Autumn is upon us and today it was time to dig out and dust off my slow cooker after not using it all summer. In further celebration of Chocolate Week, and bouyed by the success of the stout brownies, I made a casserole, using another bottle of the double chocolate stout I was sent by Youngs. I was slightly nervous as Kavey had commented that a beef stew she had made using the chocolate stout had not really worked. I decided that the casserole needed some warming spices, cumin and star anise, to work with the chocolate and the beef and to stand up to the long slow cook. I also added black beans; I love the earthy flavour of black beans and know they work well with chocolate. Beans are also cheap*, packed with protein and low on the GI scale.
Slow cooking allows you to slowly cook a dish over a number of hours, it uses barely any power and can be left unattended all day. I will happily go out and leave the slow cooker on all day or I will leave it on all night. It has the huge advantage of tenderising cheaper cuts of meat, making them meltingly soft, and bringing out their flavours. I often use shin of beef, over 6 hours in the slow cooker it never fails to transform from being the toughest cut of meat to meltingly soft. Similarly to making any casserole you do need to prep your ingredients when using a slow cooker, chucking everything in leaving to cook really does not work in my experience. My cooker was the cheapest that Argos had to offer, a bargain at around £13 several years ago.
Slow cooked casseroles will reduce less than ones cooked in the oven, I usually leave the lid of the pot ajar for the last hour of cooking to allow some evaporation, or use some cornflour to thicken. This time I reserved half a can of black beans and blitzed them with some of the gravy to make a thicker sauce, I also use this technique in my five bean chilli. A little cumin and star anise go a long way, if you like the flavours do up the amounts you use. I see no reason why this will not work with regular stout and a spoon of cocoa powder.
* Renaming this blog Fuss Free Thrifty Flavours would be accurate, but, I fear almost impossible to say.
Spiced Beef, Black Bean & Chocolate Stout Casserole (Serves 8)
2 tbs sunflower oil
2 large onions – chopped
4 cloves of garlic – chopped
3lb / 1.5kg shin of beef – cut into 1″ cubes
500ml Chocolate Stout
2 cans black beans – drained and rinsed
2 tsp cumin
3 star anise
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry the onions and garlic until starting to brown and place into the slow cooker. Batch fry the meat until brown and add to the pot, deglaze the pan with some stout and add to the slow cooker. Add the beans, reserving about half a can. Add the cumin and star anise, a good pinch of salt and black pepper. Give all the ingredients a good stir and pour the stout over so everything is just covered. Slow cook for at least 6 hours.
If the gravy needs thickening, blitz a ladleful with the remainder of the black beans and stir back into the casserole.
Serve with mash and green veg!
Thanks to Youngs for the free stout for this recipe.