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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Monday, July 31, 2006

Beef Braised in Beer (low fat!)

It may not be obvious from this blog, but I'm actually on a bit of a healthy-eating plan at the moment. Yes, a blog full of baking recipes may have deluded you somewhat, but it's true. I'm trying to get fit and healthy, especially in preparation for a rapidly-approaching trip to Europe. I mean, I can't look like a sad, fat-wobbly tourist walking around fashionista Italy, can I?! Banish the thought!
Of course, making a decision to go healthier in the middle of what seems to be an never-ending Melbourne winter is pretty bloody poor timing. Everything is crying out for thick fat-heavy stews and chunky soups and all things buttery and good. Although, I have to admit in a delusion of self-congratulation at the healthy fish dinner I ate at Claypots last night, I succumbed to an incredible Polish plum jam donut from Europa Cake Shop in Acland Street last night. Good work, Niki. I think I've seen a short doco about the making of those donuts; they take 10 hours to make. But even cold and at midnight they tasted magnificent. (NB just found a short doco about these donuts. They are, indeed, 'famous'.)

But, anyway, back to the healthy food. I was looking through the low-fat section of Nigella Lawson's How to Eat and was surprised to see a recipe for 'Beef Braised in Beer'. Surely that's not low-fat! How could it be? But it sounded like perfect winter food, so not believing my luck, I gave it a go. Nigella says it is pretty much an English version of a carbonnade - a northern French stew of meat cooked with dark beer and prunes. Now, I'm definitely not a fan of sweet flavours in my savoury foods, or fruit mixed with meat, but I was game, especially as the idea behind this was that the richness and depth of the prunes would replace any extra fat in the dish. Soaked prunes have a similar texture to fat, and are often substituted for their equal weight of butter in low-fat baking recipes. Also, because the dish is cooked very slowly, you can use lean meat, and it will still be quite tender.
It would have been obvious to choose Guinness for my stout, but instead I got Cooper's Extra Stout. Support your local businesses!
It was easy to make and definitely very full flavoured. I acutally liked the taste of the prunes - they gave a tang that was good with the dark flavours of the sauce. However, I could only take it in small doses. The sweetness got to me after a while.

It definitely didn't taste low-fat, and was perfect for a cold winter's night. My mum came home to the smell of warm stew and told me it reminded her exactly of the old-fashioned beef braises her mother used to make in the 50s & 60s. So, I guess that's a commendation! I think she liked it more than I did.
Keeping with the whole healthy-eating-plan thing, I served this on top of wholemeal pasta. I'm slowly coming around to the taste of the wholemeal stuff, but it's never going to be a good as 'real' pasta!!
I think, as so many of you already have How To Eat that I'm not going to include the recipe this time. If you don't have it, go out and pick up a copy! It really is a very useful book.

Braise after coming out of oven


  • Sounds like an intriguing dish.. keep up the good work with the healthy eating!!

    By Blogger Belinda, at 7/31/2006 10:47:00 pm  

  • Oh that looks good! I'll definitely have to check out that book.

    Where are you going in Italy? Lucky you!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 8/01/2006 11:55:00 am  

  • Great recipe and pictures.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8/02/2006 03:01:00 pm  

  • Hey Niki!

    Mm.. I love that stew! Good luck with the healthy eating! I'm on a detox at the moment :(...

    Hope you have a great time in Italy - I just came back from there. If you want any recommendations for restaurants or gelaterie, let me know! Although I'm sure you'll do just fine :)

    xox Sarah

    By Blogger Sarah, at 8/02/2006 08:58:00 pm  

  • Belinda - Yes...interesting. Think I'd reduce the prunes next time, though.

    Cathy - I'm going on tour with my choir to Italy, Switzerland & the UK. Then onto Czech Rep. In Italy we're going to Rome, Chieti, Florence, Siena, the Chianti region, the Cinque Terre towns, Lodi & Crema (near Milan) and Pisa - in most places we're doing concerts. Exciting!!

    Sarah - I read about your detox diet - hard core!! Actually, it'd be great to get some ideas for places to eat! Belinda from Caperberry Gravy is coming as well, so we'd be keen to try great places!

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/02/2006 09:03:00 pm  

  • I'm going to help your diet. Repeat after me - paczek, pronounced pon-check. This means one doughnut, as in 'Can I have a paczek please?'. Never say paczki, pronounced pon-shki, this is any number more than one, nor should you go to Europa on Sunday morning about 9.30a.m. when they are still warm from just being made. I reckon they must be better than Krispy Kremes.

    By Blogger neil, at 8/03/2006 01:34:00 pm  

  • Neil - the image you conjured up in my mind almost led me drifting out the front door following the smell. I can just imagine how good that must be. St Kilda is over the other side of town for me, so sadly, I can never see myself in line at 9.30am. :-(

    By Blogger Niki, at 8/03/2006 11:04:00 pm  

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