“Not with a Bang but a Whimper” might well be an apt title for this post on Jamie Oliver’s “Bangin’ Beef Stew,” from his 5 Ingredients cookbook, which promised much bang but delivered little. Don’t get me wrong, the stew was not a disaster, but rather a rough disappointment.
Oliver’s description of a stew that would be “dark and sticky” along with an enticing full-page of photo of it seduced me. And so, with great expectations, I set out to make the dish. But there was trouble from the start, trouble that I attribute, in large part, to a poorly written recipe. In fact, as documented here in the Twitter feed on Oliver’s website, others were as disappointed as I was with the recipe.
While most of the critics focused on the stew’s failure to achieve a “dark and sticky” finish, attributing it to the amount of water called for by the recipe, I found additional flaws with the directions. For example, it fails at the very beginning to give any instructions for cooking or sauteing the peppers after putting them into the pan. I estimated approximately 8 minutes for them to start wilting and getting some color. Similarly, nothing more is said about the beef except for chopping and adding it, along with bay leaves, to the pan with the peppers. Not even seasoning? Moreover, one would expect that browning the meat, at least to the point of losing its red color, might also be desirable before adding the garlic.
Oliver, or at least his webmaster, responded to the tweeted complaints of the stew’s being too watery by stressing the importance of using a “large shallow casserole pan,” which should allow for the evaporation of the liquid. However, according to one tweet, the shallow pan didn’t help. Most felt that the amount of water called for, two cups, was far too much. Others thought that the problem could be attributed to the pan’s being covered.
Along with other critics of the dish, I regret that recipe failed to deliver the bangin’ dark and sticky stew it promised. Although less exciting than I had hoped, the dish was nonetheless quite tasty, attributable in large part to the sweet and savory pungency of the allspice, bay, and the bell peppers. In fact, we’re both looking forward to the reheated version of the dish, which I’ll probably prepare in a shallow pan or maybe even uncovered. Moreover, I’m still a fan of Oliver’s book and am planning additional posts based on its recipes.
Below is my adaptation of Oliver’s original recipe, which I used to prepare the stew. In my version, I’ve included the required pantry staples along with the chef’s five essential ingredients and have added what I thought to be missing steps. The next time I attempt this dish, aiming for the bang, I’ll probably use a shallower pan and start with only 1 cup of water, adding more if necessary to prevent burning. Keep in touch for the results.
Beef Stew with Peppers, Garlic, Bay, and Allspice (an adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s Bangin’ Beef Stew)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 mixed-color Bell peppers, cut into 2-inch strips
1 heaping teaspoon ground allspice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
10 fresh bay leaves, rinsed and dried
8 cloves of garlic, smashed and finely minced
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper.
3. Place a large shallow casserole pan, with the olive oil, on a high heat. When the oil is hot, add the peppers, a pinch of salt and black pepper, and the allspice. Cook stirring for approximately 8 minutes, or until the peppers start to wilt and color.
6. Add the beef and the bay leaves and cook, still on high heat, for approximately 3 or 4 minutes, or until the beef looses its raw color.
5. Lower the flame to medium, add the garlic, and cook tossing regularly, for approximately 2 minutes, or until the garlic becomes aromatic. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
6. Add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and 2 cups of water to the pan. Bring to a simmer.
7. Cover, and then cook in the oven for two hours. Taste and adjust for seasoning, and serve in warmed bowls, accompanied by mashed potatoes or crusty bread.
Wine Pairing: Barbera, California Red Blend
An afterthought. After preparing a number of dishes based on recipes from television shows, I’m of the belief that oftentimes the recipes have been written by staff members, transcribing what they have seen on the show or a tape of it and, as a result, have sometimes omitted key points or estimated measurements. Therefore, when following such recipes, I suggest: Caveat archimagirus!
Update: We reheated the stew this evening in the shallowest pan we have, at 350°F for 1½ hours, with the cover off for the last 30 minutes. Although a bit darker, the meat didn’t come close to being sticky. The flavors, however, were heightened, more deliciously intense. Below is a photo:
Because of this stew’s unique flavor profile, I’ll definitely make another attempt at the bangin’.