Beef Stew with Balsamic Vinegar and Capsicums

Balsamic Beef Stew

Despite being ‘at home’ much of the time, I’m finding there’s less time for elaborate cooking. The amount of ‘help’ a toddler affords in the kitchen is somewhat minimal. Add to that some late finishes at work for Andy and various cooking television programs that need to be watched and it means that dinner needs to be pretty much indestructible.

Fortunately, winter is the season of ‘put on stove and forget’ and while we already have a decent stockpile of recipes it’s always good to try something new.

This beef stew recipe, from UK Delicious, fits the bill perfectly. It was almost a one pot effort and I’m sure that if you have a slow cooker you can adapt it easily. I also like it because I have this idea that you should always have at least three vegetables for dinner (not including potato) and this recipe has ALL THREE in the one pot. In fact, you could make it even healthier by adding a tin of tomatoes.

We found that the only thing that needed flavour-wise was a solid hit of salt and pepper. On the side, a big pile of creamy mash finished off the dish, but I think pasta or polenta would work just as well. Of course, you could serve some extra veggies on the side. You could add them to the pot, but I think it’s much tastier to have the different textures and ‘clean’ vegetable flavours that you get by serving them separately.

In theory this will serve six: you will need a lot of mash and sides if you are wanting to stretch it that far. A more conservative estimate is four.

Because there are very few steps in this, it is absolutely toddler proof. I had all manner of interruptions while making it and you would never have known.

Not quick, but very definitely easy!

Beef Stew with Balsamic Vinegar and Capsicums


  • 500g chuck steak, diced, tossed in seasoned plain flour
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 150mL red wine
  • 250g butternut pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 1 large red capsicum (or 2 smaller ones) sliced
  • fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • 500mL beef stock


  1. Heat some oil (I used canola) in a large casserole dish or pot and brown the steak. Do this in batches and set the meat aside.
  2. Add a little more oil if necessary and add the onion and garlic and cook to soften.
  3. Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute or so before adding the red wine. Allow this to bubble for a bit before adding the beef.
  4. Add the pumpkin, capsicum, thyme, vinegar, a good dash of Worcestershire sauce and the beef stock. Give it all a good stir and bring to a simmer.
  5. Reduce heat to low. Put the lid on and leave on the low heat for as long as you can.
  6. Prior to serving, adjust seasoning.

Baked Moroccan Meatballs

Baked Moroccan Meatballs

I was just about to post a recipe for rocket pesto when I discovered that I’d done that way back in 2011. No point in telling you the same thing twice – and (depressingly) my more recent photo was actually worse too!

Fortunately, my back log of photos suggests that I write instead about some baked Moroccan meatballs that we had for an easy dinner before the latest lot of hot weather invaded.

If you can start this a little ahead, it’s worth it: allowing the meatballs some time to sit in the fridge, firm up and develop flavours is time well spent. But, if you’re in a rush – no matter, you can have this dinner on the table quickly.

This recipe should make enough meatballs for four for dinner.

Begin by taking 500g of lean beef mince. Mix in half a red onion, finely chopped, and a generous 2 tsp of ras el-hanout. If you don’t have that to hand, use some ground coriander and cumin. Add salt, pepper and additional chilli (use chilli powder for this, rather than flakes) to taste. Because my ras el-hanout had chilli in it, I just stuck to salt and pepper.

Ensure the seasoning and onion is mixed thoroughly through the mince, form into walnut sized meatballs, place on a plate and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

Heat some olive oil in a pan (a pan you can put in the oven), and brown the meatballs all over. When they’re browned, remove them from the pan and set aside.

Now use the same pan to make your sauce. Add some extra oil and heat, then add 1 brown onion, finely chopped, a clove or two of minced garlic and chilli (fresh or flakes, again, to taste and totally optional). Add a tin of chopped tomatoes (buy Australian!) and half a tin of water. Cook gently until the sauce begins to thicken and add half a chopped capsicum.

Heat your oven to 180°C. Tuck the meatballs into the sauce (I found I didn’t have space for all of them) and place in the oven to finish cooking. Depending on how thick your tomato sauce is (or becomes) you may need to cover the pan with a lid (or tin foil) to stop it thickening too much.

When the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is thickened, serve, garnished with fresh coriander, and any appropriately North African sides (yep – we had couscous!).

We had a few leftover meatballs and a bit of leftover sauce, so the next day I put the meatballs in a pie dish, poured over the sauce, topped generously with grated cheese (we had some mozzarella left over from pizzas) and reheated in the oven. A great way to use up leftovers!

Beef Rendang

It’s true – curry is hard to photograph!

I’m sitting here sweltering: the thermometer has slid past 36°C yet again, and I’m hanging out for the cool change late this afternoon or early evening. Tomorrow’s forecast 29°C sounds almost chilly.

As I’m very much a winter person, I would like to swap with my mates in Leeds, who are currently enjoying temperatures just above 0°C. At least in that weather you can rug up, head to the pub for a cheeky pint and then tuck into a big curry. OK – you do have to dodge the icy footpaths (something I very definitely do NOT miss), but at least you feel like eating, which is the last thing on my mind right now!

Before temperatures took off, I made this beef rendang. The original recipe came from a 2003 Sainsbury magazine. As I no longer own the original I have no idea what tweaks may have taken place in 10 years. If you are familiar with rendang then you’ll notice that mine looks nowhere near authentic: I didn’t have the time to leave it cooking for long enough for the coconut milk to evaporate properly. It doesn’t matter: this still tastes fantastic!

Take 1kg of cubed beef and brown it in a large pan, in batches if necessary. Remove the beef and set aside.

In the same pan, add a little extra oil (use a flavourless oil, such as peanut) and brown a generous 2 tsp of grated ginger, 1 stalk of lemongrass, finely sliced, 1 onion, finely sliced and 6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped. Add 10 curry leaves (as I have these growing at home I always add even more because I love the flavour!), chilli to taste (either fresh birds eye chillis or chilli flakes), ½ stick cinnamon, 4 cloves, 5 green cardamom pods, 1 star anise, chilli powder (again, to taste – the original recipe states 1 tbsp but you really have to hold your nerve to use that much!), 1 tbsp turmeric, ½ tbsp ground coriander and ½ tbsp ground cumin.

Give this all a good stir fry and then add a 400mL tin of coconut milk and an additional 200mL of water. If you are in a hurry reduce the amount of coconut milk you use and omit the water – this will give you a thicker gravy without the long cooking time.  Bring this mix to the boil and then add an additional stem or two of lemongrass (whole, but bruised).

Reduce the heat and return the meat to the pan. Simmer (very gently – if you let it boil now you’ll end up with super tough meat) for a couple of hours.

The longer you can let it simmer for the better: flavours will develop and the coconut milk will start to evaporate, leaving behind a dense, fudgy and quite dry curry, with beautifully tender meat.

Serve with rice, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Perfect for staving off a cold winter night in the northern hemisphere … and, if you put enough chilli in, great for working up a sweat here in the sweltering south of Australia!