This Beef Stew recipe comes from the wonderfully titled book, “The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened” by Sir Kenelm Digby and was written from the notes he took in the early 1600’s. This recipe has all the hall marks of what we ourselves would consider to be the very essence of a good, heart-warming stew … just without the slow cooked vegetables, however Digby has the good grace to allow us to season it how we like, (within the norms of the day). Sir Digby also makes the excellent suggestion of serving this Beef Stew on Sippets, (toasted bread) and this is exactly what we should do!
Note: A pipkin is an earthenware vessel for cooking with a lid, of French design; you can use an earthenware Tagine pot as a substitute (they are easy to purchase and are designed for slow cooking North African stews) and does exactly what Digby envisaged (but also a casserole dish works fine). Adding the anchovy is something great cooks do even today, it does not add a ‘fishy’ smell or taste, its saltiness actually enhances all the flavours of the beef, herbs and red wine.
Sir Digby’s Original Beef Stew Recipe 1669
TO STEW BEEF
Take good fat Beef, slice it very thin into small pieces, and beat it well with the back of a chopping Knife. Then put it into a Pipkin, and cover it with wine and water, and put unto it a handful of good Herbs, and an Onion, with an Anchoves. Let it boil two hours; A little before you take it up, put in a few Marygold-flowers; and so season it with what Spice you please, and serve them up both with sippets.
ANOTHER TO STEW BEEF
Take very good Beef, and slice it very thin; and beat it with the back of a Knife; Put it to the gravy of some meat, and some wine or strong broth, sweet-herbs a quantity, let it stew till it be very tender; season it to your liking; and varnish your dish with Marygold-flowers or Barberries.
Beef Stew On Sippets Recipe
- 1kg of Boneless topside of beef
- 4 tbs of plain flour
- 4 tbs of butter
- 500 ml of a good red wine
- 500ml of fresh Beef Stock
- 2 large onions sliced
- 1 anchovy
- 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
- salt to season
- 1 tbs of chopped parsley
- 1 tbs of chopped thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp of allspice
- 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
- A portion of Marigold flower petals from your garden (if possible)
Take the meat and beat it with the flat blade of a large meat knife until it is thin and tender – then cut up the meat into cubes. Roll the cubes around in the flour which has been seasoned with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then gently fry in the butter, adding in the onions after a minute, fry until they are all browned all over. Put the beef and onions into the base of a tagine pot, (or casserole dish) add the red wine, beef stock, herbs, spices, anchovy, salt and pepper and stir.
Put the base of the tagine (or casserole dish) onto the cookers ring, and bring everything to the boil on a high heat, while stirring. After two minutes reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, place the top of the tagine pot (or casserole lid) on and let it slow cook for 2 hours on the ring (or you can cook in the oven if you prefer, for two hours at 150C.
Twenty minutes before the end, taste and adjust the seasoning and spicing of the Beef Stew, then add in the marigold flower petals and stir. If it needs to be a little thicker, cook for the remaining time without the lid, if it is a little too thick add in a little water.
Make some fresh home-made Manchet Bread and cut a thick slice, toast it, butter it and place it on a plate and spoon over some of this wonderful Beef Stew.
MAKE AHEAD TIP:
This allows all the flavours to really develop and it is a great way of doing it. Make the beef stew, then transfer it to a non-metallic bowl to cool. Cover, and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, return the stew to the pan and add 75ml water. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally, and let it bubble very gently for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a bare minimum and simmer the stew, still stirring, for 15-20 minutes or until piping hot. Be prepared to add a little more water to thin it out as it reheats (if necessary).