Beef, Stout and Swede Stew


How’s your winter going? Do you love it as much as I do? (insert sarcastic face here). If you’re in need of a hug-from-the-inside, warming braise, that happens to be dairy free, make your house smell like a ski chalet, puts to use those rogue swedes you saw at the market and can also be multi-tasked as a pie filling the next day, then this Beef, Swede and Stout stew might be just what you’re looking for. If you’re very busy and important, skip straight to the matching photo at the bottom for the recipe. If you have some time to kill, read on. 

Here are some things about winter that blow. Getting out of the shower and standing on freezing tiles. Blisteringly cold floorboards in the kitchen at 5 am (thanks kids. I really appreciate the early rising WHILE IT IS STILL PITCH BLACK OUTSIDE FOR HOURS). Getting your sleeve of your long tshirt stuck up by your elbow while you put on a jumper. Having this happen to a 4 year old and listening to their tirade of frustration. Trying to keep shoes and socks on an 18 month old, whose favourite thing do do is strip them off herself- and others. And then have well meaning biddies at the shops talk to her as though you were invisible and say ‘Why hasn’t mummy put any socks on you? It’s cold isn’t it!’. Also; wet hair at night. Dry quicks of your nails. Colds. Coughs. Croup. CROUP. Asthma. Emptying out humidifiers. Scrubbing mould caused by humidifiers. Queues at the medical centre. Spending all of your weeks at the medical centre. 

Here are some good things. Flannel sheets (get them). Red wine. Porridge (if you’re in need of some ideas of how to primp yours, there was this excellent piece I did for Harris Farm last year. The salted date caramel is worth keeping on hand for many, many reasons). Crumbles and proper puddings. Soup-for-lunch. The sight of small children in hats that cover their ears. Also; winter gives you an excuse to run away. Which we did. To Canggu in Bali, which is why this piece is so long in the coming.

It was hard to come home. Which is why this braise was born. It puts to use the dark beers that The Hungry One is so keen on in the colder months (a Guinness would be classic, but any dark ale is novel). It also leans on a swede instead of a parsnip/sweet potato or potato to help bulk it out. Swedes have a mild anise flavour, a kindly texture when slow cooked and are quite often, cheap as chips.

Make this braise on a Sunday afternoon. Put on ‘The Big Chill’ soundtrack and open a bottle of red wine. Start reading a book or play lego with the children for as long as your and their patience allows. Check on it as often as you would a fledgling fire, or a four year old left to their own devices with a friend in their bedroom. Then eat it with mashed white beans, cauliflower, buttered noodles, or mashed potato. 

And wait impatiently for summer.  

Here are a few other things that are going on. 

Loving: Canggu, in Bali. You know it’s a great holiday when you spend a decent chunk of it hypothesising about how you can quit your life, move there and open up a coffee roastery/ boutique brewery with some IT services and a yoga studio attached (insert self mocking eye rolling emoji here). But seriously, Canggu in Bali ticks every single box for a holiday for me. Villas to rent, so you don’t have to share a bedroom with your children? Great. Villas with swimming pools (where you can hire a pool fence for the week), so you don’t have to pack up like you’re going to war every morning when you go to the breakfast buffet, because the kids are going to want to swim straight afterwards, so you need changes of clothes, towels, pool toys, dry nappies, swimming nappies, snacks etc etc? Amazing hipster food (flat whites, green smoothies, smoothie bowls, raw bowls, sushi, pork ribs, smashed avo on gluten free toast with poached eggs etc etc etc) at 30 or so cafes within walking/ jogging distance at prices so cheap they will make you ashamed of how the global economy works? (Our favourites were Two Trees, Milk and Madu, Bali Bowls, Parachute, Nude, Ruko, The Avocado Factory and Peloton). Free yoga classes at 7 am on Tuesday mornings upstairs from Bali Bowls? Beach clubs with swim up bars where you can watch the sunset with acoustic music, rather than booming dance beats? Swoon worthy modern Indonesian food at Ulekan, fantastic Izakaya Japanese (where the kids eat free) at One Eyed Jacks, staggeringly good sustainable fish at Fishbone Local and some of the best pizza of your life at Luigi’s Hot Pizza. I’m so tempted to decree a fortnight in July every year and get everyone to just shift there so we can run in a wild tribe. Who’s in? Great. 

Listening: The Dave Chang Show. The Dave Chang Show podcast has some great ‘inside baseball’/ fly on the wall chat about the mechanics of opening his latest venture MajorDomo in Los Angeles in a series of episodes. His interview with Helen Rosner on #metoo in the culinary world is also a great one. But the episode that should be compulsory listening for any male, or anyone who has struggled with anxiety and depression is his deeply personal response to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide and candid admissions of how important it’s been for him to invest (a lot) in maintaining his mental health.  “One of the good things is that this is going to not make talking about this kind of stuff so embarrassing and so hidden,” he says. “The one thing I really suggest to you, if you haven’t had any help yet, or if you’re trying to find help, or if you need help, is don’t lose hope. You have to hope for a better day.” It’s episode 7, you can find it here

Wearing: ‘Jeans’ from Decjuba. Let’s be honest. When you realise how comfortable leggings are, when you know how comfortable maternity jeans are (ah, elasticated waistbands for life), when you spend an inordinate amount of time getting up and down off the floor playing with children/mopping floors/ collecting toys etc, then it can be hard to have a great day when wearing regular jeans. I mean, you can, but I’m telling you- your days can be better. I’m going to tell you about the  Riley Skinny Jean from Decjuba. They are stretch. Really stretch. And that includes at the waist. (SHHHH). Wear them with a long-ish top and nobody ever, ever needs to know. I won’t mention it when I see you, if you won’t when you see me. Deal? 

Cooking: I’ve discovered these konjac noodles – in the hipster health food section of the supermarket, and while they’re not quite as satisfying as a bowl full of steaming slippery carbs, they’re not a bad impression. The name is terrible (Slendier -shudder), and there is a strange-ish smell to them when they come straight out of the packet, but they’re gluten free (which is something we need to do for both my kids at the moment). We call them ‘jelly noodles’, which helps communicate a little about the texture. They stand in a lot better with Asian flavours and broths than in mock Italian. They’re often part of a quick post-daycare dinner, with shiro miso and chicken broth (or water) and if Will will let me, an egg beaten in for some extra protein. I like them with chicken broth, some kale, shredded chicken and tamari for lunch when I’m feeling a little feeble.


Reading:Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine‘. A compelling read that suckered me in from the second page. Lovely skewering of the insane things that women do in the name of making themselves more palatable to others and a fascinating protagonist. One of my favourite passages; “But, by careful observation from the sidelines, I’d worked out that social success is often built on pretending just a little. Popular people sometimes have to laugh at things they don’t find very funny, do things they don’t particularly want to, with people whose company they don’t particularly enjoy. Not me. I had decided, years ago, that if the choice was between that or flying solo, then I’d fly solo. It was safer that way.” I’m hoping someone turns it into a terrific film. I’d love to see Emily Blunt in the main character. Any other thoughts? 

Still: Running. And it’s all thanks to Hugh Jackman. I can only run fast on a treadmill for the length of time it takes to listen to all of the good songs out of ‘The Greatest Showman’, very loud in my ears. These days I can do about 4.5 km in that time and I’m trying to do it 4-5 days a week. Which for anyone who ever knew me as the 11 year old who purposely hid half way around the cross country track until I slipped unseen back into the second lap, or has seen my feet (more akin to flippers than something with structure or shape), this is kind of miraculous. 

Endorsing: Masterclasses. I’ve spent the last week listening to the wisdom of Aaron Sorkin on screenwriting, Judd Apatow on Comedy and James Patterson on writing, all thanks to the Masterclass online program. (See here.) I’m hanging out for Margaret Atwood on writing and think that some of the cooking ones look great too. The first week is free, so next time you’ve got the flu, dive in.

Beef, Stout and Swede Stew


Feeds 6, with cauliflower mash or white bean mash



1.3 kg well marbled chuck steak, cut into pieces size of a matchbook (can also substitute for beef cheeks, or stewing beef)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
1 red onion, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 swedes, peeled and cut into pieces size of a playing dice
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled (kept whole)
1 x 375 ml can of stout/porter/dark ale
500 ml beef stock, chicken stock or water
Salt to taste

Here’s how we roll

1 Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the bottom of a large dutch oven, or a roasting pan that can happily sit on the hob (mine stretches across two burners). Sear the pieces of beef in batches (this gives the beef a chance to brown, not stew). You want to ensure a good crust and caramellisation on the beef. This is the basis of so much flavour in this braise, so if you’re going to put time into any step, put it into this. Remove the beef and set aside.


2 Add the remaining olive oil to the bottom of the pan and sautee the onions, carrot and celery for 7 minutes, until the onion has softened. 


3 Add the and to the bottom of the pan to deglaze and bring to a boil, stirring to rescue any flavour that’s clinging to the bottom of the pan. Transfer everything to a large roasting dish and add the tomato paste, bay leaves, then the whole peeled garlic cloves, pieces of swede and enough water or stock to come 4/5 of the way up the side of the meat and vegetables. You don’t want them to be completely covered. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 4 hours. 


4 After four hours, check on the braise. The swede should be soft and the meat starting to fork apart. Remove the foil and place back in the oven for the remaining hour to reduce the sauce, checking on it occasionally to stir. If it starts to get too dry, take it out of the oven and allow to rest, or add some more water or stock. Taste before serving and add salt if it needs it. Serve with cauliflower mash, white bean mash, mustard and a dark ale.

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