food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

This past week has been an especially food-centric one. Not one in which I cooked a heck of a lot, but we certainly ate well. You see, my younger sis was in town. Not that a visit from her would stop me from cooking – far from it – but as her visit was fleeting, we made the most of her time in my anything-but-boring adopted city. We were out every day, and I enjoyed seeing her appreciation of the beauty and excitement that is Edinburgh at this time of year. From the brightly painted storefronts in individual, boutiquey Stockbridge (Galeries Mirage is my favourite shop) to the grand Georgian splendour of George Street (the Dome is looking particularly stunning), we covered a fair bit on her short visit. Courtesy of Mr A, we even had afternoon tea and a massage – at the posh yet faintly spooky Hotel du Vin and award-winning Zen Lifestyle, respectively. Although the weather was rather chilly and windy, instead of complaining she just wore all of my warm clothes. At once. I even temporarily convinced her that my ‘Russian’ fake fur hat was fashionable. {Julie, I have deleted the photos. Promise}

Without a shadow of a doubt our best meal was lunch at my favourite restaurant, the Wee Restaurant. Tucked underneath the world-famous imposing steel-built Forth Railway Bridge this, as the name implies, tiny eatery in North Queensferry serves impeccably prepared and presented Scottish-sourced food. Even on an especially blustery and showery Thursday the restaurant was completely booked with well-dressed folk sighing and mmming their collective way through the short menu. While perusing it we had complimentary freshly baked bread with salted butter and homemade black olive tapenade. I think we might have been quite satisfied with the bread but I had plump Shetland mussels in a parmesan cream sauce with basil, bacon lardons and pinenuts to start, followed by pork collar on pomme puree (which is not just a fancy way of saying mashed potato), with shaved, marinated fennel and a gorgeous sauce whose name I can’t recall. The perfect cylinder of slow-cooked meat fell away to shreds with the merest push of the fork. Sublime no-knife food for cutlery-phobic Americans! Sis had the smoothest mushroom and tarragon soup I have ever tasted, flecked with blackest truffle oil – very woodsy and creamy, followed by the pork. For afters I choose the cheese board and Julie had the pear and frangipane tart – light buttery crust barely holding in the soft, yielding pears and almondy frangipane. The professional and personable manager/waiter Jim, and a glass each of Picpoul de Pinet helped make it a memorable meal. It was hard to leave. Even harder to contemplate ever eating again.

Although others prepared our main meals for much of the week, during her visit I did manage to make fish pie, Thanksgiving stuff (partially courtesy of M&S, but did my own sweet potato souffle, sprouts with chestnuts and pancetta, as well as my own cranberry relish and gravy), Miss R’s perfect scrambled eggs, minestrone (a fall version), homemade spelt bread (coming soon) and the titled recipe. This got the most raves from sis, and the family. Being a vaguely organised sort I made it in advance so that all we had to do was reheat it on arrival day. Good idea in theory but my family had to endure the intoxicating aroma as it cooked, and the warning screeches and pre-emptive hand slaps from me as it cooled. I hope you don’t have such trials if you make this recipe, but I feel it only fair to warn you.

Beef and Winter Vegetable Casserole with Orange and Star Anise

This is my slightly Asian version of a casserole that is served at the ever-inspiring Scottish Gallery of Modern Art Café. I don’t often go out to lunch but when I do I like to go here with friends, where our laughter blends in with the constant background clatter and chatter of this busy spot. On a recent visit I ordered soup and a bread roll, but belatedly spied – and smelled – this dish on the hotplate. Although I loved my soup (cauliflower with caraway and fennel, if you are curious) I wished I had chosen this. Instead, I asked the server what the basic ingredients were and silently vowed to make my own version asap. It smelled of Christmas, slow cooking and hearty comfort, and must’ve driven the culture vultures on the upper floors mad with desire.

I hope you like my interpretation of that day’s olfactory sensation. I have cut down the meat and added more vegetables per serving to give more fibre, more nutrients and less saturated fat, but it smells just as it did in the café. Delicious. Naturally, as is the case with stews, this will taste even better the next day. ☺

1-4 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch spring onions/scallions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or grated
3 carrots, sliced diagonally
½ small celeriac (about 300g), peeled and diced
10 grams gingerroot, peeled and grated
4 whole star anise
400 grams best casserole steak (organic if possible), about 3 cm pieces
1 heaped tbsp. flour (optional – for thickening)
3 strips of orange peel
100 ml dry sherry or Shaoxing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
900 ml beef stock (I used Kallo organic cubes)
300 ml orange juice
60 ml kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce) OR 50 ml dark soy sauce with 1 heaped tbsp. dark brown sugar
200 grams chestnut or shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Preheat oven to 150 C/350 F. 

For the beef, you can either brown the meat or not, hence the wide range of oil measurements. To keep the calories down, use 1 tablespoon of oil to sauté the vegetables, star anise, garlic and gingerroot in a flameproof casserole pan, until the onion is soft, then add the beef. If you need more calories, brown the beef in two batches, remove, and then add the last of the oil and sauté the vegetables, star anise, garlic and gingerroot. You may not need all of the oil, it kind of depends on how ‘seasoned’ your pan is. 

Now stir in the flour, if using, before adding in everything but the mushrooms. Bring to a simmer and then cover and cook in the oven for 1 and ½ hours. Add in the mushrooms, stir well, and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes. If at any point it looks a bit dry for you, give it a stir and add a little more stock.   Have with steamed or boiled basmati rice to keep the Asian feel, or with mashed potatoes, mashed celeriac or even noodles. Serves 4-6

Shortcut: Use frozen winter vegetable pack (which will probably have parsnips and some kind of squash too); frozen or prepared onion, garlic and or ginger. Super speedy prep and still very nutritious too. 

11 thoughts on “Beef and Winter Vegetable Casserole with Orange and Star Anise

  1. julietfitz says:

    This stew was so delish! I (with the chanting of Miss R and Mr. A to back me up) convinced Kellie to make puff pastry to dip and savor the lovely juices in our bowls. Mmmmmmm – I’m making it this weekend for our awesome dad.
    I had so much fun and am already missing everyone. hugs and mucho kisses. Miss J

    1. Thank you my lovely! What wonderful praise – and thanks for the reminder about the puff pastry 😀 For anyone reading this I just cut ready rolled puff into rectangles, slicked with milk and baked until golden. Very good dipper! Julie, I hope you enjoy making it for Dad as much as I did making it for you.

  2. jamie says:

    Hi Kellie, this sounds & looks lovely

    1. Thanks Jamie. I hope you give it a try. I know we’ll have the weather for it for months to come 😀

  3. Ann says:

    This dish looks so colourful, just the thing to cheer up a bleak November/ December day. I bet it tastes as good as it looks. can’t wait to try it.

    1. It would be a perfect no-fuss meal for friends, of which you have many! Julie recommends it with individual puff pastry tops.

  4. Shaheen says:

    I make a lot of veggie based stews, but have never tried it with orange or star anise. I am liking the sound of the additions, so will have to give it a go.

    1. I do hope you try it. I know it sounds kind of odd but once you start smelling this wafting from your oven, you’ll know it is a good combination. Do save some for leftovers as they are even better the next day. Thanks for commenting 😀

  5. Love the Asian twist on this casserole! I’ve never cooked with Star Anise before, but this recipe is going on my list to try! Sounds like you had a fabulous time with your sister 🙂

  6. Faith says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful visit with your sister! I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland…hopefully one day. 🙂 This stew is unique and truly lovely…I can imagine how enticing its aroma is with the spices and orange!

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