Italian style beef and mushroom stew

Italian beef and mushroom stew with polenta
In my experience, kids tend to like most what people (or is it just me and my Nana?!) call ‘nursery food’. (Not sure why we call it that. Perhaps it’s because young, nursery aged children like it? Feel free to inform me if you know, use the comments field below!) This type of food is probably the safest bet for clean plates with my 2 and 4 year old. Traditional dishes, often with slow cooked meat at their heart, along with a gravy of some kind and some vegetables. It’s soft food. Think of Shepherd’s Pie, Irish Stew, Meat and Potato Pie – that sort of thing. I would include Fish Pie in this group too, even though it’s not meat. 
In England we are really good at nursery food, and we shouldn’t shy away from it. It’s nutritious, delicious and easy to prepare – perfect family fodder. This stew is nursery food, but with a few ‘buonissimo’ flavour twists (balsamic, red wine, rosemary) to make it Italian in style and therefore more… modern I guess (and more interesting for parents). And instead of serving it with mashed potato, I’ve stuck with the Italiano theme and served up polenta, with grated parmesan on top. But, really, it’s just a nice beefy stew! Ain’t nothing wrong with that!

I made it using my Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker – my new kitchen BFF. I am working with them to develop some recipes, so every few days I am turning to it with dinner in mind. I heart my IP, seriously. It has all the benefits of a slow cooker, but it does the job – quickly! It is heaven sent for mums (like me) who like the idea of a slow cooker, but can’t get organised of a morning to set it going before they head out for the day. You can do a slow cooked dish in half an hour, and that’s good news as far as I’m concerned. Am I right? I’m right. 

That said, you could make this in a slow cooker, simply soften onions and garlic, brown meat, add liquid and then transfer to the slow cooker to set it to low for 8 hours. Add the mushrooms for the last hour. These are estimations (not tested) so please adapt if you think it will take more/less time in your model. I have instructions below for a normal cooking pot also. 

Serves: 4 adults
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes (with an Instant Pot) / 2 hours (without)
Total time: 35 minutes (with an Instant Pot) / 2 hours 5 minutes (without)
Ingredients: 
500g of braising steak, cut into bite size pieces
About 4 large Portobello or field mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 onion, diced
2 bay leaves
3 stalks of rosemary, leaves removed and chopped (makes about 1 tablespoon)
250ml red wine
250ml beef stock
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of olive oil

To thicken: 
1 tablespoon of cornflour
A little cold water, to mix
To serve:
Parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil
Instructions – Instant Pot:
  1. Set the Instant Pot to ‘Sauté’ and, once ‘Hot’, add about a tablespoon of olive oil, let it heat up, and add the onions and garlic. Soften for a few minutes.
  2. Now add the beef. Brown the meat for a couple of minutes, stirring.  
  3. Add the herbs, wine, stock and vinegar and bring to the boil. Tip in the sliced mushrooms. Cancel the ‘Sauté’ setting. Set it onto ‘Manual’ for 30 minutes. 
  4. When it’s done, take the lid off and then set it back to ‘Sauté’ – and thicken with a little cornflour. Once thickened, after a few minutes stirring, turn the IP off. 
  5. Serve with wet polenta. Quick cook is fine. And top with parmesan and a glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Instructions – normal:
  1. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a heavy bottom pan, let it heat up, and add the onions and garlic. Soften for about 5 minutes. 
  2. Now add the beef. Brown the meat for a couple of minutes. Get as much colour as you can. About 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the herbs, wine, stock and vinegar and bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours. Add the mushrooms for the last 20 minutes. Thicken with cornflour if required. 
  4. Serve with wet polenta. Quick cook is fine. And top with parmesan and a glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Italian beef and mushroom stew with polenta

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2 Comments

  1. Nana
    August 20, 2014 / 1:56 pm

    Yes Rachel me and mine being war children just adored our school dinners which you could refer to as nursery food which in turn is good simple and nutritious food,only this lunch time we have dined on a home made cottage pie,I had the mince and I asked your Granddad did he want spag bol or cottage the choice was his entirely ,so cottage pie it was adding various foods that compliment a simple homemade dish …ie. Henderson's relish,sliced mushrooms,sliced beef tomatoes and a good whack of basil along with a handful of garden peas….fresh …..as I always still cook for England there is enough for our luncheon tomorrow …..we had yet another nursery pudding too ….rice pudding with fresh apricots/peaches …so as we have an army of oxygen nurses and so forth coming to pay your Granddad soon we will see if my simple but healthy recipes have paid off,oh and almost forgot I had made my speciality fruit cake for a friends visit yesterday 🙂 xxxx

  2. August 23, 2014 / 4:36 pm

    It's the best food – simple and nutritious! Once you know the basic recipes you can give them a twist like I have here… Thanks for the comment Nana! X

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