness Stew

I'll never be a MasterChef.

I know this because not only am I quite positive I would draw a complete and utter mind blank when faced with a mystery box or invention test (in front of cameras, and the threat of a national TV audience no less!), but I also know I am terrible at plating. And food styling.

When I cook for guests, I'm usually more worried about whether the room is too hot or cold, if they have enough drinks, whether the background music is too loud, if there's something to nibble on, and if I'm going to manage to get everything ready for dinner all at the exact same time.

These are the thoughts running through my head as I test out the second pressure cooker, kindly provided by KitchenwareDirect, for a three-course dinner party for the entire family. For the first course, I'd made pressure cooker sweetcorn and basil soup. The second course would be beef and Guinness stew.

I'm testing the Fagor Duo Pressure Cooker for the main course. Priced at the low-to-mid price range, I'm quite impressed by its simple design and user-friendly features. A little groove on the lid provides an alignment reference point so the lid can be locked on with ease. The canary yellow switch on the handle is pressed as another locking precaution. As a relative newcomer to pressure cookers, I quite like the reassurance of having so many locking options.

The dial on the top acts as the third safety lock, moveable between low pressure (8psi), high pressure (15psi) and pressure release.

Whilst I've eaten plenty of pressure-cooked stews, casseroles and sides of corned beef, it's my first time cooking meat in a pressure cooker myself. I'm an instant convert. The meat is placed into lockdown, away from prying eyes, and when it's sung its song, the pressure is released, and one opens the lid to find beef that is tender, soft, relaxed and ready to fall-apart at the mere nudge of a fork.

The time saving is phenomenal. On a stove this dish takes three hours. In the pressure cooker it takes 45 minutes.

Serve to a hungry mob on a bed of mashed potato and a side of vegetables. Take a quick photo if you please but dig in quickly, and join in on the conversation.

Beef and Guinness stew
(adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe for Comforting Beef Casserole in Feasts)

2kg beef chuck steak, trimmed and cut into chunky dice
1/2 cup plain flour
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon dried sage leaves
2 teaspooons ground all spice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
6 large carrots, cut into thick diagonal slices
1 large orange, zested and juiced
500ml (2 cups) Guinness (or substitute with stout or dark ale)
125ml (1/2 cup) water
6 bay leaves

Combine the beef, flour, salt, pepper, sage and all spice in a large ziplock bag. Seal and gently shake until all the meat is coated evenly with the flour and spices.

Heat a generous splash of olive oil in the pressure cooker pot and fry the onions and carrots for about five minutes until they become glossy and start to soften. Leave the onions and carrots in the pot and remove from heat.

In a large non-stick frypan, heat some of the oil and fry the beef in small batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Remove the sealed meat to the pressure cooker.

Add the orange zest, orange juice, Guinness, water and bay leaves to the pot.

Close and lock lid. Select 2 (High Pressure) and place on high heat until pressure has been reached. Cook for 45 minutes. Use the quick release method to release pressure, remove lid and check on the beef. It should be tender, otherwise lock lid on again and cook at high pressure in short bursts until meat is ready.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a large heavy based saucepan or casserole pot. Add a further 1 1/2 cups of water and heat the pot until almost boiling. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook with lid on for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, checking on the liquid level and giving a gentle stir every now and then.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Pressure cooker recipe: Sweetcorn and basil soup
Pressure cooker recipe: Lemon cheesecake
14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 7/23/2009 02:41:00 am


  • At 7/23/2009 3:26 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    You and me both with the lack of food styling and plating skills!

    My plating skills have been described eloquently as "dumping with style".

  • At 7/23/2009 10:24 am, Anonymous Donina said…

    I have this pressure cooker :-) I love it!

    (No, I don't work for them)

  • At 7/23/2009 10:59 am, Anonymous Gourmantic said…

    Pressure cookers reminds me of my mother's cooking and a few spectacular disasters from releasing the pressure. Once she got a microwave, she never looked back. Admittedly, the food didn't have the same taste and texture.

  • At 7/23/2009 11:20 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    Pressure cookers were an essential kitchen item for our family in the 70's!!! My parents used them quite a lot. I love the beef and Guinness stew Helen!

  • At 7/23/2009 12:01 pm, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    It's like you've read my mind, a few weeks ago I was deciding if I should buy one and was debating the pros and cons with Jacky. I Even went as far as to buy a cook book for it (seems like there's only one around) and eventually decided against it as there wasnt enough recipes around.

    Now you have me itching to buy one again...

  • At 7/23/2009 12:21 pm, Blogger 2-minute Noodle Cook said…

    The pressure cooker sounds wonderful. I used Guinness once and found it made the dish very bitter. Now I go for the lighter Aussie Redback beer.

  • At 7/23/2009 1:01 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think I need one of these.
    I love beef and guinness stew. You should try Rick Stein's version of Beef and Guinness Pie. Has oysters in it which gives it a really lovely flavour.

  • At 7/23/2009 1:40 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    The stew looks so rich and delicious. Much better than when we tried to quickly cook it in the slow cooker.

  • At 7/23/2009 5:41 pm, Blogger Kruppy said…

    Agree with Veruca Salt. That stew looks so rich and delicious! I now know what I'm cooking my g/f when she comes for dinner tomorrow night (Shhh...Our secret!). Perfect for cold Melbourne Winters..

    Kruppy from Nuffnang :)

  • At 7/23/2009 6:34 pm, Anonymous James M said…

    That's one of the most delicious-looking food photos I've seen (and I've seen quite a few). The Gai Lan is a very nice regional touch.

  • At 7/23/2009 6:59 pm, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Yum, what a lovely and hearty looking dinner. This recipe, and the corn soup really make me wish I had a pressure cooker now! I will just have to try these the slow way :)

  • At 7/23/2009 7:26 pm, Anonymous Yas said…

    Hmm-hmmmmmm! It looks soo goooood! Up until quite recent, I didn't realize "Guinness" was actually beer Guinness hahaha.

    Come on, your dish looks very yummy! If I were ever on any cooking competition show, I'd probably be the one who trips and falls down with my dish right before the judges LOL

  • At 7/24/2009 12:13 am, Anonymous Howard said…

    Looks like this pressure cooker is quite handy! Love the stew as well, only a few weeks left in winter to really enjoy it in this cold weather!

  • At 7/24/2009 2:18 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Karen - lol. I prefer to call it the "organic peasant" look! I think being lazy and hungry has a lot to do with it too!

    Hi Donina - Ha, I love your disclaimer. My sister actually uses this brand and I was quite impressed with it. I like all the locking functions!

    Hi Gourmantic - I think the pressure cookers of today are a lot more reliable and less dangerous. I love my microwave for reheating and cooking veggies, but I'm still not so keen on cooking meat or baking in the microwave :)

    Hi Peter G - And the 70s are back in, baby! lol. I think there has been a bit of a revival with pressure cookers and given their time reduction factor, I think I'm converted.

    Hi Pickles - I found each pressure cooker came with its own mini recipe book and using their time recommendations, you can pretty much adapt any recipe that requires stewing, boiling or simmering. I think they're a great time-saver, and there are quite a few recipes online too.

    Hi 2-Minute Noodle Cook - Hmm I've never had a bitterness problem with Guinness - usually there's just a mushroomy base note? But substitute with whatever works, I say!

    Hi 12ontheinside - Mmm oysters sound tasty. Must look up the recipe - thanks for the tip!

    Hi Veruca Salt - lol. I don't know what we were thinking! The pressure cook is so fast and convenient.

    Hi Kruppy - Ooh lucky gf :) I'm sure she'll enjoy it!

    Hi James M - Aww thanks :) And I love my gai lan. Not quite Irish, but yeah, I like the sound of "regional touch". lol.

    Hi Stephcookie - The slow way works just as well :) And whenever I had a dinner party, I usually pick recipes I can prepare in advance. Much easier!

    Hi Yas - I didn't even think that some people wouldn't know what Guinness was!

    And lol, I bet Matt would love you. Put that chip crusted chicken in front of him and I can just imagine his eyes lighting up with glee! lol

    Hi Howard - It's great. I really must use it more often. I'm also quite intrigued by people talking of using pressure cookers to make red bean soup. There are actually lots of recipes I think you could adapt that would be perfect in spring/summer too.


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