It’s almost the end of the year.
Looking back over my Facebook posts this year, it seems as though the inside of my head is filled entirely with food and dogs!
If you ask me what I like about England, one of the first things that comes to mind is that it is so dog-friendly. In the pub, at the market, everywhere you go, dogs go too. Seen from Japan, where there are even public parks that don’t allow dogs, it is such a nice surprise.
Walking around town, I got into the habit of saying “Hello, Dog!” to every doggy I met – I even unconsciously did it in Japan (in English! – “Hello, Dog!”), and got a very strange look from the dog’s owner! Walking around Dartmouth with Sally, she would greet all the dogs she met like that, so I just assumed everyone in England did the same – I only learnt recently that not everyone in the UK is so doggy-mad!
Just like with dogs, I’m the same when I go to some kind of specialist food shop here in Japan – I love to talk to the shop-keeper. I seems that’s quite unusual for a Japanese person. Like in England, the conversation starts with general greetings and the weather (haha!), then we talk about the products and I ask all about them, and by the end we’re talking about something completely different…
The other day Toshiya, our farmer friend who came to help at the Dartmouth Food Festival, came over for dinner with Yuki his wife and their baby daughter. I thought I’d make a big chilli con carne, so I went off to the butcher to get some beef.
But that butcher specialises in Japanese marbled beef – the highest quality beef available in Japan which is quite fatty – and I couldn’t see any lean red meat in the display. So I talked to the butcher, and told him that I wanted lean meat for a chilli con carne, and he explained all kinds of things to me and we chatted on for a bit and then he says, “This is exactly what you want!” and cuts me a huge piece of beautiful beef belly and in the flow of things I duly pay for it…
The thing is, the piece of meat he sold me was way too good to mince up into a chilli con carne! As always, I was talking with the butcher and got carried away. I sort of knew he wasn’t following what I wanted, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t even actually know what chilli con carne was, but…
So – change of plan! My chilli con carne became a very rich and delicious beef stew, with a dollop of miso added at the end for that extra umami! Yum!
Adding vinegar helps to soften the meat, and gives me the touch of acidity that I want. Depending on the type of tomatoes you have, they can be sweet or quite acidic already, so you can adjust the amount of vinegar you use to suit your taste.
Also, have a taste before and after you add the miso at the end, and see what a difference it makes!
- about 600g lean beef
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 stick celery
- 6 brown mushrooms
- 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 2 cups red wine
- 1 laurel leaf
- olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons brown miso
1. Cut the meat for 4 people, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bring it room temperature if it has been in the fridge.
2. Heat some olive oil on a low heat in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the sliced garlic and heat until you can smell the aroma, then tun up the heat and quickly fry the meat on both sides to seal it, then take the meat out of the pan again.
3. Brown the thinly sliced onions in the same pan, then add sliced mushrooms and quickly fry them too.
4. Add the meat, tomatoes with the juice in the can, and heat. Then add the red wine, laurel leaf, sliced celery, add the vinegar, and when it has all heated through turn the heat down and stew until the meat is soft.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix in a dollop of brown miso, and your beef stew is ready!