Boxing Night Beef

This rich and glossy casserole of beef and mushrooms cooked in a dark chestnut sauce doesn’t have to be served on Boxing night, but by then you may have had two meals of cold bits and pieces and in my experience this kind of soothing, warming dish is just what people want after quite a lot of cold food. It is not just an ordinary stew and will seem quite festive enough for the occasion. The casserole can be made well ahead; dishes like this even seem to improve with re-heating. Small potatoes boiled in their skins go well with it and a mixture of broccoli and finely sliced red cabbage.


  • 2 large onions
  • 4 tablespoons (4 x 15 ml spoons) olive oil
  • lb (1.1 kg) lean braising steak, cubed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 15 oz (450 g) can of unsweetened chestnut purée
  • 1 level tablespoon (15 ml level spoon) black treacle
  • 2 teaspoons (2 x 5 ml spoons) paprika
  • ¾ pint (450 ml) beef stock
  • 12 oz (375 g) medium-sized mushrooms, halved
  • 5 rounded tablespoons (5 x rounded 15 ml spoons) fromage frais or greek yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons (4 x 5 ml spoons) whole-seed mustard
  • salt, black pepper


Peel the onions, cut in half and slice thinly. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying-pan over a low to medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring around often until softened and slightly browned at the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a plate on one side. Sprinkle the beef lightly all over with salt. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the frying-pan over a high heat. Add the pieces of meat (you will probably have to do this in several batches, adding a little more oil if necessary) and turn around to brown on all sides. Then remove them with a slotted spoon and put them in a flameproof casserole.

Add the onions and bay leaves. Spoon the chestnut purée into a food processor with the black treacle, the paprika, plenty of black pepper and the beef stock. Whizz until smooth and then pour it over the beef and onions. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 2/300°F/150°C. Cover the casserole and bring the sauce to bubbling on top of the stove; the cook just below the centre of the oven for 2 hours.

Add the mushrooms, and return to the oven, turning down the heat to Gas Mark 1/275°/140°C. Continue cooking for another hour or so until the beef is very tender. Meanwhile, put the fromage frais or yogurt into a bowl and stir in the mustard. Before serving the casserole spoon the fromage frais or yogurt on top of it; it will mix in roughly as you serve it out.