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Sussex stewed steak

4-6 servings.

Both Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson like this recipe, which in theory should make it a good bet, and in practice it is. You need a cheap cut of beef, a dusting of flour and a little good liquid, nothing more. This is an easy dish with a beguiling flavor, and notwithstanding its humble ingredients makes an elegant and stress-free company dinner. We cannot improve on Mrs. Grigson’s instructions, so have simply adapted them to conform to bfia’s customary numbered sequence.

Two beef cowsPreheat the oven to 275°

-a trimmed 2-2 ½ lb chuck or thick flank steak
-salt and pepper
-about 2 Tablespoons flour
-a large onion, thinly sliced
-2 Tablespoons mushroom ketchup
-3 oz tawny port
-3 oz stout

  1. Season the meat and rub it all over with the flour.
  2. Put it into a shallow ovenproof dish in which it can lie flat. Put the onion on top in an even layer.
  3. Pour in the ketchup, port and stout and cover the dish with a tight-fitting lid of foil, and put it into the oven at 275°, for 2 ½ hours. If your oven dish has a lid, place it over the foil.
  4. Serve with mashed potatoes and a simple mushroom dish.

Notes: The source of this adaptation is Jane Grigson’s English Food (London 1974).

- Resist all temptation to increase the amount of liquid; it may seem scanty but both the onion and the beef will throw off liquid during the cooking process, and you do not want to dilute the rich sauce.

- Any port, including cheaper ruby, will do; we like the drier tones of tawny port.

- If you do not have any mushroom ketchup, substitute either malt or red wine vinegar, or a little less of one of the vinegars topped up with some Worcestershire.

- We add a drip of hot sauce to the basic recipe and sprinkle the sliced steak with minced parsley and green scallion tops.

- Fried mushrooms, sliced, quartered or whole, are delicious with the stewed steak.

- For something fancier but by no means mandatory, choose one of our mushroom recipes from elsewhere in the practical.

- The original recipe specifies a cooking time of 3 hours; we found that too long. Elizabeth David also boosts the oven temperature to 290°; that, too, is unnecessary.

- Both Mrs. David and Mrs. Grigson note that top round is a viable cut for this dish but we consider it less forgiving because a little more prone to dryness.