This year our girls each took up an instrument, Madeline the piano and Cameron the harp. A friend of ours, Monika and I decided to have a mini recital for the children in our home, play a few Christmas songs and each share food from our own heritage. Another family joined in and we had a party on our hands!
We started the evening by grabbing a couple of hot sausage rolls and walking to the Hoboken Homeless Shelter. The kids sang Christmas carols to the guests while Monika accompanied on her violin…everyone joined it and had a great time.
We headed home and enjoyed a Hungarian tradition — warm, mulled white wine - while listening to our children’s choice of music for the night. The night was made complete with a solo by Monika on the violin — there was not a dry eye in the house! Earlier that day, I had thrown together a beef stew and we tucked in and followed up with UK mince pies (dried fruit filling), German apple pie and Hungarian Beigli (pastry with poppy seeds and walnut filling).
What started out as a sweet idea turned into a wonderful event that we plan to repeat soon.
Jamie Oliver’s Beef Stew
• olive oil
• a knob of butter
• 1 onion, peeled and chopped
• a handful of fresh sage leaves
• 800g/1¾lb stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• flour, to dust
• 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
• 4 carrots, peeled and halved
• ½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced
• optional: a handful of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and halved
• 500g/1lb 2oz small potatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• ½ a bottle of red wine
• 285ml/½ pint beef or vegetable stock
• zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
• a handful of rosemary, leaves picked
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Put a little oil and your knob of butter in casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 225°F and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.
The best way to serve this is by ladling big spoonfuls into bowls, accompanied by a glass of French red wine and some really fresh, warmed bread. Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference – as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance.